Les Misérables

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Les Misérables is a French novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862. The novel is set in early 19th-century France and follows the lives of several characters, particularly the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption. Examining the nature of law and grace, the novel elaborates upon the history of France, the architecture and urban design of Paris, the politics and social issues of the time, and the struggles of the poor.

Plot Summary

The novel begins in 1815, with the release of Jean Valjean from prison after serving nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving sister. Valjean is released a hardened criminal, but he is also a compassionate and kind-hearted man. He is determined to make a new life for himself, but he is constantly haunted by his past and by the prejudice that he faces as an ex-convict.

Valjean's life takes a turn for the better when he is shown mercy by the Bishop Myriel, a kind and compassionate man who treats him with dignity and respect. Myriel's kindness inspires Valjean to turn away from his criminal past and to embrace a life of goodness.

Valjean takes on a new identity and moves to a small town, where he becomes a successful businessman and a respected member of the community. He also adopts a young girl named Cosette, who has been abused by her foster parents, the Thénardiers.

Valjean and Cosette live happily together for many years, but they are constantly pursued by Inspector Javert, a relentless police officer who is determined to bring Valjean to justice. Javert never gives up on his pursuit of Valjean, and he eventually catches up with him in Paris.

However, Valjean has redeemed himself, and he is no longer the same man who he was when he was first released from prison. He is now a kind and compassionate man who is willing to sacrifice anything to protect Cosette.

In the end, Valjean dies peacefully after a long and eventful life. He has achieved redemption, and he has left behind a legacy of love and compassion.


Les Misérables explores a wide range of themes, including:

  • Redemption: Valjean's story is a story of redemption and transformation. He begins as a hardened criminal, but he eventually becomes a kind and compassionate man who is willing to sacrifice anything for the good of others.

  • Social injustice: Hugo was a strong advocate for social justice, and the novel is full of references to the poverty and inequality that existed in France in the early 19th century.

  • Love: Love is a central theme in the novel, and it is shown in many different forms, including romantic love, familial love, and love for one's fellow human beings.

  • Sacrifice: Valjean is willing to make great sacrifices for the good of others, and this is one of the qualities that makes him a truly heroic figure.

  • Hope: Despite the darkness and despair that are often present in the novel, there is also a strong sense of hope. Hugo believed that even in the worst of times, there is always the possibility of redemption and a better future.


Les Misérables is a classic novel that has been translated into many languages and has been adapted into numerous films, operas, and stage plays. The novel is still widely read and admired today, and it continues to be relevant to contemporary society. Hugo's exploration of themes such as redemption, social justice, and love is as important today as it was when the novel was first published.


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