Cosette: The Child in Darkness Essay

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Victor Hugo’s Les Misèrables is a classic novel that demonstrates how a child is unable to mature in darkness. In the book, Fantine, gets pregnant and is left alone with her child, Cosette. Fantine searches for a place where Cosette can stay while she goes out to work. When she finds the right house she leaves her child, little did Fantine know that Cosette was going to be mistreated and miserable. On Fantine’s death bed, she begs Jean Valjean to find and take care of her child. In Victor Hugo’s novel, Les Misèrables, Cosette is a symbol of the child atrophy by darkness through her time spent with the Thènardiers, her transformation with Jean Valjean, and her flourishing into a young woman. Victor Hugo uses Cosette to represent the children of the time period and how they cannot grow without love and light.
To show how Cosette is unable to grow in darkness, Hugo makes the reader feel sympathy for the poor little girl. When Cosette is a young child, her mother gives her to an innkeeper and his family, the Thènardiers, so that she can find work and provide for herself and her child. Cosette is young, small, and afraid in this strange house. Hugo writes, “In this place she was called the Lark. People like figurative names and were pleased thus to name this little being, not larger than a bird, trembling, frightened, and shivering, awake every morning first in all the house and village. Only the poor lark never sang” (Hugo 49). Cosette is older than the innkeeper’s children, but since she is also smaller, the other girls boss her around and blame her for things she does not do. She is forced to be a servant, and she never plays or has fun. As a result of the Thènardiers control, Cosette is unable to have a normal childhood and seems not to be able to grow or mature. Cosette is “… very small, she was a scapegoat for the two other children; as soon as she began to grow a little, that is to say, before she was five years old, she became the servant of the house” (49). Unfortunately, Cosette is forced to live in an environment without the love or support of her mother. Instead, she is living with a family who takes advantage of her and her mother. Therefore, she is unable to grow and flourish as she might if she were in a different situation.
Hugo uses Cosette to show that a child can learn how to love and be loved if brought out of the darkness and into the light. In the novel, Jean Valjean promises...

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