Unmasking the Bourgeoise

Romantic Love: Hugo Out Does Reality

A Love Story




Real Life

"He fell upon the bench, and she beside him. They had no words more. The stars were beginning to gleam. How did it come to pass that their lips met? How comes it to pass that the birds sing, that snow melts, that the rose unfolds, that May expands, that the dawn grows white behind the black trees on the shivering crest of the hills? A kiss, and that was all (Les Miserables, Saint-Denis, Book 5, VI).

In Les Miserables, Hugo tells the story of two lovers--that of the unlikely match of Marius and Cossette. Cossette was the illegitimate daughter of a prostitute and Marius was the grandson of an upper bourgeois. At a time in which one rarely intermingled with anyone out of own his or her own social sphere, Marius and Cossette pursued each other, fell in love and were later married. Marriages of the time, especially for the bourgeoise, were considered a public valuation of their position in society, or a method of increasing one's family social status. In fact, it was rare for people, especially those in bourgeoise society to marry for love. Therefore, it would be accurate to claim that the marriage of Cossette and Marius was untypical during this period.

Although Hugo's work may not have reflected the marriage or courtship rituals of the nineteenth century, Hugo did seem to capture the ideas of the romantics--Marius and Cossette exchanged marriage vows on the basis of their love and mutual trust for one another.

This site examines what it was like to be a female in bourgeois society during the nineteenth century. It focuses on how the ideas of romanticism were infused throughout literature during this period, and how literature influenced what young bourgeoise came to expect from marriage, and then the realities of marriage once they became wives. While the text takes on a very different perspective than what is usually encountered, it must be said, that women during the nineteenth century did find personal happiness in marriage. "For some simply fulfilling their marital duties and helping their families survive brought satisfaction" (Hellerstein, 123).

The way to navigate through this site: simply select using the mouse, one of the topics that appears under Marriage. You should keep in mind that there is an order in which to view these topics, they are listed in that order. Please view this site the way I have organized it, so that your viewing may be more enjoyable. Thank you.