Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

April 7, 2017
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“There are many tongues to talk, and but few heads to think.” is a quote from the novel Les Miserables written by Victor Hugo. After reading this novel, it is clear why it the plot has become so popular. Essentially, this story inspires me. There are many reasons why it has also inspired generations of readers. Specifically, the characters are memorable, and I was enthralled by their intentions, and by what they symbolize.

To begin, the character of Jean Valjean, a normal citizen in France, is someone with a heroic spirit and a warm heart. During the first part of his life, he was a thief who desires to escape from the jail. When he is finally released, he finds what “kind” and true “universal love” is when he meets Monsieur Beinvenu and has a love affair with her. Since meeting her, he become ssomeone new with the kindest heart. Like most main characters, he has experienced internal conflict which for him was to confess to the police for the life of another person. He basically gives up his peaceful life and spends almost the rest of his life in the jail. Eventually, he decides to confess. This scene reminds me of the novel Crime and Punishment. The main character, Raskolnikov, has suffered from desperation as well. The main character in that book has murdered his landlady and felt extremely guilty about it. The thing that the main character does not have courage like the protagonist Jean. At last, with the help of a kind girl, who although is a prostitute, he confesses and finds self-relief. He did it because he could not bear the torture anymore, and partially because of his belief. On the other hnd, Jean Valjean, or to say Monsieur Madeleine, confesses to save other’s life. It is for a greater good and not out of guilt. “I am not in the world to care for my life, but for souls” is stated. Again, I am impressed by his intentions and caring nature.

Another character that I enjoy is Cosette in Les Miserables. She is the symbol of purity, innocence and all good things. She has the most pure heart in the world and longs for the most beautiful love in life. She is lucky to find her true love. She still loves Jean Valjean even when she was married to Marius, but family is not as exciting of a love for her. She finds a good guy unlike another of Victor Hugo’s character in the book Notre-Dame de Paris — Esmeralda. Esmeralda is a sympathetic and pure girl as well. However, she falls in love with someone who she cannot rely on, and that is Phoebus. She does nothing wrong, but she is criticized and punished because of Claude, who is the primary priest of the church. Claude is secretly in love with Esmeralda and should not be because of his identity. He blames Esmeralda for that and thus wants to put her to death. She is eventually saved by Quasimodo, who is extremely ugly but is helped by Esmeralda once. These two are not real people, but they are the embodiment of love and purity. In this book, through the characters, we understand Hugo’s attitude towards the ideal character of a women.

Ultimately, this book is considered a classic for many reasons. To me, the most important reason is the creation of resonating characters. These main characters not only symbolize benevolence and love, but all that we can aspire to be.  As Hugo said “Philosophy is the microscope of thought.” This book is definitely a story about why we exist and it is for compassion and love.

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