Essay on Les Miserables

2251 words 10 pages
Les Misérables
Published 1862 I | | INTRODUCTION |
When Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables first came out in 1862, people in Paris and elsewhere lined up to buy it. Although critics were less receptive, the novel was an instant popular success. The French word “misérables” means both poor wretches and scoundrels or villains. The novel offers a huge cast that includes both kinds of “misérables.” A product of France's most prominent Romantic writer, Les Misérables ranges far and wide. It paints a vivid picture of Paris's seamier side, discusses the causes and results of revolution, and includes discourses on topics ranging from the Battle of Waterloo to Parisian street slang. But the two central themes that dominate the novel are the moral
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If you are leaving that sorrowful place with hate and anger against men, you are worthy of compassion; if you leave it with goodwill, gentleness, and peace, you are better than any of us.”
Valjean listens. Nevertheless, he decides to rob the good bishop. During the night, he runs away with the bishop's silver. He is caught and brought back to the bishop who tells the police that he himself gave Valjean these precious objects. Later Bishop Myriel tells Valjean, “you belong no longer to evil, but to good. It is your soul I am buying for you. I withdraw it from dark thoughts and from the spirit of perdition and I give it to God!” Valjean is stunned. After he steals a coin from a little boy, he has an epiphany: “he could see his life, and it seemed horrible; his soul, and it seemed frightful. There was, however, a gentler light shining on that life and soul.”
Fantine is a seamstress unjustly fired once her employer learns about her scandalous past. Abandoned by her lover, she is hungry, destitute, and unable to care for her daughter, Cosette. First she sells her hair, then her teeth before finally prostituting herself. At this stage of the story, Fantine has “endured all, borne all, experienced all, suffered all, lost all, wept for all. She is resigned, with that resignation that resembles indifference as death resembles sleep.” She leaves Cosette when her daughter is two years old to the care of the Thénardiers, who run a tavern in the outskirts of Paris. Cosette is


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