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Cosette, like Valjean, grows up in an atmosphere of poverty
and fear, but she is rescued from this life before her innocence
gives way to cynicism. Though she spends a number of years under
the tyrannical care of the Thénardiers, she never adopts their cruel
views, which indicates that she possesses a fundamental decency
and goodness that they lack. Once Valjean takes charge of Cosette’s
upbringing, she quickly transforms from a dirty, unhappy child into
a lovely, well-educated young woman. For Hugo, this transformation
is so natural that he does not even bother to walk us through it
and instead skips several years ahead.
Though she is obedient and fiercely loyal to her adoptive
father, Cosette also has her own personality, which emerges as she
enters adolescence and begins to hunger for a less sheltered life.
In this period of their lives, Valjean’s role temporarily changes
from Cosette’s savior to her jailer. Cosette’s ability to truly
love Marius, however, is due in large part to Valjean, who has taught
her to trust and love. In the end, Cosette remains true to her upbringing,
and her love for Marius becomes her way of applying to her own life
what she has learned from Valjean.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Les Misérables!