Les Miserables Essay
5 January 2015
Responsibility, Love, and Forgiveness in Victor Hugo’s
I just killed a man. I am running away for the rest of my life. I just committed the worst possible crime. If I was caught, I would never be free again. In
, Jean Valjean was sentenced for nineteen years for just stealing a loaf of bread. Although this was a crime, it was not an act of evil. It was an act of necessity. Valjean was soon caught for this and was sent to the galleys for slave work. Although many would think that Jean Valjean is a criminal, he has a whole other side of him that will completely change anyone’s point of view on Jean Valjean.
Jean Valjean is an honorable man because of his decision to seek redemption, his loving and caring attitude towards Cosette, and the way he pardoned Javert.
The first reason why Jean Valjean is an honorable man is because of his decision to change and become a new man. Valjean’s journey begins when he meets the Bishop of D.
This Bishop sparks the goodness in Jean Valjean. He is extremely kind to Valjean because even after he steals silver from the Bishop, he lets Valjean go. Jean remembers this day for the rest of his life and is the stepping stone of the new Jean Valjean. Later on in the story, Jean Valjean becomes a priest in the town of M sur M known as Monsieur Madeleine. This is where he starts to gain respect from the citizens of M sur M and soon becomes the most respected man in town. In “the little city of M sur M, just at dusk on a December evening, with a bundle on his back, and a thorn stick in his hand, a great fire had broken out in the townhouse.
This man rushed into the fire, and saved, at the peril of his life, two children, who proved to be to be those of the captain of the gendarmerie, and in the hurry and gratitude of the moment no one thought to ask him for his passport. He was known from that time by the name of Father
Madeleine”(Hugo). Here, Jean Valjean makes the decision to save people from a fire which is something that he did not have to do. This act of heroicness shows the first steps of the honorable man Jean becomes and the responsibility that Jean Valjean starts to feel is growing. From that point forward, it only got better for Father Madeleine. He continued to do more and more acts of kindness and through his dedication, he became mayor of the town of M sur M.
The next reason why Jean Valjean is an honorable man is because of his dedication to keep Cosette safe and his love for her. Some time after Valjean leaves M sur M, he rescues
Cosette from the evil Thenardiers. Cosette’s mother, Fantine, had requested to see Cosette before she died. At the time, Fantine was dying in M sur M and Jean Valjean was still mayor of the town. Sadly, Fantine died without seeing Cosette again but since Jean Valjean is an honorable man, he still decides to seek Cosette and raise her as his own. After Valjean receives her from the
Thenardiers, they go to the most secluded part of Paris because Jean Valjean knows that he is being hunted down by the policeman, Javert. In the secluded house, Jean Valjean cares for her, watches her play, and teaches her how to read. “The dawn of the next day found Jean Valjean again near the bed of Cosette. He waited there motionless, to see her wake. Something new was entering his soul. Jean Valjean had never loved anything”(Hugo). This quote shows that Jean
Valjean now has the ability to love and care for something. These qualities play a huge part in an honorable man.
Just like Jean Valjean’s ability to love and care for Cosette being a characteristic of an honorable man, the way he spares Javert is another reason why Jean Valjean is an honorable man. Ever since Javert met Jean