Positivity And Adversity In Les Misérables By Victor Hugo

Decent Essays
Positivity and Adversity in the Face of Poverty

Can you imagine what it would it be like to experience true poverty, and how it would shape your worldview? In Les Misérables, Victor Hugo addresses such a topic using multiple characters’ experiences of living on the margins of society. Each characters’ outlook on life and attitude towards poverty has a dramatic effect on their experiences: Fantine views poverty with deep resentment, Jean Valjean sees his impoverished experience as something he can change, and Marius views his experience as an opportunity for growth. Marius, Fantine and Jean Valjean’s contrasting stories are used to show how one’s outlook on poverty changes depending on how you experience it. Marius, Fantine, and Jean Valjean’s
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His mother is kind and his grandfather, despite his disposition, cares more for Marius than anyone else in their family. Only through learning about the true identity of his father has Marius begun to really reconsider his life. Marius ultimately decides poverty is better than living with his grandfather, who had lied to him about the identity of his father. Marius finds freedom from what he sees as a gilded cage as “[he] was rejoicing. Misery, we must insist, had been good to him” (Hugo 261). Marius sees poverty from an idealized view point, as he did not have to live in poverty as a child. His grandfather still attempts to support him, even after he had run away, so Marius has something to fall back on if his strife becomes impossible to bear. Poverty provides Marius with freedom from his grandfather, and is a way for him to see the world in an entirely new way, with “his backbone is gaining firmness, [and] his brain gaining ideas” (Hugo 262). Marius begins to gain empathy for those beaten down by society and those forever living on the margins. Just as Jean Valjean was able to reform himself in his freedom from poverty, Marius is able to become an honest and upright man through suffering and hardship. Furthermore, Marius knows that his poverty is not one that most experience, as "for five years Marius had lived in poverty, in privation, in distress even, but he perceived that he had never known real misery" (Hugo 290). Humbled by the destitution of others, Marius knows that despite his poverty, he could easily escape the clutches of necessity and again return to a life of affluence. Marius’ life is shaped in a positive way due to his own struggle which he chose for himself, and thus views poverty in a kind

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