He had his heyday in the decadent Ancien Regime, the pre-Revolutionary monarchy, in which the nobility dominated France. He still looks back to those days with nostalgia and regret. Gillenormand believes that in modern times people lack the gift of living life to the fullest and enjoying all its pleasures. He raises Marius to believe that the Revolution "was a load of scoundrels."
When Marius discovers that his father was a Revolutionary hero, it causes a bitter break between them. He attempts to keep Marius from being influenced by his father, Colonel Georges Pontmercy. While in perpetual conflict over ideas, he does illustrate his love for his grandson.