full title Les Misérables
author Victor Hugo
type of work Novel
genre Epic novel; historical novel
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.
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.