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Key Facts

full title  ·  Les Misérables

author  · Victor Hugo

type of work  · Novel

genre  · Epic novel; historical novel

language  · French

time and place written  · 1845–1862; Paris and the Channel Islands (English possessions off the coast of France)

date of first publication  · 1862

publisher  · Pagnerre (Paris)

narrator  · An anonymous narrator

point of view  · The story is told from the perspective of an omniscient narrator who frequently addresses us. The narrator not only knows what the characters are thinking at all times but also has a detailed grasp of contemporary politics and society.

tone  · The tone tends to reflect the narrator’s empathy with the char-acters. When describing broader trends in politics and society, the tone reflects Hugo’s outspoken views on social reform.

tense  · Past

setting (time)  · 1789–1832

setting (place)  · France; primarily the cities of Arras, Digne, Montreuil-sur-mer, Montfermeil, Paris, and Toulon

protagonist  · Jean Valjean

major conflict  · Valjean struggles to transform himself from a thief into an honest man; over the years he struggles to stay a step ahead of the zealous police officer Javert and tries to raise his adopted daughter, Cosette.

rising action  · Valjean’s disclosure of his true identity at Champmathieu’s trial; Valjean’s rescue of Cosette from the Thénardiers; Marius’s first sight of Cosette in the Luxembourg Gardens.

climax  · Marius, Valjean, and Javert’s dramatic interactions at the barricades

falling action  · Marius and Cosette’s wedding; Javert’s suicide

themes  · The importance of love and compassion; social injustice in nineteenth-century France; the long-term effects of the French Revolution on French society

motifs  · The plight of orphans; disguises and pseudonyms; resurrection

symbols  · Myriel’s silver candlesticks; snakes, insects, and birds

foreshadowing  · The novel hints that Monsieur Madeleine is in fact Jean Valjean.

More Help

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by kiiiiid, January 30, 2013

and gavroche dies and the rest of france build a barricade and end the french revolution


17 out of 81 people found this helpful

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


349 out of 369 people found this helpful

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.


12 out of 20 people found this helpful

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