MacIntyre, a genre author so removed from literary trends and society that his very name and self-purported biography are questionable.
Everything centers on the extraordinary face of (protaganist) Gwynplaine
, whose wide and mirthless grin inspired the Joker character in the original Batman comic books.
finds himself on a deserted bluff in a blizzard because those who mutilated his face and then exploited him as a circus clown abandoned him there as they fled England, hoping he would die of exposure and thus eliminate the evidence of their horrible crime.
In Hugo's L'Homme qui rit Gwynplaine
provokes mockery by his automated laughter (cf.
voila ce que Barkilphedro eut pu voir dans l'evenement dont il triomphait; voila ce qu'il ne vit pas" [14: 275]) and is unable to know everything about them, as with Gwynplaine
during his initial trek to Weymouth: "Sa stupefaction se compliquait d'une sombre constatation de la vie.
4) A pairing of angel and devil results, like those of Claude and Esmeralda, Marie and Salluste, Josiane and Gwynplaine
Dans la suite du siecle, de Rodolphe a Monte-Cristo, de Lagardere a Gwynplaine
, le roman populaire se servira largement de figures qui ne sont pas sans rappeler les protagonistes frenetiques.
Si cette idylle doit, ainsi que le propose Henri Mitterand, "quelque chose de son inconsciente sensualite aux pages de L'Homme qui rit, ou Victor Hugo depeint les amours ingenues et troubles de Gwynplaine
et de Dea" et si elle rappelle egalement, ainsi que je l'ai suggere precedemment, les amours de Cosette et de Marius, elle n'est pas non plus sans evoquer, de par sa conclusion, l'idylle impossible du couple hugolien "Quasimodo/Esmeralda"(13).
The villain Barkilphedro perversely seeks to avenge himself on Duchess Josiane for her many kindnesses to him; Josiane tries to escape boredom by seducing Gwynplaine, a street performer disfigured as a child to prevent his rightful ascent to the peerage as Lord Clancharlie; Gwynplaine's temptation by Josiane's material charms threatens to obliterate his devotion to the higher ideals embodied by Dea, the blind girl whom he rescued in infancy and with whom he has fallen in love.
It also operates literally, Dea dying from a coronary aneurism after being separated from and then reunited with Gwynplaine.
If the association of literary plagiarism with literal abduction seems remote, Suzanne Guerlac, writing of Victor Hugo's L'Homme qui rit (where "a child is kidnapped and disfigured by a band of gypsies who have cut his mouth from ear to ear"), has shown how the child-stealer's crime can derive mythic power from the speaking of its proper and resonantly literary name: the mutilation of the child Gwynplaine
by Harquenonne is called a work of art, and Harquenonne is hanged for it "as a plagiarist".
Le visage de Gwynplaine
est semblable a la caricature dont parlait Baudelaire, "ce spectacle lamentable" qui provoque le rire; "On voyait Gwynplaine
, on se tenait les cotes" ecrit Hugo (I, 380).