When Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserables first came out in 1862, people in Paris and elsewhere lined up to buy it. Although critics were less receptive, the novel was an instant popular success. The French word “miserables” means both poor wretches and scoundrels or villains. The novel offers a huge cast that includes both kinds of “miserables.” A product of France’s most prominent Romantic writer, Les Miserables ranges far and wide. It paints a vivid picture of Paris’s seamier side, discusses the causes and results of revolution, and includes discourses on topics ranging from the Battle of Waterloo to Parisian street slang. But the two central themes that dominate the novel are the moral redemption of its main character, Jean Valjean, an ex-convict, and the moral redemption of a nation through revolution. The novel is a critical statement against human suffering, poverty, and ignorance. Its purpose is as much political as it is artistic.