French author Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, first published in 1862, is a profound novel that explores themes of justice, love, redemption, and the human condition. The plot revolves around the lives of several characters, most notably Jean Valjean, a former convict seeking redemption, and Javert, the relentless police inspector pursuing him. Set against the backdrop of early 19th-century France, the novel vividly portrays the social and economic disparities of the time, capturing the struggles of the poor and disenfranchised.
The setting is essential to the narrative, as Hugo skillfully weaves historical events, such as the June Rebellion of 1832, into the lives of the characters. The novel serves as a commentary on the social and political issues of 19th-century France, addressing topics such as poverty, justice, and the impact of revolution. Hugo’s portrayal of characters from different social classes provides a comprehensive view of the injustices prevalent during that time. Les Misérables remains relevant for its exploration of timeless themes, including the struggle for justice and the power of compassion.
Les Misérables has had a lasting impact on literature and has been adapted numerous times across several types of media. The best-known adaptation is an internationally successful stage musical that premiered in Paris based on a book by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil. It was adapted into an English version produced by Cameron Mackintosh that has been running in London since 1985. The Broadway version of the “Les Miz” (as it came to be known) musical ran for 6,680 performances from 1987 to 2003. Notable film versions of the novel include a classic Hollywood adaptation in 1935 starring Fredric March as Jean Valjean and Charles Laughton as Inspector Javert. A 2012 film version starred Hugh Jackman and Russel Crowe.