Section 3 - Marius
Book Three - The Grandfather and the Grandson
Monsieur Gillenormand frequented many of the most fashionable salons. His grandson often accompanied him on these visits and was duly praised for his beauty and pitied for his father - the soldier whom Monsieur Gillenormand considered the disgrace of the family.
This soldier was an old man living in the little city of Vernon on the banks of the Seine where he tended to his rich garden of flowers. He bore a ragged scar on this cheek from the battle of Waterloo. Although he was friendly if approached he did not seek human company and remained close only with his cure, Abbe Mabeuf. This old soldier's name was Pontmercy and he had, in his long life, been in many of the most significant military engagements of his time and had been wounded on numerous occasions. Moreover, he had distinguished himself in many of them. On the field of Waterloo, Napoleon had given him the title of Baron and made him an Officer of the Legion of Honour. Later he plummeted into the sunken road, was extricated by Thenardier and after the battle was put on half-pay by the Restoration government. He wore the colors of his battlefield appointment illegally and always insisted on his title as that of Baron. Monsieur Gillenormand took his son by threatening to disown the child from his inheritance. Pontmercy obeyed believing it was in the child's best interest. Though he longed to, Pontmercy was never allowed to interact with his son.
The boy, Marius, grew up to be a very serious young man who was embarrassed by his grandfather's gaiety and cynicism but who shared his royalist sensibilities. He knew almost nothing of his father except that he was considered a disgrace. At the age of eighteen Marius had just entered law school when one evening his grandfather informed him that he must go visit his sick father who has sent for him. Both Monsieur Gillenormand and Marius regard this as a distasteful expedition but Marius dutifully traveled to Vernon the following day.
Marius arrived at his father's humble house and found that the old man had already died. He was unmoved by the sight of his dead father. The doctor, priest and servant were very upset by Pontmercy's death. The servant handed Marius a note from the old man addressed to him. It tells Marius that although the Restoration denies the title, he (Pontmercy) trusts that Marius will bear the title of Baron Pontmercy well. He also tells his son that a sergeant named Thenardier saved him and that he is to render good service to this man should he ever meet him. Marius returned to his grandfather's house and thought no more of his father.
Some time later Marius is attending mass at Saint Sulpice when he accidentally takes a seat reserved for Monsieur Mabeuf, the churchwarden. Mabeuf soon appears and Marius readily yields the seat. After the service Mabeuf explains to Marius that he always likes to sit in that spot because it was from there that he regularly watched a devoted father observe his son who was parted from him by family disagreements. Marius and Mabeuf, who is the brother of Pontmercy's cure, conclude that Marius was that little boy and Mabeuf assures him that his father loved him.
The next day, Marius, under the pretense of a hunting trip which his grandfather suspects to be a love affair, leaves for several days. During this time he researches his father's history and meets his cure. He becomes enraptured of his father and at the same time undergoes a political revolution as well and comes into sympathy with the Republic and his father's principles. He has calling cards printed that read Baron Marius Pontmercy but keeps them in his pocket.
He comes to dislike his grandfather who persists in believing that his grandson is engaged in amorous pursuits. The daughter and Monsieur Gillenormand notice that Marius is wearing a heavy amulet under his shirt.
Marius travels to Montfermiel but can find no trace of Thenardier. On one occasion the daughter has her grandnephew follow Marius to discover the object of his love. He does so and discovers that Marius is visiting the grave of his father. Soon afterward, Monsieur Gillenormand discovers the amulet that Marius wears and brings it to his daughter. They open it and instead of the expected love letter discover the letter from Pontmercy and Marius' calling cards. Eventually Marius appears before them, there is a row which results in Marius being exiled from the house. Soon after Marius leaves, Monsieur Gillenormand commands his daughter to send Marius some money each month and never to speak of him again.
The note from Pontmercy is accidentally lost in the process and Marius believes, incorrectly, that his grandfather has cruelly destroyed his one link to his father. He resolves never to return. Upon leaving he possesses thirty francs, his watch and some clothes. He hires a cabriolet and with no clear destination in mind directs the driver to proceed to the Latin Quarter.
Gillenormand cannot bear to see Marius follow an opposing political viewpoint and chooses to sever ties with him. His stubbornness costs him the relationship with his grandson.
Marius' interests in the Napoleonic values reflect the younger generation's desire to follow democratic principles and change the stoic Bourbon beliefs.