Emi

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Message to Readers

Please don't just read my review! Read the book! I'm reading it again for a second time and I highly recommend it! Les Miserables very long and maybe some people might think it's too convoluted, but I promise you won't regret it!

Love Conquers All

January 16, 2021

    "To love another person is to see the face of God." 
    That is what Victor Hugo expresses through his novel of more than six hundred thousand words: the crowning achievement of Western Literature: Les Misérables. Love is the answer to one's enemies. Redemption comes from God. And living a life of righteousness and uprightness towards God is not easy, but it is fulfilling in the end.
    Set during the restoration of the monarchy in France, Hugo's novel naturally explores many themes of the recent Revolution. France is still discontent with the government and the extreme poverty in the land. The title, Les Misérables—or, The Miserable—reflects Hugo's focus on the people of France and how they endure the tyranny and corruption that holds them in bondage to poverty. Hugo's choice of characters in various rungs of society also show the effects of the Revolution and turmoil afterwards on the people. Javert, a police officer, struggles to gain prestige and uphold the law, even when the law is unjust. Jean Valjean, an ex-convict, tries to escape his past and endure through the riots in Paris. His foster daughter Cosette only wants her love Marius to live. Marius Pontmercy, a law student, finds himself in over his head as rioting turns into war against the soldiers of the King. And young Eponine and her brother Gavroche live in poverty, caught up in the uprising because they have nothing else.
    Hugo delves deeply into the history of France in his novel. While these passages may seem lengthy and monotonous, they bring a depth and understanding to the storyline. While reading about how Napoleon failed at Waterloo or how sewer systems in France work, we discover more about the French people and culture. Most importantly, we discover the motives behind the uprising and how it came into being. Interestingly enough, Hugo seems to be against the Revolution. He speaks of the guillotine as "devouring flesh and drinking blood." He hints there is no justice is this sort of law—mob rule—where men and women essentially lynch those they disagree with. Hugo shows a distaste for such violence, and so he shows a distaste for the bloody French Revolution that was supposed to bring justice. Throughout the novel, Hugo speaks from both sides—the law and the people. The law is unjust, as shown when Javert the policeman relentlessly pursues Valjean to clap him in irons despite the good Valjean has done for the French people. And yet, the mobs are also unjust, desiring violence and revenge. Hugo shows us both sides—the government is corrupt, but the people are also corrupt. In the end, he shows that mankind in general is not just. There can be no justice found in man because people are subject to their own hatreds and too ready to kill their enemies. Whether the law or mobs of rioters, Hugo's point is that there is a higher justice that humans cannot understand.
    Unconditional love is one of the greatest themes in Les Misérables. The protagonist, Jean Valjean, is a thief so abused and hated during his years in prison that he believes criminal acts are all he can do. However, after a kindly bishop shows him love and forgiveness, he realizes that while society may not love him, God does. Immediately he turns his life around and becomes a righteous man. Similarly, Fantine, a prostitute driven to her trade by the poverty she experiences, is despised by the townspeople and even herself. But after facing the kindness of Jean Valjean, she receives redemption and realizes that God still loves her before she dies.
    Love, is, indeed, the most powerful force in the entire novel, and Hugo meant it to be so. Amidst the turmoil in France, Hugo shows that love still has a great effect. Jean Valjean, the convict turned righteous man, is an example of non-romantic sacrificial love. Valjean loves Fantine so much that he protects her daughter with his life, almost even at cost of his own freedom. He loves Cosette, his foster daughter, so much that he is willing to die to protect her fiancé Marius and ensure her happiness. He loves Marius so much that he carries him wounded through the sewers of France to escape the rioting.
    Hugo does not neglect romantic love, however. He gives readers a taste of what true love is, pure, innocent love between a man and a woman in the forms of Marius Pontmercy and Cosette, who deeply love each other. Marius adores Cosette so much he is devastated when he loses her, and so goes off to the barricade to fight because there is nothing left. Cosette loves Marius so much she is even willing to leave her beloved foster father to live with her new husband. Even Eponine shows her heart when she sacrifices her life for her Marius even though she knows he loves another woman.
    In the end, love is what can heal France. That is what Hugo is trying to say. In fact, love can heal the world. Hugo's bleak world in Les Miserables is a world mainly without love. The wealthy oppress the poor; the poor loot the homes of the wealthy. The law is corrupt, and the people fight back. Death rules in the streets with the factions of poor and wealthy battling each other. And yet, everywhere there is love there is hope, Hugo shows. Valjean makes a town prosper because of his love for the people and his generous heart. The Bishop Myriel brings harmony to his mountain village by giving love and acceptance to everyone, regardless of whether he agrees with their beliefs. Fantine, despite her status in the town as a prostitute, shows a mother's love to her daughter Cosette and sacrifices everything so that her daughter may live. Love, Hugo says, is the answer to everything, and the answer to the turmoil in France.
    This is why I love the novel Les Misérables. It reflects much of what is happening today in America—the government corruption—the riots. Hugo's novel shows that there can only be one answer to this: love.

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  • January 16, 2021 - 7:48am (Now Viewing)

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2 Comments
  • Anne Blackwood

    Re: I'll definitely consider it. The plot seems a bit heavy for what I'm looking for at the moment, but I plan on at least listening to the soundtrack of the musical at some point.


    about 2 months ago
  • Anne Blackwood

    This was really well-written, but I couldn't finish it because I felt like there were a lot of what seemed to be spoilers hehe.


    about 2 months ago