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The Underworld

Representations of the Underclasses


The System

Famous Crime





"They are voracious as beasts, that is to say ferocious, not like the tyrant but like the tiger. From suffering these goblins pass to crime; fated filiation, giddy procreation, the logic of darkness. What crawls in the third sub-stage is no longer the stifled demand for the absolute, it is the protest of matter. Man there becomes dragon. Hunger and thirst are the point of departure: Satan is the point of arrival."

- Les MisÚrables, Marius, Book 7

An image of a fauborg from Les MisÚrables on-line text edition; first published in 1862; by Thomas Y. Cromwell & Co. This is a representation of a fauborg from the novel Les Miserables. It shows the desperation of the underclasses. Fauborgs were the common area for the poor to find shelter, and were often the site of the greatest crime rate.

The France of the mid to late nineteenth century had many different views on the underclasses. Different representations stemmed from the works of great authors like Victor Hugo, Eugene Sue, and Honore de Balzac, as well as from varying opinions. Crime novels were immensely popular and there was seemingly an obsession as well as repulsion among the general populace regarding lower classes and criminals, which were often indistinguishable. Here we will study varying views, beliefs and opinions about the "dangerous classes."

This page was created by M. Childs