Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews October 10, 2023
October 3, 2023
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at email@example.com. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
Twelve years have passed since Fantine has been to her
hometown of Montreuil-sur-mer, and she is surprised at how much
the town has grown and modernized during the past decade. The changes
are largely due to Monsieur Madeleine, a stranger about whom little
is known. The narrator says that Madeleine arrived in Montreuil
in 1815 with a newer, cheaper method for
producing black beads, the town’s largest industry. A manufacturing
revolution ensued, and Madeleine’s cunning and philanthropy so impressed
the king that he made Madeleine the mayor of Montreuil in 1820.
No one knows much about Madeleine’s past, but he has been wildly
popular since the day he saved two local children from a fire. The
townspeople do not, therefore, comment on Madeleine’s quirks and
foibles, such as his wearing of a black hatband after the death
of the bishop Myriel.
Only Javert, the town’s police inspector, suspects that
Madeleine may be harboring a dark secret. Javert suspects that Madeleine
is actually Jean Valjean, an extraordinarily strong convict whom
Javert once guarded. Javert’s suspicions are heightened when he
witnesses Madeleine rescue a man, Fauchelevent, by lifting him from underneath
a fallen carriage. Though Madeleine is aware of Javert’s suspicions,
he does not appear to feel threatened by them.
Fantine finds employment in Madeleine’s factory, but
her secretive manner makes her coworkers suspicious. The illiterate
Fantine writes letters to the Thénardiers by dictating to a scribe
who turns out to be a gossip and who tells the factory workers that
Fantine is hiding an illegitimate child. Fantine is subsequently
fired from her job on charges of immorality. She owes many people
money, and although she tries to live on as little as she can, the
Thénardiers continue to raise their price for taking care of Cosette.
To satisfy their demands, Fantine first sells her hair, then her
front teeth, and finally, becomes a prostitute. Nonetheless, Thénardier
threatens to kick Cosette out if Fantine does not pay him one hundred
One night, a man harasses Fantine as she waits for potential
clients outside a bar. The man hits Fantine with a snowball, and
she snaps and attacks him. Javert arrests Fantine and threatens
her with six months in jail, ignoring her pleas that he think of
her child and show mercy. Madeleine intervenes, freeing Fantine
and promising to take care of her and Cosette. Fantine, who blames
Madeleine for firing her, spits in his face. Madeleine does not
flinch and repeats his offer of help. Fantine is so overwhelmed
by Madeleine’s kindness that she faints. Javert is outraged that
Madeleine has overruled his decision and decides to investigate
Hugo’s focus on Montreuil-sur-mer’s new prosperity shows
his enthusiasm for the Industrial Revolution. He depicts the Industrial Revolution
as nothing short of miraculous, a time when a few simple changes
in manufacturing technique can rejuvenate an entire region. By having
Madeleine revolutionize a traditional industry, Hugo preemptively
counters the argument that industrial development comes at the expense
of tradition. He links Madeleine’s prosperity with his philanthropy
and the success of his factories. Hugo believes that technology
levels the playing field, creating a world where what is good for
one is good for all, where even a passing stranger can make a fortune.
Madeleine seems to be a man with no past and no connections, but
this apparent lack of background makes no difference in the world
of the Industrial Revolution. Unlike the characters in class-conscious
Paris and Digne, Madeleine prospers and thrives by using his brains.
In his enthusiasm for the Industrial Revolution, Hugo
reverses his usual perspective by focusing on a hero, Madeleine,
who is a prosperous man. Hugo continues to champion the rights of
the poor and oppressed, but in Book Five the workers are responsible
for bringing most of their misery upon one another. Fantine’s misfortunes
and descent into prostitution are caused by the nosiness of her fellow
workers—not, as she suspects, by any cruelty on Madeleine’s part.
Hugo still criticizes the upper classes—the man whom Fantine assaults
is a bourgeois dandy—but he makes the hero of these chapters the
town’s wealthiest man. In contrast to other novels set during the
Industrial Revolution, in which factory bosses are often portrayed
as brutal, heartless, and greedy, in Les Misérables it
is the boss who helps the poor escape the injustices of outdated
social hierarchies. While this sympathetic portrayal of the wealthy
industrialist does not contradict the message of Hugo’s earlier
chapters, it is a surprise from an author whose sympathies are usually
with the poor.
Hugo uses foreshadowing in these chapters, dropping multiple hints
that Madeleine is in fact Jean Valjean. He helps us interpret these
clues through Javert’s unwavering eyes. The narrator notes, for
example, that no one thinks to ask Madeleine for his passport because
his rescue of two children has made him an unquestioned hero. The
narrator also casually mentions that Madeleine wears a black armband
upon hearing of Myriel’s death, which we know is something Valjean
might do since Myriel is so important to him. In case we miss some
of these hints about Valjean’s true nature, Hugo provides Javert’s
investigative eye to interpret them for us. Though we might not,
for instance, understand the significance of Madeleine’s rescue
of Fauchelevent, Javert immediately notes this act as a sign that
Madeleine possesses Valjean’s unusual strength. These clues make
us fairly sure that Madeleine is indeed Valjean. However, like Javert,
we do not have proof, and we begin to anticipate the climactic moment
when our suspicions will be confirmed.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Les Misérables!