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Victor Marie Hugo was born February 26, 1802 in Besançon, France. He lived in France for most of his life, with the exception of the years 1851-1870, and again two years later for a year. The reason for his moves to Brussels, Jersey, and Guernsey was that he was exiled by Napoleon III, but after 1859, he remained exiled by choice. Victor Hugo was born after the French Revolution, where Napoleon Bonaparte ruled France under a dictatorship. His political view was very conservative, faithful to the King and God, at first, but he later became a believer of republicanism. Since his father was an officer in the army, Victor moved to Spain and Italy, visiting Naples and Rome, during his childhood. However, he mostly grew up in Paris with his mother. Victor was deeply influenced by Romanticist writer François-René de Chateaubriand, and made his goal to be exactly like his idol. As a result, Victor Hugo became a successful writer in the literary movement of Romanticism. As a writer with many different styles, such as poetry, plays, novels, essays, and much more, Hugo created many well-known works of literature. These include Les Misérables, Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), and Les Contemplacions.


Les Misérables written in 1862 by Victor Hugo is a novel that describes the life of Jean Valjean, a man kept in prison for 19 years, after his release. Jean’s life is changed completely after he meets Monseigneur Bienvenu, or Bishop Myriel. He stole two silver candlesticks from the Bishop’s home, or the church. However, when he is caught by the police, the Bishop says that the candlesticks were given to the ex-convict. The bishops then states that Jean had promised “ ‘to use this silver to become an honest man.’ ”
(pg. 33) However, right off the bat, Jean Valjean seems to steal a forty-sous piece from Petit Gervais, refusing to give it back. When the boy leaves, however, Jean realizes what he has done, and becomes disgusted at himself, especially since the bishop had done so much for him. When Jean’s attempts to find the boy to return the money fail, Jean becomes a whole new man. It seems after a couple of years, Jean has settled himself in a town of M_ sur M_ , and he has made it rich by creating a cheaper way to construct jets, buckles, and bracelets. He himself grew rich also, and always gave money to the poor, and eventually Jean is forced into being the mayor. However, there comes a day when Javert, a police officer, apologizes to Jean, now Monsieur Madeleine, for having accused him of being Jean Valjean, but that in fact, the “real” Jean Valjean was being held in a trial for stealing a branch of an apple tree. The mayor, who is the real Jean Valjean, decides that he would rather be hated by people in the town than by God in heaven, and he goes to the court and proclaims himself to be the true Jean Valjean. Around the same time as this, Fantine leaves her daughter, Cosette, with the Thernadiers so she can find a place to work. However, instead of being charitable, the Thérnadiers demand more and more money from Fantine, and treat her daughter cruelly. Eventually, Fantine ends up sick in Monsieur Madeleine’s town, and on her death bed, wishes to see her daughter, believing that the mayor went on a trip to find her daughter. At this moment, Jean Valjean appears, and lies, assuring Fantine that he has returned with Cosette. While Jean is with her, Javert shows up and wishes to take him to prison (for the highway robbery of Petit Gervais). While Javert tries to take Jean to prison, he reveals that Jean does not in fact have Cosette, and Fantine dies. Jean sees to it that Fantine has a proper burial, and follows Javert to prison. However, he escapes, retrieves all his money, and goes to find Cosette. After he has secured the child, he hides his money in a forest near the town Cosette resided, and he decides to live in a large but what appears from the street small and ramshackle house. There he lives with Cosette, teaching her her letters and how to spell and read. However, Javert finds him, and so Jean escapes with Cosette to a convent. There, Jean meets a man he had once rescued, and this man Fauchelevent, decides to help him. In the convent, Cosette is brought up and schooled, while Jean, disguised as Ultimus Fauchelevent, the brother of the man he once rescued, works as a gardener. After a long period of time, Jean decides it would be alright to leave the convent, and does so when old Fauchelevent dies. Soon, Cosette and Jean decide to take strolls in Luxembourg, and Cosette meets glances with Marius. Marius is a son of an officer that had fought in numerous battles on the side of Napoleon, a glorious man who was awarded with the title of Baron by Napoleon, but was later not allowed to carry that name during the Reconstruction. Sadly enough, Marius did not grow up with his father because his mother, who had died, had a father who was extremely loyalist, and did not allow the Baron to see his son. Marius grew up scorning his father, but after his father’s death, realized that he was in fact a great man. When Marius first sees Cosette, he thinks nothing of her because she is still young, and “ugly”. However, Cosette grows into a beautiful woman, and they both fall in love with each other. Jean notices their behavior, and decides to move, cutting off their “relationship”. Meanwhile, Marius’ neighbors end up being the Thérnadiers, and somehow, Jean and Cosette visit them, to help them with alms. One day, Jean returns alone and the Thérnadiers attempt to gain money and steal Cosette from Jean, but Javert shows up before anything can happen. During this whole dilemma, the Thérnadiers are sent to jail, but Jean escapes before he can be identified. Later, because of certain circumstances, Marius is involved in a barricade against the government, and is saved by Jean. He is carried to his grandfathers, and has no idea who his savior was. He and Cosette marry each other, and live quite happily. However, Valjean is very miserable, and becomes even more so when Marius does not allow him to see Cosette because Jean has told him who he actually was, an ex-convict. However, eventually, when Jean is about to die, Marius is accidentally told by Thernadier that Jean is the one who saved him, and that Jean was Monsieur Madeleine. In the end, Cosette and Marius are there to see Jean Valjean die, a happy and somewhat peaceful ending for this man.


Personally, I really liked this novel. Although somewhat lengthy, I thought the book was well written and was original with a good plot. I liked how the story was separated into different sections that revolved around different characters so as to add more point of views to the story. For example, in the Fantine and Cosette section, the reader learns of Jean Valjean’s and Cosette’s life and their view in life. However, in Marius, we see Jean Valjean and his daughter as two intriguing strangers. By doing this, the author created a more interesting book when he tied things together. Also, this technique, which is almost a change in main characters, creates an overall easy-to-grasp story that makes the reader be able to understand and think ahead. I liked that because it is almost like a mystery where you try to connect the dots, finding out how one part of the novel connects to the other. For example, when Monsieur Madeleine is described to have arrived without his passports, and to have two silver candlesticks, the reader will automatically think that he could in fact be Jean Valjean.
One of the major themes in this book is Good vs. Evil. Not only is there the obvious struggle between bad people like the selfish Thérnadiers and the good M. LeBlanc (Jean Valjean), but there seems also to be an internal struggle in Jean himself. This can also be considered man vs. self. Jean Valjean was an ex-convict who tries to make up for is past mistakes by being a good man. However, when disguised as M. Madeleine, Jean hears of another man who is accused of being Jean Valjean, and for stealing. The real Jean Valjean cannot decide whether to stay loved by his town as Father Madeleine, and being hated by God for condemning another man in the process, or to be hated by the people, but forgiven by God if he decides to tell all the truth. His instincts tell him to save himself in the eyes of the people, but his heart cannot let another man take the blame for his past. This struggle is a struggle that will define Jean himself as a good or bad man. In the end, good wins, and he decides to remain virtuous in the eyes of God.
Les Misérables is a novel rich in symbolism. Many characters represent something to another character. For example, Bishop Myriel represents the ultimate good, or the savior towards Jean Valjean. Cosette symbolizes hope and happiness to Jean, and love and happiness to Marius. The Thérnadiers represent evil to Jean Valjean, but someone-you-must-help-no-matter-what to Marius. Also, the nicknames of characters would represent the characters personality or appearance. For example, Bishop Myriel was called Monseigneur Bienvenu, which means Mr. Welcome, which suits his personality of welcoming and aiding anyone, even an ex-convict like Jean. Another nickname is one for Jean, Monsieur LeBlanc. This means, Mr. White, and this not only represents his hair, but also his spirit, which wishes to do good for all.
Starry_Night.jpg This picture, Starry Night by Van Gogh metaphorically and significantly represents Cosette. Although she has grown up without a mother, and lived her early years with the awful and cruel Thérnadiers, she was still happy, and has become a good person, on a different level from the selfish Thérnadiers. This is represented in the painting because Cosette can be seen as the stars in the sky, and the Thérnadiers considered the tree. Not only are the stars untouchable by the tree, but the stars shine brightly while the tree remains dark. Also, Cosette is a whimsical and pure person, who grows into a beautiful young lady. Her pureness is shown through the stars brightness (just as one could consider the trees darkness as the vileness of the Thérnadiers), and her whimsical an beautiful self through the playful strokes in which the stars are painted, as well as the warm feeling one gets when admiring them. Therefore, this picture seems to represent Cosette’s personality and appearance.
Overall, this book is a great and interesting read, so if you have some spare time, I highly recommend that you read it, because you are sure to enjoy this riveting novel.

Sign of the Times

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo reflects the time setting that it was written in. Politically, this can be seen throughout the novel. Marius’ father fought for Napoleon, and then the Restoration took away his right to be proud about it. Victor Hugo was born a little after the French Revolution, when Napoleon ruled. The book setting itself contains a little battle of the French Revolution, when Marius fights against the government’s guards and army in the barricade. Hugo probably used Marius as a vessel for his own political beliefs, conservative at first, then for republicanism. The fact that Marius’ grandfather was a royalist caused Marius to be kicked out. This probably happened in real life, and most likely what happened between Hugo’s parents. Culturally, it can be seen through the inventions Jean Valjean makes easier. Most likely in real life, imitations of industrial products were made in France, just like imitations of bracelets and jets from other countries were made in M sur M . Therefore, we can assume that this novel contains socially and politically correct ideas.

Connection Corners

Other works that are similar to Les Misérables include Oliver Twist, Les Misérables - Shoujo Cosette, and Les Misérables-the play.
Oliver Twist is a novel set in England during the Industrial Revolution, about an orphan, Oliver, who has a miserable beginning, and is treated cruelly. He then runs away to London, only to become a thief. As the story progresses, he meets a rich man who takes him in, only to be taken back by the thieves. After a lot of work and misery, Oliver ends up happy with Mr. Brownlow, the nice rich man, and is taken care of properly. This can be purchased on amazon.com. There is also a movie that was made that can be watched on youtube. If you want to know more about the movie, check out __http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/olivertwist/site/__ and if you want to know more about the book, see __http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Twist__.
Les Misérables - Shoujo Cosette is an anime that is broadcasted on TV by Nippon Animation. It first aired in 2007 on Fuji TV’s BS Fuji satellite network, and also on Animax. Although based on the original novel, the anime is an adaptation, so it is actually quite different, although not dramatically so. It is set in France during the 19th century, and is about a girl Cosette, who is tricked into being the slave of a cruel man so that her mother could find a job. The mayor of the town she now lives in decides to do something about her matter. This anime can be watched on Veoh.com at __http://www.veoh.com/channels/ShoujoCosette__.
Les Misérables the musical is also an adaptation of the original novel. It is more similar than the anime though. It was composed in 1980 by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg. This is one of the most performed musicals in the world, and one of the most famous French musicals. The main differences between the original and the musical is that Fantine becomes a prostitute, instead of looking for work, Marius being a revolutionary student, instead of a father worshipper swept into the movement, Éponine being the counterpart for Cosette instead of a lesser character, and Enjolras being a main character, planning a revolt instead of a mysterious leader of the barricade. This play can be seen on broadway at times, and if you want to know more, visit __http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Mis__ and for tickets visit __http://www.ticketmaster.com__/.