Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, 1802-1885. He lived all around France for his entire life, and originally published Les Misérables in 1862. Four Main Characters:Jean Valjean: A troubled once-thief who is determined to return to a virtuous path of life after narrowly being caught stealing, already having been to prison.Cosette: the innocent and aimable orphaned daughter of Fantine who is adopted by Valjean, and learns to be cunning and adventurous over time because of Valjean’s evasive nature. Fantine: a working class girl, the basis for the future story, who leaves her hometown to seek a life of fortune in Paris, and upon a series of unfortunate events, ends up pregnant with Cosette from an affair with a dapper student that leaves her impoverished, barely getting by as a prostitute. Inspector Javert: a relentless and strict letter-of-the-law officer who is obsessively devoted to serving justice for society; is after Jean Valjean in beliefs that he kidnapped Cosette from the Thénardiers. Two Minor Characters:Bishop Myriel: a once good looking and womanizing man that developed a sense of empathy and joined the church, becoming a faithful and kind man who is devoted to providing refuge and grace on all who need it, including most of the main characters.Thénardier: A smarmy con artist, who also happens to be bony and ugly, that initially takes care of Cosette and scams Fantine as well as many other people; a terrible person essentially. Three Main Settings: Paris, France: Described as a vibrant bustling center of people, or the “ceiling of the human race”; mentioned that culture is all around the city, and all of history could be learned just through observing the city. Montfermeil, France: Described as a sparsely populated village in the forest at the time of Cosette’s childhood, with shades of green and white mostly present from the trees and the few pleasure homes; rustic and small. Convent of Petit Picpus: This is described as “severe and gloomy”, and decorated with a sense of being sacred, almost intimidation by the holiness. Plot Outline: Jean Valjean, an ex-convict of a French prison, is free after serving 19 years for stealing bread to feed his family and on top of that trying to escape the prison. He has a fresh start ahead of him, and makes it to a town called Digne. Since Valjean is an ex-convict, nobody wants to give him shelter or a job so he falls desperate and goes to a convent led by the kind Bishop Myriel. Myriel is hospitable, and Valjean decides to steal silverware from the convent. He is later arrested, but Myriel vouches for Valjean in saying that the silverware was a gift. At this mercy, Valjean rethinks his way of life and vows to live in the path of light. He goes to a town called Montreuil-sur-mer, calling himself Madeleine, and comes up with a process of manufacturing that solves a bunch of problems the town faces, invoking prosperity – leading to his eventual becoming mayor. Moving on to a girl named Fantine. She is a girl from Montreuil, that moved to Paris in seeking fortune. There she falls for a rich student named Tholomyes who gets her pregnant and caused him to flee. She gives birth to the child, names her Cosette, and goes back to Montreuil, but realized that if people find out that her child was born out of wedlock, no one would ever give her work. Fantine takes Cosette to these horrid people called the Thénardiers in Montfermeil, who own the local inn. They agree to care for Cosette in exchange for monthly payment. Back at Montreuil, the thread connects when Fantine finds a job in Valjean’s, or Madeleine’s, factory, but her secret about Cosette leaks amongst her co-workers which leads to Fantine being fired. She turns to prostitution to pay for Cosette and is almost arrested by Inspector Javert, and Valjean intervenes. Fantine falls ill and Valjean promises to send for Cosette. Javert finds out who Valjean really is and arrests him, which kills Fantine from shock. A few years later, he escapes and goes back to buy Cosette from the Thénardiers after finding her in the dark forest as she’s fetching a pail of water, who abused her. Valjean and Cosette move to the rundown part of Paris, but Javert finds them, and they flee to the Convent of Petit Picpus. Cosette attends school and Valjean works as a gardener at this convent. The politically involved law student Marius Pontmercy, in the radical group of the Friends of the ABC, runs into Cosette at a park. They feel a spark for one another, and Valjean looks at this distastefully, so he keeps them apart. Valjean is almost caught by Javert again due to the Thénardiers randomly showing up as their neighbors and trying to rob them, but Marius foils that by telling Javert. Eponine Thénardier sees that Cosette lives there, and she’s in love with Marius, but tells him that’s where Cosette is. He runs to ask his Grandfather to marry Cosette, he says no, then Marius returns to find that Cosette and Valjean have escaped. Marius and his gang decide to go to the barrier and start an uprising, and it doesn’t go well at all as Marius almost dies, but Eponine jumps in front of a rifle for him and delivers a letter from Cosette to him as she dies in his arms. Javert is discovered there as a spy, and he’s tied up. Marius responds to the letter and Valjean intercepts the letter and goes to Marius’ rescue. He sees Javert and offers to execute him, but lets him go. The army storms the barricade, and Valjean carries Marius to the sewers to hide, and as he emerges, Javert immediately arrests Valjean. However Javert starts to have a major internal conflict battle in his head about letter vs. spirit of the law and decides to throw himself off a bridge because he doesn’t know what to do. Marius recovers, gets married to Cosette and finds out about Valjean’s past. He distances Cosette from Valjean, but Thénardier tells him that Valjean saved him and Marius feels terrible. He and Cosette go to Valjean in time to reconcile as he dies. The End. Apologies for how long this is, it’s almost impossible to summarize a book of this length in one short paragraph. Two Symbols:Valjean’s Yellow Prison Ticket: When Valjean gets out of prison he’s given a ticket he has to possess at all times to signify that he is an ex-convict; he’s free but trapped in a narrative of negativity that arose from him merely stealing food to feed his family. No one will help him or anything because of this damning narrative. The ticket symbolizes how society leaves outcasts and people who need help in the dust while the people who are well off blindly prosper. All of the main characters in the book can relate to this narrative. Valjean an ex-convict, Fantine a single mother prostitute, Cosette an orphan born of wedlock; all undesirables.Bishop Myriel’s Silver Candlesticks: After Valjean is caught with Bishop Myriel’s stolen silverware in hand and is excused by Myriel’s saying it’s a gift, he gives Valjean the candlesticks too in exchange for a promise that he’ll live in the path of light and integrity. The candlesticks become irrelevant for the rest of the book until Valjean’s death when he dies in the light of these two candlesticks. These candlesticks symbolized Valjean’s promise and he died fulfilling the promise. The Author’s Style: Victor Hugo’s writing style in this book is both richly poetic and descriptive in its diction and syntax. He also relies on heavy imagery to paint the surroundings as they move. Frequently in his writing, he concentrates on the factor of how little one can know of other people, whilst making assumptions of who other people are without being able to provide concrete facts that the assumptions fit who the person really is. Because of this, he describes his characters with evidence that determines who they really are in an almost empirical fashion. The Dominant Theme: The dominant theme of this book is the idea that love and compassion towards others is one of the most important things in life. Regardless of how bad people treated the main characters, they still treated others with kindness. Valjean was chased by Javert for years, and he had to opportunity to get rid of him for good, but he spared Javert regardless of the things that he had done to him. Valjean showed mercy to Javert, and that ended up destroying Javert because he couldn’t understand that concept. Three Short Quotations Typical of the Work:”It’s not enough to be mean to prosper. The pantry was bad.” (Vol. 2: Cosette, Book IV, Chapter 3: The Lark)-The narrator says this in response to the environment of the Thénardier’s inn, and this is a form of foreshadowing as later on in the book the Thénardiers are unsuccessful and move back to Paris under new personas in shame. “It’s the mouse that took the cat,” (Vol. 4: Saint Denis, Book XII, Chapter 7: The Recruited Man in the Street of the Billettes)-Gavroche says this to Javert after Javert’s cover as a spy in the uprising is blown; almost like standing up to a bully. “No, she replied, I’m the devil, but I do not care,” (Vol. 4: Saint Denis, Book II, Chapter 3: An Appearance to Father Mabeuf)- This is Eponine’s response to Father Mabeuf who called her an angel that cares for flowers; which also may be a way of her expressing that she is also an outsider in a judgemental and unforgiving society. My Response: I think the work was excruciatingly long, but the message that the novel represents as a whole is valuable to the narrative of society. These main characters were the unluckiest of the misfortunate, and suffered through the active push against anybody that does not fit in the way that they are supposed to. The imagery was pleasant and the mesh of poetic description mixed in made the surroundings much more vivid, and the structure of the sentences triggered critical thinking as a statement that completely tore down the discriminatory bases of society flashes by like nothing. In defense of the length, to effectively display the injustices of society, multiple standpoints must be present and that is what Victor Hugo did. His words evoked an effective ability to give compassion to any reader.