Les Misérables

by: Victor Hugo

“Fantine,” Book Five: The Descent

Hugo uses foreshadowing in these chapters, dropping multiple hints that Madeleine is in fact Jean Valjean. He helps us interpret these clues through Javert’s unwavering eyes. The narrator notes, for example, that no one thinks to ask Madeleine for his passport because his rescue of two children has made him an unquestioned hero. The narrator also casually mentions that Madeleine wears a black armband upon hearing of Myriel’s death, which we know is something Valjean might do since Myriel is so important to him. In case we miss some of these hints about Valjean’s true nature, Hugo provides Javert’s investigative eye to interpret them for us. Though we might not, for instance, understand the significance of Madeleine’s rescue of Fauchelevent, Javert immediately notes this act as a sign that Madeleine possesses Valjean’s unusual strength. These clues make us fairly sure that Madeleine is indeed Valjean. However, like Javert, we do not have proof, and we begin to anticipate the climactic moment when our suspicions will be confirmed.


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