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Commentary On Les Miserables Essay

1092 words - 5 pages

Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables remains as one of the best socio-political commentaries to come out of the European continent. Hugo’s mastery of storytelling infuses events of the recent past with concerns of modern day France to create a beautifully written story that can be enjoyed for centuries to come. The popular opinion towards the French way of life at the time is portrayed through the life of former convict Jean Valjean who attempts to rebuild his life after escaping parole. His life story is intertwined with several other and climaxes with the events of the June Rebellion of Paris in 1832. The author takes on a commentary style while writing and uses his novel to inspire change and champion the cause of innovation through rebellion. He believed that the major social problems of the time such as social differences, inequality, poverty, illiteracy, political instability, and injustice could be changed by sedition, thus he portrayed each of this evils in many different forms in the hope of causing the French people to champion his cause. Although Victor Hugo’s dreams would not be actualized until much later, plenty can be learned by analyzing his epic novel, Les Miserables.
An important theme in Les Miserables is the injustice of the law system and how little power people have to change that. Valjean’s sentence for stealing bread was the same for someone who stole jewels or a horse, but that is not fair or just. He stole to survive, not to benefit himself; any modern court would not have given him such a harsh punishment. This theme is also shown at the end of the story, when Javert throws himself into the river Seine. He is an officer of the law and must uphold the law for fear of retribution, even if the law is not right. Javert comes to understand that it was wrong to arrest Valjean, but can’t simply let him go. Instead of dealing with the consequences of his actions, Javert kills himself, similarly to the character of Okonkwo from Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Both Javert and Okonkwo are prideful people who seek to sustain their ways of life, but commit an unthinkable act in doing so. Then, rather than being punished for their actions, choose what they believe to be the easiest way out and end their lives. However, Javert’s action was the morally right thing to do, while Okonkwo’s was not. Javert sacrifice himself for what was right, even if the law forbade it, which proves that there is no justice for the kind of heart.
From the opening scene of Les Miserables, we are shown the rigid social structure that persists during France’s July Monarchy. The gap between rich and poor is as wide as ever, and gender inequality runs rampant. The impartiality promised by The Declaration of the Rights of Man, written only a few decades prior, are all but forgotten. Anyone below upper middle class is seen as worthless and only to be used as a cheap form of labor. Women, and single mothers in particular, are shunned away in favor of the oh so...

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