Towards the end of the novel, Hugo explains the work's overarching structure: The hydra at the beginning, the angel at the end. The novel contains various subplots, but the main thread is the story of ex-convict Jean Valjeanwho becomes a force for good in the world but cannot escape his criminal past.
Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work. Hugo also makes clear that loving others, while difficult, is not always a thankless task, and he uses Valjean and Fauchelevent to show that love begets love, and compassion begets compassion.
Hugo focuses on three areas that particularly need reform: He conveys much of his message through the character of Fantine, a symbol for the many good but impoverished women driven to despair and death by a cruel society.
Her efforts to hide this fact are ruined by her lack of education—the scribe to whom Fantine dictates her letters reveals her secret to the whole town.
Ironically, it is not until the factory fires Fantine for immorality that she resorts to prostitution. Hugo casts an even more critical eye on law enforcement. The character of Valjean reveals how the French criminal-justice system transforms a simple bread thief into a career criminal.
Unlike Valjean, Patron-Minette and their associates are real criminals who rob and murder on a grand scale, but they receive only short sentences in prisons that are easy to escape. It barely punishes the worst criminals but tears apart the lives of people who commit petty crimes.
Hugo describes the Battle of Waterloo, for instance, in glowing terms, but reminds us that at the end of the glorious battle, the old blights of society, like the grave robbers, still remain.
Similarly, the battle at the barricade is both heroic and futile—a few soldiers are killed, but the insurgents are slaughtered without achieving anything. The revolution that Hugo champions is a moral one, in which the old system of greed and corruption is replaced by one of compassion.Les Misérables (French pronunciation: [le mizeʁabl(ə)]) is a French historical novel by Victor Hugo, first published in , that is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century.
In the English-speaking world, the novel is usually referred to by its original French title. A summary of Themes in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables.
Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of Les Misérables and what it means. Perfect for acing essays, tests, and quizzes, as well as for writing lesson plans.
Hugo elaborates on this concern directly in his Preface to Les Misérables, referring to “the three great problems of this century, the degradation of man in the proletariat, the subjection of women through hunger, the atrophy of the child by darkness”  problems which .
Victor Hugo's Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame are two of the most famous books ever, but his other novels are obscure in English. Eugene Debs, who was given the middle name Victor in honor of Hugo, read Les Misérables over and over throughout his life, both in French and English.
The brutality of poverty—the theme of Hugo’s masterpiece—was something he never forgot. Les Miserables is one of the most popular Broadway musicals of the 3 Pages March Les Miserables.