"The Fringes of Urban Life"
Click on this map
of Paris to see a larger image. The faubourgs that the "dangerous
classes" inhabited are mainly in the southwest
It was at the barrières, the outskirts
of the city, colose to the poorest districts in Paris, that violence
was most frequent and most intense. There, the most primitive,
worst-paid, and least stable population settled scores. The lower
classes themselves were the victims more often than the bourgeois.
This was partly because the bourgeois didn't dare to venture
into these dangerous neighborhoods. "The ramparts...retain
in the landscape an eminent place...when they lose all military
value, the barrière still protects the bourgeoisie from
the riff-raff of the faubourgs." (Merriman,
p. 8) Crime in the barrières was also prdestined by their
proximity to the faubourgs.
This image shows the dark, mysterious
images Hugo wrote about in his descriptions of the barrières
This image shows a neighborhood
in one of the Parisian faubourgs.
- Saint-Marcel & Saint Jacques
- The faubourg most deeply wrought with
destitution and crime was the faubourg Saint-Marcel, "the
sick faubourg". This faubourg was damned both in fact and
in Parisian opinion. (Chevalier,
p. 86) Here, the image of infection, illness, and death seemed
more rampant than anywhere else in Paris (Merriman,
p. 9) Another notoriously "dangerous" faubourg was
the faubourg Saint-Jacques. In Hugo's words, "this place
Saint-Jacques, which was, asit were, predestined; it has always
been horrible." (Hugo,
p. 627) The faubourg Saint-Jacques, a dumping ground for garbage
and even corpses in the eighteenth century, remained notorious
as a refuge for the pitifully poor, the unwanted, and the unemployed.
It was also the site of public executions until 1870. This seemed
appropriate to the bourgeoisie, who viewed the "fringes
of urban life" with disdain. (Merriman,
The southern barrières were highlighted
in Les Misérables, the point most strongly made
about them being their association with crime. The four bandits
that made up Thenardier's gang did their dirty work there. It
was also the location of the Gorbeau tenement, where Jean Valjean
and Cosette briefly stayed upon arrival in Paris as well as where
Marius lived along with the Thenardier family. Hugo described
the Gorbeau tenement as "admirably chosen for the scene
of a violent and somber deed and the setting for crime."
(Hugo, p. 647)
This image is of Thenardier's
gang attempting to escape from police inspector Javert