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Les Misérables

Victor Hugo

“Saint-Denis,” Books Eight–Fifteen

Summary “Saint-Denis,” Books Eight–Fifteen

While Hugo’s sympathies lie with the revolutionaries, he is too disgusted with bloodshed to portray the insurrection as a glorious moment in French history. He shows us small acts of heroism, such as Mabeuf’s attempt to rescue the flag, but he primarily portrays the barricade as a place of unnecessary brutality and pointless violence. Enjolras’s execution of one of his own men for killing a civilian is justifiable, but it makes us wonder whether even the most principled violence might inevitably lead to murder and mayhem of the worst kind. In contrast to the example Enjolras and his men set, Valjean avoids killing anyone, even his most bitter enemy. Hugo suggests that revolution does not have to involve violence and that the only truly revolutionary weapons are forgiveness and kindness.