--Victor Hugo, published 1862
--the Miserable, the wretched, the miserable ones, the poor ones, the victims
-- French Revolution
About: Novels follows the lives and interactions of several characters, focusing on the struggles of ex-convict JEAN VALJEAN and his experience of redemption.
Hugo explains the work’s overarching structure: * A progress from evil to good * From justice to injustice * From falsehood to truth * From night to day * From corruption to life from bestiality to duty * From hell to heaven * From nothingness to God
“The starting point: matter destination and the soul. The hydra at the beginning: the angel at the end.” JEAN VALJEAN: who becomes a force for good in the world but cannot escapes his dark past. Hugo's sources:
Valjean's character is loosely based on the life of Eugène François Vidocq, an ex-convict who became a successful businessman widely noted for his social engagement and philanthropy. Vidocq helped Hugo with his research for Claude Gueux and Le Dernier jour d'un condamné (The Last Day of a Condemned Man). In 1828, Vidocq, already pardoned, saved one of the workers in his paper factory by lifting a heavy cart on his shoulders as Valjean does. Hugo's description of Valjean rescuing a sailor on the Orion drew almost word for word on a friend's letter describing such an incident. Hugo used Bienvenu de Miollis (1753–1843), the Bishop of Digne during the time in which Valjean encounters Myriel, as the model for Myriel.
In 1841, Hugo saved a prostitute from arrest for assault. He used a short part of his dialogue with the police when recounting Valjean's rescue of Fantine in the novel. On 22 February 1846, when he had begun work on the novel, Hugo witnessed the arrest of a bread thief while a Duchess and her child watched the scene pitilessly from their coach. He spent several vacations in Montreuil-sur-Mer, which became the model for the town he calls