Les Misérables

by: Victor Hugo

“Cosette,” Books One–Two

The fact that Hugo interprets Waterloo as a defeat for France due to bad luck shows us that unfairness and injustice are not limited to the world of Valjean but have a part in larger events as well. Hugo views Napoléon as a brilliant strategist and a defender of equality who brings France to new heights. Nonetheless, Napoléon loses at Waterloo. Even worse, according to Hugo, is the fact that Napoléon loses the battle because of something as banal as the weather, not because of any substantive blunders on his part or any significant ingenuity on the part of the British. The defeat at Waterloo is as arbitrary and unfair as Valjean’s imprisonment, but on a larger scale. The unfair outcomes leave us hungry for justice, anticipating the unrest that emerges in later chapters.

Stylistically, the battle accounts and fictitious newspaper excerpts are a departure from Hugo’s straightforward narrative style. These devices emphasize the fact that though Hugo’s characters are fictional, the novel’s plot turns on actual events in the history of France. The change in narrative mode also lends dynamism to the novel by including a number of different perspectives.


More Help

From the SparkNotes Blog