Les Miserables: Novel Summary: Section 1 – Book 3

 Section 1 – Fantine
Book 3 – In the Year 1817
This section begins with the description of four young students from wealthy families in the country who have engaged in a love affair with four young Parisian working girls. The oldest of the students is named Tholomys and, though he has lost most of his hair and all his teeth, he is the acknowledged leader of the group because of his incisive wit. He is paired with the youngest girl; a pretty country girl named Fantine with lustrous blonde hair and perfect teeth. Fantine has fallen deeply in love with Tholomys but he considers their relationship nothing more than a casual amour. One day Tholomys proposes to his student friends that they satisfy the girls demand for a surprise as well as their parents wish for them to return home with one devilish plan. The following Sunday the group goes out for a day of frolicking and picnicking all over Paris during the course of which they enjoy a game of ring toss, view a rare shrub from India and ride donkeys. All the while, however, the girls beg for their surprise but Tholomys admonishes them to be patient. Finally the group ends up at a restaurant table near two large windows that look out on the Champs-Elysees. After some drinking and general merriment Tholomys agrees that it is time to give the girls their surprise and each man places a kiss upon his sweethearts head before leaving to fetch the surprise. The girls watch them cross over the street arm-in-arm. The girls wait impatiently for an hour. A waiter arrives with a note from the men that he was instructed to wait an hour before delivering. In very ironic and clever terms the note informs the girls that their men have returned to their parents to become respectable members of society. For the three older women it is a comical and somewhat expected conclusion but Fantine cries herself to sleep that night because she knows she is carrying Tholomys child.
Book three depicts the differences between the students who come from a wealthy background and the girls whose families are from the working class. The students are bright and frivolous whereas the girls are more illiterate and vulnerable. When the men pull their “surprise” and leave the girls, Fantine, the youngest and most beautiful one is hurt the most as she is left bearing a child.