Les Misérables, Quotes from Part One: Fantine


It’s been three weeks since I’ve finished Les Misérables. It is so enormous, that I find myself intimidated. I decided to break my responses into bits. One post will be Great Quotes from the Boring Parts; another post on Words I Learned from Les Miz; another, perhaps, on Problems with Hugo’s Theology. After those, I might gird myself with courage and write my response to this masterpiece.

For now, however, I will just shower you with favorite quotes from Part One: Fantine. Read them and you may be drawn to the source. Or not.

…in the remaining time he (Monseigneur Myriel) worked. That is to say, he dug his garden or read and wrote, and for him both kinds of work bore the same name; both he called gardening. ‘The spirit is a garden,’ he said.  P. 33 [Garden, read and write: a life I could love]

The devil may visit us, but God lives here.  p.47 [a great distinction]

With the admirable delicacy of instinct they knew that some forms of solicitude can be an encumbrance. p. 48 [Isn’t this profound? And so true?]

There are men who dig for gold; he dug for compassion. p. 69 [Monseignor Bienvenu: my favorite character. Name means well + come]

The priest’s forgiveness was the most formidable assault he had ever sustained; p. 116 [forgiveness = assault: intriguing]

She worked in order to live, and presently fell in love, also in order to live, for the heart, too, has its hunger. p.125

Gluttony punished the glutton. Indigestion was designed by God to impose morality on stomachs. p. 136 [Ouch!]

…with the chaste indecency of childhood, displayed a stretch of bare stomach. p. 145 [chaste indecency: another glorious paradox]

‘What’s your little girl’s name?’ ‘Cosette.’ In fact, it was Euphrasie, but the mother turned it into Cosette by the use of that touching alchemy of simple people which transforms Josef into Pepita and Françoise into Silette. It is a kind of linguistics which baffles the etymologist. We once knew a grandmother who contrived to turn Theodore into Gnon. p. 149 [Laugh out loud delight!]

The supreme happiness in life is the assurance of being loved; of being loved for oneself, even in spite of oneself… p. 162

He [Javert] possessed the conscience appropriate to his function, and his duties were his religion; he was a spy in the way that other men are priests.  p. 166 [a chilling comparison]

Curiosity is a form of gluttony: to see is to devour. p. 183 [Guilty as charged]

God moves the soul as He moves the oceans. p.213



4 thoughts on “Les Misérables, Quotes from Part One: Fantine

  1. Pingback: Saturday Review of Books: January 5, 2013 | Semicolon

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