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Jean Valjean

Jean Valjean

Jean Valjean

Jean Valjean

Jean Valjean stands at the center of Les Misérables and becomes a trial figure for Hugo’s grand theories about the redemptive power of compassion and love. Valjean goes into prison a simple and decent man, but his time in jail has a seemingly irreversible effect on him, and he emerges from the chain gang a hardened criminal who hates society for what it has done to him. By the time Valjean encounters M. Myriel in Digne, he is so accustomed to being a social pariah that he almost seeks out such abuse, greeting even the kindly bishop with scorn and hatred. Myriel, however, turns out to be the first person in decades to treat Valjean with love and respect. The meeting with Myriel forever changes Valjean’s character, as Myriel makes Valjean promise to become an honest man.

Once Valjean opens up his heart, he becomes a testament to the redemptive power of love and compassion. His hard work and new vision transform the derelict town of Montreuil-sur-mer into a thriving manufacturing center, which in turn teaches Valjean the value of philanthropy. In taking care of Cosette, Valjean learns how to love another person and how to pass that love onto others. He is exceptional only in his physical strength and his willingness to discover what is good, and this earnestness is enough to make him the novel’s hero as well as a savior and a friend to a number of people who find themselves in danger. Hardened by prison and rescued by the kindness of M. Myriel, Valjean is a blank slate, molded by his encounters and circumstances. This ability to change makes him a universal symbol of hope—if he can learn love and charity after suffering so much injustice, anyone can.

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What makes Valjean a hard and hateful man?
Prison
Poverty
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Les Miserables Analysis

by Adi31415, March 28, 2013

Les Miserables is based around the turning point in French history, and it explores the nature of this change in terms of society, and uses this as a basis for explaining the revolution. It explains how the ‘miserables’, or ‘victims’, damned into a life of thievery and being the scum of the Earth aren’t inherently bad. The society which has not given them a chance forces them to be bad, or do bad things. Instead of understanding their inner goodness and their plight to change their ways, or giving them some kindness or hope, they a... Read more

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Correction to Note 1 in Study Section

by IleneRM, October 24, 2013

It says: "Fantine falls in love with Tholomyès, a debonair upper-class student who obeys upper-class social customs and leaves Fantine even though she is pregnant with his child." This is wrong. Fantine was not pregnant. Ten months after the affair ended, Cosette was almost 3 years old; therefore she was already born when he left Fantine.

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12 out of 20 people found this helpful

Study Questions - error in #1

by IleneRM, October 24, 2013

It says: "Fantine falls in love with Tholomyès, a debonair upper-class student who obeys upper-class social customs and leaves Fantine even though she is pregnant with his child." This is wrong. Fantine was not pregnant. Ten months after the affair ended, Cosette was almost 3 years old; therefore she was already born when he left Fantine.

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