Les Misérables


Vol. 1 Books 1 and 2

Summary: Volume 1/ Book One

The novel begins with a character study of M. Charles-Francois Myriel, a former member of the aristocracy who fled to Italy during the Revolution and returned to France a priest. As the novel begins, the seventy-five-year-old Myriel has been the bishop of a French town called Digne for nine years, where he is known by his parishioners as Monseigneur Bienvenu, or “Father Welcome,” because of his benevolence and generosity to the poor. When the Bishop first arrived in Digne upon receiving his appointment from Napoleon, he found that he had been given a palace to live in, while the hospital next door was dismal and overcrowded. Promptly, he turned the palace into the hospital, and took up residence in the more humble abode. He allots nearly all of his own personal salary to helping the poor, and lives simply with his spinster sister, Mademoiselle Baptistine, and a housekeeper, Madame Magloire, both of whom love and respect the good priest.

The Bishop is widely known for his compassion and selflessness, as well as his intelligent, humanistic beliefs and defense of the poor. He keeps no luxuries in his own home save six sets of dinner silver and two silver candlesticks, and these only at the insistence of his housekeeper. The details of the Bishop’s daily life, as well as his conversations with a selfish politician, a condemned criminal on the eve of his appointment with the guillotine, and a former champion of the French Revolution who is on his deathbed, all characterize the Bishop as a wise, generous and saintly man.

Summary: Volume 1/ Book Two

Book Two introduces the protagonist of the novel, Jean Valjean. Recently released from prison after nineteen years, he arrives in Digne on foot, hungry and exhausted, and attracts the attention of the locals because of his dilapidated appearance. He attempts to pay for bed and board at several places, but is turned out of each one. Because he is required to present a “yellow passport” announcing his status as a...

Sign up to continue reading Vol. 1 Books 1 and 2 >

Essays About Les Misérables