Les Misérables (1862), a novel set in early nineteenth century France, presents a story of obsessions in honor, love, and duty, and through it redemption and salvation. It is the story of the poor Jean Valjean, condemned to an unfair amount of time in prison and a life on the run for stealing a loaf of bread for his starving family. The kind act of forgiveness from a Bishop with whom Jean Valjean stays one night, changes the course in which he chooses to live his life. Under a different identity, he becomes wealthy from a business he starts and later is elected mayor of the small town of Montreuil. He falls madly in love with Fantine, one of the workers in his factory. Because Fantine, one of the very poorest and most pitiful residents of Montreuil, has a child born out of wedlock, Jean Valjean as the respected mayor must keep his love for her a secret. When Fantine dies unexpectedly, Jean Valjean vows he will raise her daughter Cosette, and shield her from all the evils in the world. Through all of this, Jean Valjean is being pursued by Javert, a policeman whose entire life has been dedicated to finding Jean Valjean. While running from Javert, Jean Valjean and Cosette find themselves in Paris in the middle of the 1832 Revolution. As Cosette matures, she falls in love with Marius, a young revolutionist. Despite the objections of Jean Valjean, Cosette continues to secretly visit Marius at night. During the revolution, Marius is injured badly and Jean Valjean, after finding a love note from Marius to Cosette, quickly comes to the rescue of the wounded gentleman. Eventually Jean Valjean and Marius' Grandfather consent to the wedding of Cosette and Marius. In this novel, "there is a point at which...
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...'s anguishes with obsession, help him to more effectively relate his novel, Les Misérables, to the reader. In the book's ending, Jean Valjean dies knowing he is happy, content and prepared for his death. His adoration for Cosette has left her loving him and satisfied with the life he has helped her create. Before Jean Valjean dies, he says to Cosette and Marius, "I die happy. Let me put my hands upon you dear beloved heads" (399). Like Jean Valjean, Javert's obsessions rule his life, but with negative intentions rather than positive ones. Once Javert realizes his obsessions are nothing but empty promises, he too is empty and chooses to end his life. Three of the main characters of the story, find that their perseverance and obsession to have the life they wish for ends triumphantly.
Hugo, Victor. Les Misérables. New York: Fawcett Premier. 1997.
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