Narrative Report

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Maria Czarina Joyce Mercado
BS Psychology 3-3
Narrative Report: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Les Miserables is, amongst other things, famous for its digressions. These are things that Hugo just felt like writing about and unapologetically shoe-horned into the book. I have endured a 60 page digression on the Battle of Waterloo, 40 pages on convents, 20 pages on sewers, and all kinds of long chapters on various things that are not important to the story. Perhaps it would be easier to forgive Hugo these digressions if he didn’t place them right in the middle of the action, usually leaving Valjean teetering on the brink of catastrophe, closely pursued by Javert. Based on the quality of his writing, I certainly do, because it is incredible. In my favourite chapter, ‘Javert in disarray’, Hugo captures perfectly the inner turmoil and horror of a character who previously appeared two dimensional and rigid, as Javert realises that his pursuit of Valjean has become warped, and such a necessary, central part of his life that it is in fact Valjean in control. Also very important to the novel is coincidence. As long as you bear in mind that wherever Valjean goes, and whatever he does, even in the labyrinth that is Paris, Javert will accidentally become involved, then you will perhaps avoid the emotional roller-coaster that I experienced. Also, Hugo likes to tease his readers, by introducing Valjean under a series of disguises and false identities, and letting us guess it is him. But really, how stupid does he think we are? The coincidences extend further to engulf the whole narrative, and when Marius (law student, Cosette’s love interest) moves in next door to the Thénardiers (the VILLANS), the reader might be forgiven for throwing up their hands and exclaiming ‘In Paris? Seriously? It’s massive!’ I however love coincidences, and they are my favourite part of any nineteenth century novel. The experience of reading Les Miserables is akin to that of any lengthy novel. For...
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