In the following passage from Les Miserables, with characters Mr. Thenardier and Jean Valjean, who does the bold "he" refer to?

Be that as it may, on entering into conversation with the man, sure that there was some secret in the case, that the latter had some interest in remaining in the shadow, he felt himself strong; when he perceived from the stranger’s clear and firm retort, that this mysterious personage was mysterious in so simple a way, he became conscious that he was weak. He had expected nothing of the sort.

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    I suppose the "he" who became conscious he was weak is the same as the "he" who earlier felt himself strong? Maybe you should put them both in capitals?
    – user14111
    Nov 8, 2019 at 7:51

1 Answer 1


In the original French (Tome 2 "Cosette", Livre 3, Chapitre IX), it reads:

Quoi qu'il en fût, en entamant la conversation avec l'homme, sûr qu'il y avait un secret dans tout cela, sûr que l'homme était intéressé à rester dans l'ombre, il se sentait fort; à la réponse nette et ferme de l'étranger, quand il vit que ce personnage mystérieux était mystérieux si simplement, il se sentit faible.

"il se sentit faible" simply means "he felt weak", thus referring to himself; in contrast to the earlier "il se sentait fort".

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    One can see that the reflexive il se sentait fort influenced the translator to add an extra pronoun: he felt himself strong. This may also be why the second he that the OP found ambiguous appears in the translation.
    – Peter Shor
    Nov 8, 2019 at 21:09

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