Why Is Les Miserables Considered Great?
Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables brings numerous worthy traits to the field of literature. The story of ex-con Jean Valjean and his exit from prison brings him to the residence of a generous pastor and his wife who offers Valjean a warm bed and plentiful meal. Valjean violates their trust and robs them of their valuables in the night. Soon after being apprehended, the police realize the valuables belong to the pastor and his wife, thus they set out to return the items. To Jean Valjean’s surprise, the pastor exclaims “No, he’s right. This is his. It is my gift to him” (Crosby, 2012). This surprising second chance allowed to Valjean by the pastor bestows a sense of honor. Hugo understands that the value of the honor he gifts to Valjean’s character is a widely held virtue, or rather a constant among many cultures and religions.
Jean Valjean’s character has been redeemed from the imperfect soul created in God’s image. The timeframe in which Les Miserables would have been written lends the reader to absorb Hugo’s method of writing from the hearts of the common people. Hugo felt that “pluralism of every kind—was essential to freedom” (Gopnik, 2012). His intentions were to bring to text how humans were defined during his time as a writer and amidst the forming of the European Union. Hugo combined his political beliefs and his work on Les Miserables to explain that humans are defined when they are “most opposed to our double natures” (Gopnik, 2012).
During and after the French Revolution, many writers were advocating for the values of honor, equality and self-awareness. Hugo’s Les Miserables came at a time where writers were still producing entertaining pieces based on dramatic and fictional outlines. While Hugo’s piece was fictional, readers found it to be a timeless classic that determined the importance that his society placed on Jean Valjean’s chance for honor and equality in an otherwise corrupt society.
Crosby, R. (2012, December 31). The Soul of Les Miserables: Why It Touches Us. Retrieved December 28, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-c-crosby-dmin/jean-valjean-les-miserables_b_2380792.html
Gopnik, A. (2012, December 28). The Persistent Greatness of “Les Misérables” – The New Yorker. Retrieved December 28, 2015, from http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-persistent-greatness-of-les-misrables