Essay On Les Miserables

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Les Miserables

Les Miserables is a historical novel by Victor Hugo and it is considered the greatest novel of the 19th century. Hugo’s title seeks to identify the portion of the society that most people often tend to forget. These are the downtrodeen, the lower rung, the poor as well as the dispossessed who can be described as the miserable ones. When it is literally translated, the title can be seen as ‘the wretched’ or criminals. In focusing so much attention on the people that do not receive any, Hugo seems to be making a strong statement regarding social judgment. The nature of crime and punishment, the needs and the excess, fairness and justice, there is sobering reality on those that are deemed as being ‘miserable’ individuals of the society. They should have an equal chance at happiness as anyone else. Valijean condemnation can be described as dubious and disproportionate given the circumstances, and Fantine’s hopes of justice are dashed as a prostitute and she falls under the socially constructed blanked of ‘Les Miserables’. Hugo’s title argues that all the individuals and is entitled to equality within the law and of opportunity.

By examining the nature and the law of grace, the novel is able to elaborate on the history of France, the urban design of Paris, justice and moral philosophy. The Novel contains several subplots, but the main thread of the story is in regards to an ex-convict referred to as Jean Valjean that becomes a force for good in the world but cannot escape his criminal past. Hugo states that the demands of the social justice can often be solved by the utilization of strategies that oscillate between radical and conservative aspects, keeping in mind morals, and the process efficiency and results. There are many diverse solutions that can be used to cure social injustice and Hugo argues that they is the conservative approach, the radical approach and the intermediate approach. All these methods are important and they ensure that the society moves towards a more liberal one.

However, in all these models, it is not possible to decide a priori which is the best as well as the adequate strategy from the normative and practical points of view. At times a solution is moral but it is inefficient and vice versa. This especially plays a role when it comes to social injustice. At other times, there are often simultaneously good normative reasons and practice of each and every type of solution. Therefore, when it comes to the opting of a strategy, practical as well as normative criteria should always be kept in mind. It is better to seek solution strategies that are designed for a specific problem without the neglecting the relationship that exist with others. Besides society, social justice often takes nature or the existing ecosystem into consideration into an equally fundamental scenario which offers both moral as well as efficient limits into human action.

Hugo uses his novel to condemn the unjust class-based structure of the nineteenth century France. He shows time and again that indeed the society’s structure turns good, innocent people into the criminals and beggars. Hugo is able to focus on three areas that he believes that there is a need for reform: education, treatment of women, criminal justice. He conveys his message through the character of Fantine, a symbol for the many good but impoverished women that are driven to despair and to death by a cruel society. Fantine is abandoned by her aristocratic lover, Tholomyes, and her reputation is indelibly soiled by the fact that she is an illegitimate child. Her efforts to his this fact can be said to be ruined by the fact that she does not have any education. The scribe to whom Fantine dictates her letters tells the whole town about her secret. It is important to understand that until the factory fires Fantine for immortality that she decides to prostitution. It is important to understand that in the character of Fantine, Hugo is able to demonstrate the hypocrisy that exists in the society by failing to educate girls and ostracizes women such as Fantine while encouraging the behavior of men such as Tholomyes.
In Les Miserables Hugo is able to cast a critical eye on law enforcement.

The character of Valijean reveals a lot about the French criminal-justice system transforms a simple bread thief into a criminal. The only effect of Valijean’s 19 years of mistreatment on the chain gang is that be becomes vicious as well as sneaky. This is a sharp contrast to the effect that comes with Myriel’s Kindness, which sets Valjean on the right path almost in an overnight manner. Another contrast that occurs is that Valjean’s plight is the selective manner in the Parisian police deal with Patron Minette crime ring. However, unlike Valjean, Patron-Minette and their associates are real criminals that rob and murder on what can be described as grand scale, but they receive only short sentences in prisons that are often easy to escape. The justice is clumsy at best. It rarely punishes the criminals that commit the serious crimes but it tears apart the lives of the people that commit crimes that are petty. In Les Miserables, Hugo traces the social impact of the numerous revolutions and executions that took place in the late eighteenth century. Hugo by depicts a perpetual uncertainty that political events that is imposed upon daily life.

The novel emphasizes the fact that is socially unjust to carry out a practice which contradicts the common beliefs formally subscribed to by various groups that all the people that have equal moral value that accords to the culture of human rights. It is important to understand that the normal criterion and principle is the basis for justice and it can be said that it is upon the standards are developed. There are times people, speak about principles of justice, moral foundations and where something is deemed just or unjust if it agrees with or is against such principles.

The prevalence of Orphans and unusually family structures in Les Miserables can be described as the most obvious indicator that the French society and politics that exist in the period that is described have gone terribly wrong. Fantine, Marius, Pontmercy are all separated from their families because of the effects of politics on family structure. There are several important things that one should consider in order to understand the Les Miserables, Hugo asserts that love and compassion can be said to be the most important gift hat one person can give to another and that always displaying these qualities should be the most important goal in life. It is important to understand that Valjean transformation from a hate-filled and hardened criminal into a well-respected philanthropist can be said to epitomize the emphasis on Hugo’s love, for it is only learning to love others that Valjean is able to improve himself.

Social injustice can be solved, this is seen when a character in Les Miserables learns a major lesson about life, it is important to understand that this realization is accompanied by a physical resurrection. Valjean undergoes what can be described as several reincarnations, each one of them denoting that he is another step away from his previous old moral depravity. After his encounter with Myriel, he decides to reinvent himself as Madeleine and he leaves his identity behind when he pretends to drown. This resurrection is extremely important and it shows that indeed the Les Miserables can change and become more effective in the society.

The author of social justice is not the theoretician or a professional politician, however, it can be said to be the democratic community that is affected by the problems. Therefore the legitimacy as well as the interpretation and implementation of social justice can be said to be guaranteed by the political community often through democratic procedures. Everybody has specific roles to play, and this is clearly demonstrated in the Les Miserables, the educator, the social activities have specific role but there is not that have the power to determine what is just. However, with events such as those seen in ‘Les Miserables’ the society is left to judge what exactly constitutes social injustice given the circumstances that are seen in Valjean.


Hugo V.,(1862) Les Miserables. SAGE: New York