Les Miserables question? ill give 5 stars BA?

so I am doing an essay on les miserables about 1 of 2 possiblee topics but i dont quite understand the topics

1.Hugo says"..the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of woman by starvation and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night-- are not solved: so long as...social asphyxia is shall be possible(that is the lind i mostly dont understand) How is this represented in the book?

can you help explain what that means in simpler terms and perhaps an example?

2.Victor Hugo uses the contrast of good and bad character to create a moral point to this novel. discuss the moral point and which character he uses to make his point.

for that one.... what is the moral point???

even if you can only help me on one that is fine i just dont really know how to write and essay on them because i dont understand what they are trying to say or the moral point

4 Answers

  • pj
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    The central character of Les Misérables is Jean Valjean, who was initially jailed for stealing bread for his sister and her starving family. His prison term embitters and deforms him. The theft of the loaf of bread has generated varying interpretations from scholars: some see Jean purely as a victim of an unjust social system that punishes him for an altruistic act; others maintain that what he did was a crime and that he exacerbated his situation by his many escape attempts. The character of Jean Valjean is said to be based on an actual figure named Pierre Maurin whose own experiences occurred in 1795the same year as Jean's theftbefore French law was modified to provide for extenuating circumstances. Intelligent and resourceful, Jean also possesses prodigious physical strength, allowing him to save several lives and enabling Javert to identify him. That Jean's personality is warped by his prison experiences is evident when, after a brief inner conflict caused by the bishop's kindness to him, he steals the silver from the bishop and then takes several coins from a little boy. But then the seeds planted by the saintly bishop begin to bear fruit. Jean becomes a successful, productive, and well-liked community member; rescues Cosette from the wicked Thénardiers and lovingly raises her; saves the lives of Fauchelevent and Javert; and, finally, delivers Marius through the sewers of Paris to safety. The famous journey through the sewer tunnels is lauded for its drama and symbolism: descending on a mission of mercy is the test by which Jean ensures his redemption.

    In saving Marius's life, Jean makes it possible for the young couple to marry, even though it means forfeiting the relationship he enjoyed with Cosette, an important link in his spiritual rebirth. Throughout his struggles, Jean is inspired by the bishop who treated him with Christian forbearance and love, when he was spurned by everyone else, and who encouraged him to improve his life. At his death, Jean has himself attained considerable moral stature. Critics note that the name Valjean evokes the French verb valoir (to be worth), suggesting that Jean must earn the worthiness that he ultimately achieves.

    Charles François Bienvenu Myriel, the Bishop of Digne, represents the essential goodness that Hugo believed human beings possessed. No mere mouther of pieties, he applies the tenets of Christianity to his daily life, treating everyone with charity, forgiveness, and understanding. His saintly example and his faith in Jean's inherent virtue that inspires the former convict's journey toward redemption. Hugo is said to have been a religious man who disdained organized religion, and the bishop, despite his allegiance to the established church, represents Hugo's unconventional approach to spirituality. Like Hugo, he endorses free education for all citizens, opposes capital punishment, and believes that the human heart is eminently redeemable. When he visits a dying, elderly veteran of the 1793 insurrection, whose principals he had previously disagreed with, he ends by conceding the man's righteousness and asking for his blessing. Some critics feel this episode shows the bishop's instinct for recognizing good and his capacity for humbling himself, while others cite it as a prime example of his implausibly uniform virtue. Nevertheless the bishop is generally considered a credible character whose impact is felt far beyond the few early chapters in which he appears.

    Source: Victor Marie Hugo: Les Misérables, in Characters in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Gale Research, 1993.

    Source Database: Literature Resource Center

    (you may have access to this via your local library Web site)


    Events in History at the Time the Novel Was Written

    The French Economy and Crime

    In the 1850s and 1860s, France became a more industrialized country. This change in manufacturing processes made France a wealthier country, but led to an increase in unemployment, which, in turn, led to a rise in crime. Hugo's definition of les misérables as the unfortunate and the infamous (Les Misérables, p. 744) draws a distinction between those who choose degradation and those who are driven to it. Both Valjean and Fantine are pictured less as villains than victims, for they were denied work and ostracized as criminals. They are representative of outcasts in the author's own era as well as earlier times. Investigations by sociologists of the period showed that the scarcity of employment drove thousands of poor women in the 1800s to resort to prostitution for survival. Regarding them as corrupt, authorities in Paris founded a Police Morals Bureau that attempted to record the names of all prostitutes and subject them to regular physical examinations. The object was to protect larger society, but the very existence of the Morals Bureau suggests how prevalent the occupation was.

    Prison Conditions in the Mid-1800s

    Instructed to remain silent at all times, prisoners were utterly depersonalized. One observer noted that we do not want inmates to talk to each other, but we cannot help it if they hear each other scream (O'Brien, p. 75). There were suicides and riots in prison, yet most inmates managed to adapt, forming relationships and communities. Argot, a criminals' dialect that helped the convicts develop a sense of solidarity, is discussed by Hugo in the novel.

    Some criminology theories of the time stressed the connection between biology and moral development, and concluded that criminals were irredeemable. In Les Misérables, Valjean, tormented by both guilt and anger after committing his crime, questions this theory: Can man, created good by God, be made wicked by man? (Les Misérables, p. 89).

    Other philosophies insisted that environment was crucial to the development of a person's character. In the eighteenth century, Voltaire and other philosophers had called for a prison system that rehabilitates rather than punishes, and these ideas resonate through Hugo's introduction to the novel:

    So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation which, in the midst of civilization, artificially creates a hell on earth, and complicates with human fatality a destiny that is divine ... there should be a need for books such as this.

    (Les Misérables, p. xvii)

    Source: Victor Hugo: Les Misérables, in Literature and Its Times: Profiles of 300 Notable Literary Works and the Historical Events that Influenced Them, Volume 2: Civil Wars to Frontier Societies (1800-1880s), edited by Joyce Moss and George Wilson, Gale Research, 1997.

    Source Database: Literature Resource Center

    (you may have access to this via your local library Web site)

    I haven't exactly answered your questions, but have hoped to provide some more "food for thought". There are some great resources available through your local (college or public) libraries. Both in the physical library reference collection and through databases made available on the library Web site(s).

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    There are some beautifully written contributions here and all of them appropriate and accurate. I hope mine isn't too overly simplistic. You have two characters, Jean Valjean (an ex convict) and Javert (an officer of the law) and yet the ex-con is the good or moral one while the officer is the bad one. One moral point Hugo is making is the law is not always right or good. This part of the novel works as an individual story to echo the larger story which also occurs in Les Miserables. A microcosm/macrocosm kind of deal. Just as Javert is wrong in pursuing someone for being poor, so the French government is wrong in punishing it's people for being such. So the Valjean/ Javert pursuit foregrounds/foreshadows the Revolution in the story. Hope that made sense and helps some.

  • 1 decade ago

    I am just taking a swing at this but I believe that Victor Hugo was trying to portray the moral redemption of its main character, Jean Valjean, an ex-convict, and the moral redemption of a nation through revolution. Victor Hugo said: "I condemn slavery, I banish poverty, I teach ignorance, I treat disease, I lighten the night, and I hate hatred. That is what I am, and that is why I have written Les Miserables." The novel is a critical statement against human suffering, poverty, and ignorance. Its purpose is as much political as it is artistic. This is the answer to question number 2.

    Source(s): I did a report in high school on this too back in 96.
  • 1 decade ago

    The first one is represented by Javert's endless pursuit of Jean Valjean. No matter who he becomes or what he becomes, he will always be that common thief - the one carrying the yellow passport that marks him as a convict. Pax-C

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