The Underworld

Marius: Fear of Association With Crime.

Representations

The System

Famous Crime

 

 

 

 

 

"...hardly had Javert left the old ruin, carrying away his prisoners in three coaches, when Marius also slipped out of the house. The next day, by seven o'clock in the morning, marius went back to the tenement, paid his rent, and what was due to Ma'am Bougon, had his books, bed, table, bureau, and his two chairs loaded upon a handcart, and went off without leaving his address..."

(Hugo, 743)


(Illustration from Les Miserables)

In the above image, Marius is running from the law in his own way; as an innocent man in the wrong place at the wrong time. The building he lives in is deserted except for the landlady and the dubious Jondrette family, for whom Marius feels pity at first, but later disgust. Intrigued by nothing more than a hole in the wall and some letters dropped on the sidewalk, Marius discovers a plot at hand that the Jondrettes are planning.

Marius informs the police of this ambush in the hopes that harm will be averted and justice served,and Javert asks him to act as lookout and signal-man for the moment of arrest. However, nothing goes as planned, and the police only half-succeed when they come in of their own accord for a bungled bust. Marius is suspected of purposely delaying the signal, and he could conceivably be in danger of arrest and conviction (ala Joseph Lesurques).

Honest people of lower classes often rubbed elbows with criminals; and in addition to this physical sharing of space, the lower classes also shared an image in public life. Many bourgeoisie perceived the lower classes as dangerous, every workman was possibly a robber or thug. They also lived in the sort of conditions that drove many criminals to their path, in a constant state of unfilled needs.

• On the one hand, the lower classes were given an additional disadvantage in society because of this association with the criminal world. However, many people "reclaimed" sensational criminals as popular heroes, making martyrs and Robin Hoods of many.

• On the other hand, the upper classes could learn from characters in Les Miserables to discard their prejudices against the lower classes. But even Hugo leaves many of the typical criminal/poor person associations in place (such as Marius' pity for the Jondrettes even when he knows they are scoundrels) that the bourgeoisie would be familiar with.