Victor Hugo's Les Miserables and Jean Valjean

Powerful Essays
Victor Hugo's Les Miserables and Jean Valjean

"Is there not in every human soul, was there not in the particular soul of Jean VaIjean, a primitive spark, a divine element, incorruptible in this world, immortal in the next, which can be developed by good, kindled, lit up, and made resplendently radiant, and which evil can never entirely extinguish." (Hugo, p. 78)

Victor Hugo's 1862 epic novel Les Miserables ranks among the literary greats of the 19th Century. Despite its awesome length, it has remained as one of the most approachable readings of literature. The tale of Jean Va1jean, the hero in the novel, is a fascinating story that beckons readers to turn the pages at a finious, pace. Since the novel is divided into several segments with names of the characters as the titles, the reader will realize that Les Miserables is a novel exploring the relationship of personal and communal destinies. As we progress through the pages, we witness the transformation of our outlaw protagonist and his persistent strivings, to overcome his despair and egotism. The reader will feel from Vaijean's adventures, that the moral character can and does grow, no matter how his previous devastating experiences had hardened him. Since Valjean is the unifying centre of the action in the novel, his moral and spiritual growth through his interaction with characters in Les Miserables will give credence to the earlier proposition that the moral character can evolve.

To examine the moral growth of Jean Valjean, it would be useful to establish his initial mental shape and thoughts. From the moment he appeared in the novel, Jean Valjean was depicted as a man against himself Freed from prison after serving an unjust sentence of nineteen years for the the...

... middle of paper ...

...e bishop in Digne and his tremendous moral and spiritual growth. By pursuing his unerring moral course, going to the foulest of depths, Jean Valjean had emerged entirely transformed and transfigured. Despite the adversities and dilemmas, he never lost track of his moral bearings and came out of the stem examination of his conscience stronger. His spiritual itinerary had brought him to experience and triumph over the testing demonic forces of despair, hate and pain. The holy bishop would be pleased to know lies had brought him to Heaven and led another man to his salvation.


(1) Jean Valjean's passport had indicated that he was a dangerous man since he had escaped twice from the galleys.

(2) Champmathieu was a man accused in Arras of being the fugitive Jean Valjean. If convicted as Valjean, Champmathieu would be sentenced to life in the galleys.
Get Access