Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo


Love and compassion is found among those that live in poverty-"the miserable" ones.  This is the most important gift that one person can give another in life & this is the clear message of Les Miserables, the book.

It was one of the greatest novels of the 19th century and it starts out with Jean Valjean just released from 19 years' in prison, for stealing bread for his starving sister and her family. He can't find a place to stay because of his prison time is clearly marked on his passport.

A church bishop helps him and he narrowly escapes being arrested again. Valjean steals again, is discovered and he leaves the area with the police on his trail. 

He establishes himself with another name, in another town, where during the 6 years he spends there, he becomes a wealthy factory owner, and is appointed mayor of a town. One day he is walking down the street and he stops and lifts a loaded cart, to free a trapped man. This raises the curiosity of the local police inspector who knew Valjean years ago-he remembers how strong he was.

A women named Fantine had been abandoned, with her young child Cosette, years earlier in Paris. She had made her way to this same small town and left her daughter in the care of a local  corrupt innkeeper and his mean wife. Unlike the play where this couple was in some ways funny they were pure evil in the book. By working at a local plant owned by Valjean she is able to pay the innkeeper and his wife to take care of Cosette. Fantine doesn't know how bad it is for her daughter with these people. She loses her job in the factory and she is living on the street with no money to pay for her daughters care. She sells her hair and her front teeth to get money and then is forced to becomes a prostitute.  She knows she can't continue this way as she is dying from a disease. She is arrested and taken to a hospital.

The mayor, Valjean, learns where she is and feels bad that she is in this trouble, having had to fire her, so he tries to help. He gets Cosette at the innkeepers, and they go to the hospital.

This story has many twists and turns. Before long Valjean  is identified & imprisoned. This is such a shock to Fantine that she dies from it. Valjean escapes, but is  recaptured, and  sentenced to death.  While imprisoned he saves a sailors life. He then fakes his own death by appearing to have drowned. He goes to get Cosette and they run. 


Years later Cosette has grown up. He has helped many people as well as helping the young revolutionaries of his day.  When he is finally found out again it is the kindness he has shown to so many over the years that saves him. 

Song: I Dreamed a Dream

The play, Les Miserables, has so many great songs.  The song “I Dreamed a Dream” is a favorite of mine. It is sung by the character Fantine, in the first act of the play.  She has just been fired from her job at the factory and thrown onto the streets. She thinks back to happier days and wonders at all that has gone wrong in her life. The song touches us, as we all think about our lives past and future


“And remember, the truth that once was spoken: To love another person is to see the face of God.” 

“Nobody loves the light like the blind man.”

“Dying is nothing; what’s terrible is not to live.” 

 “People weighed down with troubles do not look back; they know only too well that misfortune stalks them.” 

Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo is one of the greatest and best-known French writers. Outside of France, his most famous works are the novels Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame