Section 3 - Marius
Book Four - The Friends of the A B C
This book serves to introduce the members and habits of a secret society that met at a wine shop called Corinth and a coffeehouse called Le Cafe Musain. The ABC society consisted of mostly young students and some sympathetic workingmen. They held as their basic principle the uplift of the masses and in this way mirrored the vague revolutionary thrill that was growing at the time. The group's leader was Enjolras who at twenty-two years of age was very serious and passionate on the subject of the rights of man. His compatriot was Combeferre who represented the philosophy of their organization and touted the need for civilization instead of revolution. Other members included Jean Prouvaire who was addicted to love, Feuilly who was in love with nationality, Courfeyrac who was the group's center, Bahorel who had vowed never to become a lawyer, Bahorel who loafed, Bousset who was bald and the others called Lesgle or Laigle de Meuax and who was studying law and laughed at everything especially his own numerous failings, Joly who was studing medicine and was a hypochondriac and Granataire who was a drunk and a skeptic and who remained with the group because he venerated Enjolras.
One day Laigle is loafing in front of the Cafe Musain when he noticed a young man in a cabriolet and recognized the name Marius Pontmercy stitched on the man's traveling bag. He hails Marius and good-naturedly explains that they are fellow students in a particular course and that because Marius was absent the previous day he, Laigle, answered for him at roll but was accordingly marked off the roll when his own name was called. Marius begins to apologize but Laigle assures him that he is very happy not to become a lawyer. Courfeyrac joins them and learns that Marius has nowhere to go. He offers to share his apartment with him. They become friends and several days later Courfeyrac takes Marius to meet the ABC at the Cafe Musain. At the caf�, Marius experiences the fiery opinions of revolutionaries and feels his own political convictions beginning to sway. Marius makes several visits to the Cafe and gives a passionate defense of Napoleon. To his question: "To conquer the world twice, by conquest and by resplendence, this is sublime, and what can be more grand?" Combeferre answers simply: "To be free." His argument deflated Marius decides that he will no longer visit the Cafe. One morning the landlady of the house where he lives with Courfeyrac demands Marius' share of the rent. Courfeyrac helps Marius sell some of his clothes and his gold watch. After paying the landlady Marius is left only ten francs. He resolves to learn German and English so that he can get work from a friend of Courfeyrac who is compiling an encyclopedia in those languages. In the midst of these financial crises Marius receives six hundred francs from his Aunt but returns the money stating that he can provide for himself. Not wanting to offend the grandfather who has forbidden the use of Marius' name, the Aunt says nothing to him. Marius leaves his friend's apartment for cheaper lodgings.
Marius' discussions with the student group make him aware of the divisions that exist in Paris in the 1800's and that he doesn't fully know his own beliefs or loyalties.