Les Misérables: Cosette
It’s a very wee example of the irony that comes from the naming of characters in a story. Victor Hugo has an advantage over the rest of us: he was there during the Paris uprising. So, whether the characters are ‘real’ or made up is totally unknown.
Hugo does not give the narrator a name and allows the reader to identify the narrator with the novel’s author. The narrator occasionally injects himself into the narrative or reports facts outside the time of the narrative to emphasize that he is recounting historical events, not entirely fiction. He introduces his recounting of Waterloo with several paragraphs describing the narrator’s recent approach to the battlefield: “Last year (1861),on a beautiful May morning, a traveller, the person who is telling this story, was coming from Nivelles …” The narrator describes how “[a]n observer, a dreamer, the author of this book” during the 1832 street fighting was caught in crossfire: “All that he had to protect him from the bullets was the swell of the two half columns which separate the shops; he remained in this delicate situation for nearly half an hour.” At one point he apologizes for intruding—”The author of this book, who regrets the necessity of mentioning himself”—to ask the reader’s understanding when he describes “the Paris of his youth … as though it still existed.” This introduces a meditation on memories of past places that his contemporary readers would recognize as a self-portrait written from exile: “you have left a part of your heart, of your blood, of your soul, in those pavements.” He describes another occasion when a bullet shot “pierced a brass shaving-dish suspended … over a hairdresser’s shop. This pierced shaving-dish was still to be seen in 1848, in the Rue du Contrat-Social, at the corner of the pillars of the market.” As evidence of police double agents at the barricades, he writes: “The author of this book had in his hands, in 1848, the special report on this subject made to the Prefect of Police in 1832.”The Narrator
My focus, today, is on the young child, Cosette, who grows into a young woman during this story.
Cosette (formally Euphrasie, also known as “the Lark”, Mademoiselle Lanoire, Ursula) – The illegitimate daughter of Fantine and Tholomyès. From approximately the age of three to the age of eight, she is beaten and forced to work as a drudge for the Thénardiers. After her mother Fantine dies, Valjean ransoms Cosette from the Thénardiers and cares for her as if she were his daughter. Nuns in a Paris convent educate her. She grows up to become very beautiful. She falls in love with Marius Pontmercy and marries him near the novel’s conclusion.Wikipedia
When I first heard her name, I thought of “cosset’. The Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘cosset’ as a pet lamb. So, if you extrapolate that word further, you can use it ironically as something pampered, or something abused. Considering what her life was like, until Jean Valjean rescues her, the second idea is the truth. After he rescues her, the first idea takes over. See what I mean?