11 de ago. de 2022

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (book summary)

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (book summary)

Les Misérables (in the original Les Misérables) was a masterpiece published by the French author Victor Hugo in 1862. Celebrated as a classic that has overcome time, the text has transcended the pages of the book and has been adapted numerous times for film and for the theater.

Book summary

The story is set in France during the 19th century, the scenarios are described in extreme detail. The protagonist, Jean Valjean, is an ordinary man who is forced to feed his starving family and, in order to do so, steals a loaf of bread from the window of a bakery. The young man is sentenced to five years in prison for theft and burglary.

The boy's past was tragic: Jean was orphaned of both his father and mother when he was still a child, having been raised by an older sister who already had seven children. As soon as the sister is widowed, the brother becomes the breadwinner of the family.

As he tries numerous times to escape from prison and has a notable record of bad behavior, Valjean is sentenced to hard labor for nineteen years.

Upon leaving prison, he is rejected wherever he goes because everyone fears him due to his violent past. Jean is kicked out of inns and rejected in private homes when he rings the doorbell. Finally, he is sheltered by a bishop, a generous man who welcomes him.

Valjean, however, disappoints the one who took him in after stealing candlesticks and silverware. When he is captured by the police, however, he receives a pardon from the bishop, who lies to the authorities by claiming that he had given the objects as a gift to the former prisoner. From that moment on, Valjean decides to change his life, becoming an honest and good man.

The former delinquent changes his identity and becomes the owner of a factory in Germany, where no one knows his dark past. Despite having managed to build a new destiny, Valjean is haunted by the possibility of being recognized. Inspector Javert, a guy with a passion for justice, has been looking for him for several years.

At the factory, Valjean meets poor Fantine, a girl who became pregnant by a student and was abandoned. The young woman decides to give birth to Cosette, but must leave her in the care of the Thenadiers. With the salary he received at the factory, he sent a monthly allowance to the girl, not knowing that those responsible for taking care of her were attacking her.

When the factory supervisor discovers Fantine's past, he fires the girl. Faced with such a scenario, the young woman is forced to sell her own hair and teeth, and even becomes a prostitute. Valjean, when he finds out about the story, decides to adopt the girl Cosette and raise her as a daughter.

Cosette grows up and marries the idealistic young Marius. When Valjean dies, his adopted daughter has the following tribute engraved on his grave:

Sleeps. Lived on earth fighting luck

As soon as his angel flew, he asked death for refuge

The case happened by that dark law

What makes the night come, only the day flees!


About the publication

The French author Victor Hugo began drafting the work in 1846, but stopped writing in 1848. Three years later he resumed writing and worked on new chapters and details that still needed to be polished. On April 3, 1862, Les Miserables was published.

As soon as it was released, the book was a public success. In just one day, more than 7,000 copies were sold in the author's country alone. The work was quickly translated and disseminated in other countries, even transcending the walls of Europe.

The launch was organized and included eight cities that published simultaneously: Leipzig (Germany), Brussels, Budapest, Milan, Rotterdam, Warsaw, Rio de Janeiro and Paris.

Structure of the work

Victor Hugo's extensive narrative is divided into five volumes, they are:

Volume 1 - Fantine

Volume 2 - Cosette

Volume 3 - Marius

Volume 4 – Idyll on Rua Plumet and epic on Rua de S.Diniz

Volume 5 – Jean Valjean

About the author Victor Hugo

Born on February 26, 1802, in Besançon, France, Victor Hugo was raised practically outside France on account of his father's travels. The writer was born into an illustrious family, his father, Count Joseph Léopold-Sigisbert Hugo, was Napoleon's general.

Victor Hugo developed his skills as a writer and became a leader of the Romantic movement in France. He wrote, in 1831, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (originally titled Notre Dame de Paris) and was immensely successful helping him to achieve a place at the famous French Academy in 1841.

He was also political, in favor of liberal democracy. He served as a deputy in the Second Republic, in 1848. He was exiled and lived for many years outside Paris, returning to France only in 1870. He was elected to the National Assembly and the Senate.

When he died, on May 22, 1885, at the age of eighty-three, his body was exposed for several days under the Arc de Triomphe and was later buried on June 1 in the Panthéon.

book summary


Sidney Matias

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