Reaction Paper – Les Miserables
Les Misérables translated variously from French as The Miserable Ones, The Wretched, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, The Victims) (1862) is a novel by French author Victor Hugo and is widely considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. It follows the lives and interactions of several French characters over a twenty-year period in the early 19th century, starting in 1815, the year of Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo.
The novel focuses on the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption. It examines the nature of law and grace, and expounds upon the history of France, architecture of Paris, politics, moral philosophy, antimonarchism, justice, religion, and the types and nature of romantic and familial love. The story is historical fiction because it contains factual, historic events, including the Paris Uprising of 1832 (often mistaken for the much earlier French Revolution). Les Misérables is known to many through its numerous stage and screen adaptations, such as the stage musical of the same name, sometimes abbreviated "Les Mis".
These are the lead characters of the novel:
Jean Valjean — Convicted for stealing a loaf of bread, he is paroled from prison nineteen years later. Rejected by society for being a former convict, Bishop Myriel turns his life around. He assumes a new identity to pursue an honest life, becoming a factory owner and a mayor. He adopts and raises Fantine's daughter Cosette, saves Marius from the barricade, and dies at an old age.
Javert — An obsessive police inspector who continuously hunts, tracks down, and loses Valjean. He goes undercover behind the barricade, but is discovered and unmasked. Valjean has the chance to kill Javert, but lets him go. Later Javert allows Valjean to escape. For the first time, Javert is in a situation in which he knows that the lawful course is immoral. His inner conflict leads him to take his own life by jumping into the River Seine.
Bishop Myriel, the bishop of Digne — A kindly old priest who is promoted to bishop by a chance encounter with Napoleon. He convinces Valjean to change his ways after Valjean steals some silver from him and saves Valjean from being arrested.
Fantine — A Parisian grisette abandoned with a small child with her lover Félix Tholomyès. Fantine leaves her daughter Cosette in the care of the Thénardiers, innkeepers in a village called Montfermeil. Unfortunately, Mme. Thénardier spoils her own daughters and abuses Cosette. Fantine finds work at Monsieur Madeleine's factory, but is fired by a female supervisor who discovers that she is an unwed mother, as Fantine, being illiterate, had other people write her letters to the Thénardiers. To meet repeated demands for money from the Thénardiers, she sells her hair, then her two front teeth, and finally turns to prostitution. Valjean learns of her plight when Javert arrests her for attacking a man who called her insulting names and hurled snow at her back. She dies of a disease that may be tuberculosis before Valjean is able to reunite her with Cosette.
Cosette — The illegitimate daughter of Fantine and Tholomyès. From approximately the age of three to the age of eight, she is beaten and forced to be a drudge by the Thénardiers. After Fantine dies, Valjean ransoms her from the Thénardiers and she becomes his adopted daughter. She is educated by nuns in a convent in Paris. She later grows up to become very beautiful. She falls in love with Marius Pontmercy, and marries him at the end of the novel.
M. & Mme. Thénardier — A corrupt innkeeper and his wife. They have five children: two daughters (Éponine and Azelma) and three sons (Gavroche and two unnamed younger sons). They take in Cosette in her early years, mistreating and abusing her. They also write fabricated letters about Cosette to Fantine in order to extort money from her. They end up losing the inn due to bankruptcy and moving to Paris, living as the...
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