The Dangerous Classes















Cherub of the Gutter


This is an image of Gavroche

 "He was a boisterous, pallid, nimble, wide awake, rougish urchin, with an air at once vivacious and sickly. He went, came, sang, played pitch and toss, scraped the gutters, stole a little, but he did it gaily like the cats and the sparrows, laughed when people called him an errand-boy, and got angry when they called him a ragamuffin. He had no shelter, no food, no fire, no love, but he was light-hearted because he was free."

-Les Misérables, Marius, Book I



 This image is of Gavroche, a street urchin who turned to the streets instead of being corrupted by his father, Thenardier, and his gang of criminals. Hugo highlighted Gavroche's generosity as shown in this image as he took two young boys under his wing, giving them advice, comfort, and a place to sleep.




This image of Gavroche aiding his brothers by buying them a meal, quite unaware of their relationship to him, underlines a social tragedy - the disintegration of the family under the pressures of poverty. His comment on his two lost charges, "All the same, if I had children, I would take better care of them than that," is a masterpiece of social irony. This street urchin, to whom society had never given any material help or moral training, had a far deeper compassion for childhood as well as a sharp sense of his moral responsibility toward the unprotected than the average French citizen.

Hugo portrayed street urchins as good-hearted children who were more unfortunate than criminal. He allowed that the street urchin was often denied a spot in any one class of people. "The Parisian order of gamins is almost a caste. One might say: nobody wants to have anything to do with them." (Hugo, p. 509) Hugo praised the street urchin for being strong-minded and being capable of getting out of "scrapes". Hugo also called on his bourgeois readers to empathize with the situation of the gamin. "The gamin is a beauty and, at the same time, a disease of the nation - a disease that must be cured." (Hugo,p.513)