Montparnasse is described
as a striking young dandy with a flair for murder:
were so much feared as Montparnasse. At eighteen, he had already left
several corpses on his track. Frizzled, pomaded, with slender waist,
hips like a woman, the bust of a Prussian officer, a buzz of admiration
about him from the girls of the boulevard... such was this charmer
of the sepulcher." (Hugo, 625-6)
Hugo introduces him as one
of four heads of a crime organization called Patron-Minette. To give
us some idea of their prominence, Hugo claims that once the great scoundrel
Lacenaire denied a crime, and when asked who else could be responsible,
he replied that it was the work of Patron-Minette. (Hugo,
Indeed, with the gory nature
of his crimes and his impressions on the ladies, Montparnasse seems
to mirror the notorious Lacenaire.
Hugo is not as sympathetic of this sort of "career criminal"
as he is to the unfortunate, but he does give glamour its due.
On the one hand,
Montparnasse is the sort of exciting figure that would titillate those
repressed bourgeoisie. He emphasizes the grace and poise of Montparnasse,
and after the initial scare of death tolls, Hugo tries to make him
likable and appealing.
On the other hand,
Montparnasse would also be an admirable hero for those underclass
members who aspired to a more indulgent lifestyle, or who so resented
the upper classes that this scoundrel was a sort of role model.