The nineteenth century was an era distinguished by invention, progress, and social change. Countries were busy healing from previous wars while fighting ongoing battles at the same time. Nationalism and militarism became extremely evident around the world as advances in science and exploration propelled new discoveries. Significant movements, such as Romanticism and the Industrial Revolution, stemmed in Europe and swept the masses, spreading widely across nations. The rapid growth of the British Empire, alongside the calamitous fall of the French Empire, marked the beginning of the eventful nineteenth century. Years after the French Revolution, the French Empire was defeated in the Napoleonic wars, resulting in a broken union full of social and political unrest. Various problems in society, like class struggle, arose as the French people tried to reform and restore their country’s strength. In the novel Les Misérables, the author Victor Hugo criticizes the prevalent flaw of social injustice in nineteenth century France while encouraging people to persist for change by providing an accurate historical account of adversity in society and culture in Post-Napoleonic France. The author uses symbolism, characterization, and irony in a novel format in order to communicate the themes that love can combat misery and that prejudice is a hindrance to social justice.
Hugo condemns the social system of nineteenth century France by accurately juxtaposing two types of poor, the hard workers and the indecent opportunists. In Les Misérables, Fantine, a poor working-class girl, cannot afford to bring up her misbegotten daughter by herself, so she leaves her daughter Cosette with low-class innkeepers and agrees to pay seven francs a month to c...
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...who is hardworking can make a difference if they fight for their beliefs. Hugo highlights the potential for change by placing Jean Valjean next to Laffitte, a historical figure from a wretched background who ended up successful. Hugo also refers to student-led uprisings in France, showing that young adults like Enjolras have the capability of taking on royal power. Representing the characters' qualities with symbols, Hugo shows how Jean Valjean redeems himself by loving others and becomes a hero like the bishop. Hugo uses situational irony in the novel in order to help readers understand that it is a mistake to judge others before knowing their full story. By writing a work of fiction, Hugo provides a critical, yet hopeful, account that encourages love in the face of inequity. The world is full of problems, but anything can be conquered through dedication and love.
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