Les Miserables Essay

Submitted By melissahay28
Words: 603
Pages: 3

Melissa Hayhurst
Les Miserables Essay Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, Les Miserables is the story of ex-convict Jean Valjean as he tries to create a new life for himself while running from the ruthless Inspector Javert who is determined to put him back behind bars. Meanwhile, Fantine, a working class single mother, turns to prostitution to pay the evil innkeeper and his wife who look after her child, Cosette. In an effort to redeem himself, Valjean adopts Cosette and promises to care for and love her. This is a story of forgiveness and redemption, but it also has a historical substance to it. Les Miserables is set in 19th century France, post-Revolution. Les Miserables does a fine job at depicting the life and legacy of the French Revolution, especially through the characters Jean Valjean and Fantine. To begin, the characters of Les Miserables are a good peek into a population plagued by decades of oppression, warfare, economic strife, famine and disease. The audience can see that the lower class has little voice in society, even after the Revolution and changing political parties. Hugo uses Fantine to exemplify the harsh life of the single working woman. Fantine is able to secure a job as a factory worker, and finds a foster home for her illegitimate daughter, but has difficulty making the payments that her daughter’s caretakers require. When she is fired from her factory job after it is discovered that she has an illegitimate daughter, she is forced to sell everything including her hair, her teeth and eventually her body, to send money to her daughter. Fantine’s struggles show how narrow the range of opportunities for women was. Jobs were not abundant in general, and most people were poor and unemployed.
In addition, main character Jean Valjean’s experiences specifically are very applicable to the experiences of French people during this time period. Valjean’s story begins with him stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving children, and being thrown in jail for it. This desperation was common in post-Revolutionary France, and the laws were just as brutal. In fact, Valjean’s character was based on the life of Eugene Francois Vidocq, an ex-convict who became a successful businessman with the same social engagement and generosity that Hugo instills in Valjean’s character. Finally, Hugo’s Les Miserables covers a large portion of Revolutionary French history. The battle of