Les Misérables


Key Quotes

1. Let us never fear robbers nor murderers. Those are dangers from without, petty dangers. Let us fear ourselves. Prejudices are the real robbers; vices are the real murderers. The great dangers lie within ourselves. What matters it what threatens our head or our purse! Let us think only of that which threatens our soul.

M. Myriel, the Bishop of Digne, delivers this speech in Volume1/ Book 1. These words offer clear insight into the character of M. Myriel; he is a truly spiritual man, impatient with the superficial prejudices and selfish fears that riddle society. If everyone were more concerned with being moral themselves, Myriel suggests, we would have less to fear. This short passage also articulates one of the novel’s principal arguments: criminals are not necessarily born criminals, but often are forced into crime by circumstance. The Bishop suggests that prejudice and human vice breed the conditions for many crimes and, throughout his life, he argues that hunger is the motivation behind a huge percentage of crimes. This argument is clearly encapsulated in the history of Jean Valjean, who has been branded as a “criminal” for life because he stole a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s children. Furthermore, Fantine’s downward spiral into prostitution is brought about directly by the prejudices and vices of others.

2. I did not think that I had the right to kill a man; but I felt it my duty to exterminate evil. I voted the end of the tyrant, that is to say, the end of prostitution for woman, the end of slavery for man, the end of night for the child. In voting for the Republic, I voted for that. I voted for fraternity, concord, the dawn. I have aided in the overthrow of prejudices and errors. The crumbling away of prejudices and errors causes light. We have caused the fall of the old world, and the old world, that vase of miseries, has become, through its upsetting upon the human race, an urn of joy.

This speech is given in Volume 1/ Book 1 by the...

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Essays About Les Misérables