Les Miserables, Theme (Forgiveness, Self Sacrifice, and Courage)
1013 WordsOct 17th, 19995 Pages
"It is precisely of him that I wished to speak. Dispose of me as you please; but help me first to carry him home. I only ask that of you." Upon examination of Les Miserables, it is clearly evident that the elements of Forgiveness, Self Sacrifice, and Courage are only a few of the main themes Hugo wanted to develop.
<br>First off, is the element of forgiveness. In a book of mistrust, poverty, and hate forgiveness thrives in the world of Les Miserables. The first example of this was at the very beginning, when Jean Valjean stayed with the bishop. Valjean stole his silver and ran off. He ends up being caught by police, but when the police questioned the bishop, he claimed to have given the silver to Valjean. Jean was confused and the…show more content…
Valjean dies shortly after Marius and Cosette visit him to ask him to come back and live with them. Another example would be that of Gavroche and his supreme sacrifice. Gavroche is really Thenardier's son
. but he was thrown out as a little boy, because he wasn't bringing in any money. So Gavroche befriends the revolutionaries. During one of the battles, Gavroche goes out to pick the pockets of the dead soldiers for ammunition. The soldiers fighting the revolutionaries immediately open fire
but cannot hit Gavroche. Thinking he is invincible, he begins to mock the soldier's aim. But, he speaks too soon, and on his way back, he is shot in the back, and dies. And lastly, we have the sacrifice of Eponine
one of the daughter's of Thenardier. She is in love with Marius
unbeknownst to him. She follows him to the barricades, and while there, saves his life. She put her hand in front of a barrel aimed for Marius, and the bullet went through her hand, and into her body. Of course, this act moves Marius greatly. Eponine admits her love to him, and tells him everything she knows. Before she dies in his arms, she asks him to kiss her on the forehead when she passes on
and she says she would feel it. Marius grants her wish.
<br>And finally, we reach the element of Courage. The main kind of courage that will be covered is emotional and physical. The first example is when Valjean must enter Paris by
Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.
The Importance of Love and Compassion
In Les Misérables, Hugo asserts that love and compassion are the most important gifts one person can give another and that always displaying these qualities should be the most important goal in life. Valjean’s transformation from a hate-filled and hardened criminal into a well-respected philanthropist epitomizes Hugo’s emphasis on love, for it is only by learning to love others that Valjean is able to improve himself. While Valjean’s efforts on behalf of others inevitably cause him problems, they also give him a sense of happiness and fulfillment that he has never before felt. Valjean’s love for others—in particular, for Cosette—is what keeps him going in desperate times.
Hugo also makes clear that loving others, while difficult, is not always a thankless task, and he uses Valjean and Fauchelevent to show that love begets love, and compassion begets compassion. Valjean jumps out of a crowd of onlookers to rescue Fauchelevent; years later, Fauchelevent repays Valjean’s bravery by offering him refuge in the convent of Petit-Picpus. In Hugo’s novel, love and compassion are nearly infectious, passed on from one person to another. After M. Myriel transforms Valjean with acts of trust and affection, Valjean, in turn, is able to impart this compassion to Cosette, rescuing her from the corrupting cruelty of the Thénardiers. Cosette’s love then reaches fulfillment through her marriage to Marius, and their love for each other leads them both to forgive Valjean for his criminal past.
Social Injustice in Nineteenth-Century France
Hugo uses his novel to condemn the unjust class-based structure of nineteenth-century France, showing time and again that the society’s structure turns good, innocent people into beggars and criminals. Hugo focuses on three areas that particularly need reform: education, criminal justice, and the treatment of women. He conveys much of his message through the character of Fantine, a symbol for the many good but impoverished women driven to despair and death by a cruel society. After Fantine is abandoned by her aristocratic lover, Tholomyès, her reputation is indelibly soiled by the fact that she has an illegitimate child. Her efforts to hide this fact are ruined by her lack of education—the scribe to whom Fantine dictates her letters reveals her secret to the whole town. Ironically, it is not until the factory fires Fantine for immorality that she resorts to prostitution. In the character of Fantine, Hugo demonstrates the hypocrisy of a society that fails to educate girls and ostracizes women such as Fantine while encouraging the behavior of men such as Tholomyès .
Hugo casts an even more critical eye on law enforcement. The character of Valjean reveals how the French criminal-justice system transforms a simple bread thief into a career criminal. The only effect of Valjean’s nineteen years of mistreatment on the chain gang is that he becomes sneaky and vicious—a sharp contrast to the effect of Myriel’s kindness, which sets Valjean on the right path almost overnight. Another contrast to Valjean’s plight is the selective manner in which the Parisian police deal with the Patron-Minette crime ring. Unlike Valjean, Patron-Minette and their associates are real criminals who rob and murder on a grand scale, but they receive only short sentences in prisons that are easy to escape. In the French society of Les Misérables, therefore, justice is clumsy at best. It barely punishes the worst criminals but tears apart the lives of people who commit petty crimes.
The Long-Term Effects of the French Revolution on French Society
In Les Misérables, Hugo traces the social impact of the numerous revolutions, insurrections, and executions that took place in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century France. By chronicling the rise and fall of Napoléon as well as the restoration and subsequent decline of the Bourbon monarchy, Hugo gives us a sense of the perpetual uncertainty that political events imposed upon daily life. Though Hugo’s sympathies are with republican movements rather than with the monarchy, he criticizes all of the regimes since the French Revolution of 1789 for their inability to deal effectively with social injustice or eliminate France’s rigid class system. Hugo describes the Battle of Waterloo, for instance, in glowing terms, but reminds us that at the end of the glorious battle, the old blights of society, like the grave robbers, still remain. Similarly, the battle at the barricade is both heroic and futile—a few soldiers are killed, but the insurgents are slaughtered without achieving anything. The revolution that Hugo champions is a moral one, in which the old system of greed and corruption is replaced by one of compassion. Although both Napoléon and the students at the barricade come closer to espousing these values than the French monarchs do, these are not values than can be imposed through violence. Indeed, Hugo shows that Napoléon and the students at the barricades topple as easily as the monarchy.
More main ideas from Les Misérables