Choice Lines from Les Miserables

JoeM's picture
Submitted by JoeM on Mon, 2007-06-18 04:19

As I took up Rand's challenge to read Victor Hugo, I found myself stopping constantly to write down various lines. My copy of Les Miserables is now littered with little yellow stickies. So I'm cleaning it out now. For anyone who hasn't read it, here are some lines that caught my attention for one reason or other (in no particular order). Determine for yourself, without my subjective reasons, if these are indicative of the greatness which set Rand on fire! And I'd love to hear from people who've read it and have their own favorite lines. *

"There is a spectacle greater than the sea: That is the sky; there is one spectacle greater than the sky: That is the interior of the soul."

"...society irrevocable closes its doors on two classes of men, those who attack and those who guard it."

"In this ravishing opera called love, the libretto is almost nothing..."

"...yesterday you may have been a man of wit, but you were discharged this morning..."

"Between servant and master, betrayal begins with curiousity."

"I obeyed neccesity; but necessity is a monster of the old world, the name of necessity is Fatality."

"Death, I use you, but I hate you..."

"One of the generosities of women is to yield."

"Love has not middle term. Either it serves or it destroys."

"What ruined Adam might save Gavroche."

"It is more than great, it is immense. Why, because it dares. To dare, progress comes with this price."

"In the course of our lives, we have all had our rosy garret."

"Javert, in his dreadful happiness, was pitiful, like every ignorant man in triumph. Nothing could be more poignant and terrible than this face, which revealed what might called all the evil of good."

"The emeute strengthen those government it does not overthrow. It tests the army, it concentrates its bourgeoisie; it stretches the muscles of the police, it determines the strength of the social framework...Power is healthier after a riot, like a man after a rubdown."

"He sings; it is his joy. Proportion his song to his nature, and then you'll understand...Let him sing the Marsailles, and he will liberate the world."

"Table talk and lover's talk are equally elusive; lover's talk is clouds, table talk is smoke."

"'Don't let's talk so much and so fast! he exclaimed. 'We should take time to reflect, if we want to be brilliant. Too much inprovisation leaves the mind stupidly empty."

"Compose yourself."

"I honor it in proportion to its merits-not beyond."

"The wise man is he who knows when and how to stop."

*For you translation sticklers: lines taken from the unabridged Signets Classic edition, translation by Lee Fabnestock, Norman MacAffee, based on the classic C. E. Wilbur translation. And it has the Broadway show waif logo on the cover. Smiling

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"They confuse heaven's radiant stars with a duck's footprint lef

JulianP's picture

"In passing, we might say that success is a hideous thing. Its false similarity to merit deceives men... They confuse heaven's radiant stars with a duck's footprint left in the mud."

"When they saw him making money, they said "He is a merchant." When they saw the way in which he scattered his money, they said, "He is ambitious. "When they saw him refuse honors, they said, "He is an adventurer."When they saw him repel the advances of the fashionable, they said, "He is a brute.""

"For prying into other people's affairs, none are equal to those of whom it is no concern."

"Superstitions, bigotries, hypocrisies, prejudices, these phantoms, phantoms though they be, cling to life; they have teeth and nails in their shadowy substance, and we must grapple with them individually and make war on them without truce; for it is one of humanity's inevitabilities to be condemned to eternal struggle with phantoms."

"A prince is nothing beside a principle."

"Man is not a circle with a single center; he is an ellipse with two focii. Facts are one, ideas are the other."

"There are moments when a man has a furnace in his brain."

And my all-time favourite:
"What leads and controls the world is not locomotives, but ideas. Harness the locomotives to the ideas, yes, but do not mistake the horse for the horseman."

Note, I have yet to finish it. Smiling


Ross Elliot's picture

"One of the generosities of women is to yield."

That one only applies 60% of the time. Cool

NP, Claudia. BTW, the white

JoeM's picture

NP, Claudia. BTW, the white and black angel line just missed my cut, but it's a great one.


Spaceplayer Sight and Sound


Olivia's picture

Just saw your other post about Hugo and know your answer.

Hey Joe

Olivia's picture

Great, great lines you've chosen here. I saw the musical show first and thought.. Wow! What a story! All the human themes I valued were wrapped into it and unlike other musicals, I actually enjoyed the music. I bought the book the very next day and read it in 3 weeks (Atlas took me a year).

One of my most memorable paragraphs -

- What are the convulsions of a city compared with the convulsions of a soul? Man is even a greater profundity than the people. Jean Valjean was at this moment suffering from a great internal earthquake, and all the gulfs were reopened within him. He too, was quivering like Paris, on the threshold of a formidable and obscure revolution. A few hours had sufficed to cover his destiny and his conscience with shadows, and of him, as of Paris, it might be said, "The two principles are face to face." The white angel and black angel are about to wrestle with each other on the brink of the abyss; which will hurl the other down?

- (then later in the same chapter)... Then, as we have just stated, he had a quivering of revolt from head to foot; he felt even in the roots of his hair the immense reawaking of selfishness, and the "I" yelled in the depths of this man's soul.

For me, Hugo's sublime brilliance with words, along with the breadth of his story scope, has only been equalled by Ayn's.

Did you love the book? Did it set you on fire? Smiling

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