Les Misérables is a novel written by Victor Hugo, a well-known writer. It was first published during the early 1860s, in France, yet its popularity still remains strong. Although this work of fiction speaks of the Paris uprising hundreds of years ago, the theme of good and evil, laws and beliefs in the novel is still relevant to the current time. One can clearly see Victor Hugo depicting the struggle which many had to face during the uprising in Paris within this novel – this was probably the images which the author wishes to deliver to his readers.
This story is set in France during the early years of the 19th centuries (roughly from 1815 to 1835). During that period, the laws were strict, one of those who suffered from this was Jean Valjean. Jean Valjean was convicted 5 long years for breaking a window and stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister and nephews. His years of imprisonment had lengthened to 19 years as he attempted to escape a number of times. When Jean Valjean was finally given freedom, after the 19 years of being a convict, he was given a yellow passport. As a result, he continued to suffer the condemnation from the society. Consequently, he grew bitter and grew hatred for the world. However, during his parole, Jean Valjean met the Bishop of D., who had given shelter and food. It was then, the Bishop’s kindness had shown him the path to good deeds. However, out of old habits, Jean Valjean had accidently stolen a 40 sous coin from a chimney sweeper unconsciously. Such act of thievery had once again, placed him under the constant pursue by the police and it was certain that he will be a convict for life if caught.
However, a number of years had passed, Jean Valjean who was then Monsieur Madeline, became very successful, his business was flourishing and his act of kindness towards the people during those years had given him the rank of Mayor. Javert, a police officer of the high rank, a man who had believed and followed the law his whole life was the only person who had grown suspicions for Monsieur the Mayor. Quite some time had passed before Jean Valjean met a women name Fantine, a woman with a tragic story. She was married to a man named Félix Tholomyès, who later left her and Cosette, their little girl. Being poor during that time, Fantine had to place Cosette under the care of the Thénardiers. Cosette was unfortunately abused by them – at the age of 5, she had become the servant of the Thénardier family. Unaware of this situation, Fantine continued to send the sum she promised the Thénardiers and completed all of their demands. When Jean Valjean met Fantine, her health was at a horrible state so he took her in his care and promised that he will bring Cosette back to her. During that time, a man who was thought be Jean Valjean was arrested. Seeing the situation, Monsieur Madeline had confessed and showed his true identity. As a result, Javert had then arrested Jean Valjean in front of Fantine and taken aback by the truth and her suffering health, she drew her last breath.
Jean Valjean managed to escape and find Fantine’s daughter, who then was at the age of 8. He immediately took Cossette under his care despites the Thénardier’s disapproval as they wanted more money. However wonderful the situation seemed to have turned out, Jean Valjean continued to live his life in hiding with Cossette. Only in the last moment in his life, did Jean Valjean saw a glimpse of happiness.
The goal of this novel is to portray the good and evil nature in human and most importantly, the struggles which many had in their lives. The title clearly indicated this with Les Misérables meaning the miserable ones. The book mentions of war, the struggle many had in their own society and the theme of good and evil, love and hatred was also clearly shown. Out of all of this, in my personally opinion, the book has one main message that could be developed if the goal is well accomplished. It is a message of understanding, sympathizing and showing compassion towards all of those around us. In other word, to live a life without any regret. The author has been very successful about achieving this goal as I was able to clearly see this message and understand it.
Within this novel, Cosette is a character that readers are suppose to be able to sympathize with, at least that is what reader would think giving her tragic childhood. However, Hugo’s portray of Cosette had left this character surprisingly flat. The character displayed a combination of ignorant and fickleness and shallow practically sums up her character. Perhaps this is what the author is trying to portray but one can never tell.
Les Misérables is a novel that contains a wide range of subject to portray the complexity of human mind, their urge, their needs, their beliefs, and their purpose in life. Therefore, there are a number of comparisons one can make. However, one of the clearest comparison falls into the romance category as the author had compared Marius to Romeo. This helps one see that the love between Marius and Cosette could be in some way compared to the love between Romeo and Juliet. Their love is similar to Romeo and Juliet as there were some refusals from their guardians and their passion is also as shallow. However, different from Romeo and Juliet, Marius and Cosette are not as endearing. Nevertheless, they make a good couple sharing a common characteristic of ungratefulness and ignorant. Cosette, as stated above, was a lovable character as a young child but as she grew older, Cosette developed certain attribution that makes her character dislikable. Marius had developed this characteristic as well but such quality is not reflected as clear as Cosette within this novel.
There are little which seems unrealistic and unconvincing within this novel. However, Jean Valjean appears to be too good to be true by the end of the book where he confessed everything to Marius and asked for his forgiveness. He knew very well that he is the savior of Marius life, he has done nothing but good to Marius. In addition, Jean Valjean had been a father and again a savior to Cosette. A saint – one might call him. Therefore, his humbleness seems to be out of place. One knew that he was good, one knew that he was conscious of his fault in the pass but such over-display of saintliness will leave one puzzle. Jean Valjean is too saintly that he lacks that instinctive characteristic that defines all human, that instinct of yearning for pleasure and avoidance of pain.
This is a wonderful novel that everyone must read. I do not recommend it but urge you to read this work of fiction as it sends an important message that everyone can relate to.