Destiny plays a vital role in everyone's life and Jean Valjean's was no exception, as Victor Hugo described in his world-famous classic Les Miserables (The Miserables). In this book, Hugo captured the suffrage, horrors and deplorable condition of the citizens of Paris, during the final stages of the French revolution.
Jean Valjean was a convict, who had served nineteen years of imprisonment for a violent crime. But good luck shone on him and he succeeded in escaping from prison and sought refuge in the city. But no one was willing to shelter him because of his troubled past. Valjean found no means of earning his bread and butter and his desperation drove him to steal a loaf of bread to satisfy his surging hunger. For this, Valjean became a wanted man once again and had to flee from the clutches of the law. It was at this time that a thoughtful bishop offered him food and shelter under his roof. But even the consideration of the bishop couldn’t suffice Valjean’s instincts to steal and by nightfall, he fled his refuge with a pair of the bishop’s candlesticks. When he was caught by the police and brought before the bishop, the bishop forgave him and informed the police that it was he who had presented Valjean with the candlesticks. After this, Valjean was a free man. The compassion shown by the bishop moved Valjean deeply and as of that day, he decided to mend his ways and serve the people of France.
But despite Valjean’s desperate efforts to cover up his gory history, his hopes were not fulfilled to the fullest for there were still those who strongly believed in Valjean’s guilt and yearned to unveil his troubled past. Characters such as the inspector, Javert, who pursued Valjean throughout his journeys in a futile attempt to capture him and Thenardier, who also posed a threat to our protagonist, add to the tense and violent atmosphere of the book and act as a contrast to the pity, love and the compassion shown by the other characters.
But the greatest promise that Valjean made in his life was to a woman named Fantine, who was too weak and too poor to look after her daughter, Cosette and was forced to place her in the care of the horrible Thenardier. Valjean promised to rescue this child and was determined to fulfil his promise even after Fantine's tragic death. Cosette brought about a dramatic change in out hero’s life and the two remained faithful to each other to the very end.
Love, war, fear, suspense and sacrifice touch every page of this exemplary classic.
And in his own usual and unique style, Hugo, gives the reader a dramatic and emotional insight into the heart and soul of his characters. He enables the reader to identify himself with the protagonist and antagonists and actually experience their thoughts and feelings. He makes you weep with them, regret with them and even love with them. It is often said that Hugo was unforgiving to his characters and subjected them to brutal physical and mental torture pitilessly. But it was this aspect of Hugo’s work that truly appealed to me the most because it heightened the element of realism in the book. Unlike conventional works, not all ends well and not everyone lives happily ever after. And it was to convey this harsh reality that Hugo began writing in the first place. He wished to bring to light the horrors and atrocities that took place in France and endeavoured to improve the pathetic plight of the people during the bloody revolution. In this respect, ‘Les Miserables’ is a truly remarkable classic and reflects the writer’s desires clearly and lucidly. And another remarkable feature of this book is that it contains one of the longest sentences in the French language-of around 800 words!
Although Les Miserables had it's setting in 19th century France, the lessons derived from it still hold a significant position in today's society. Through his novel, Victor Hugo aimed to describe to the world the injustice and treachery that influenced France during his time.emphasized that rights and liberties are the most invaluable treasures an individual can possess and no matter what cruelty he is subjected to, these treasures should never be stolen from him. He also claimed that humanity shall always reign supreme and no war should be allowed to deprive humanity of its status. The beauty of language and content of this novel is boundless and no length of writing can account for it, so read the book and find out for yourself.