Les Miserables Literary Analysis

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Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables has accomplished what many novels seek to accomplish but fail to do it; it has become a timeless classic. Les Miserables has the same impactful message that applies still to this day. Today’s masses have seen an undiluted version of Les Miserables despite the play adaptations, over a hundred translations and a major movie adaptation. This novel presents the daily struggles of the lower class of french society during the Napoleonic Age through a different lens. Hugo pursues the presentation of these daily struggles through a criticism of Napoleonic french society, most directly through an emphasis on economic inequality, justice system and the equality of women and men.
With a heavy focus on the economic plight
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Les Miserables develops a critique of the corrupt criminal justice system which punishes those who aren’t true criminals and thus creates hardened criminals. For instance Valjean’s crime is a crime of altruism; he steals a loaf of bread to save his starving cousin. From this act of altruism he receives a sentence of hard labor that leads to his transformation as described by Hugo, “ Jan Valjean entered the galleys sobbing and trembling; he left hardened...What had happened within the soul?”. (Les Miserables) With this Hugo builds the image of the unjust criminal justice system in which many lived during the Napoleonic Age. Hugo then contrasts this with the Bishop’s actions which would change Valjean into a better man with a strict moral code. The Bishop’s actions demonstrate the possible effects of kindness and second chances. Hugo uses this event to demonstrate that anyone can be reached. Hugo clearly states, “if the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the who causes the darkness.” (Les Miserables) Through this Hugo clearly shows that the blame is meant to lie with the society and the justice system which produces only hardened women and men as presented through Valjean. Also, Hugo demonstrates the corrupt state of the French justice system. Hugo uses Champmathieu’s trial in Les Miserables to show the ease at which a biased testimony can sentence an innocent man to a lifetime of hard labor in the corrupt justice

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