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 […]

Victor Hugo

As a novelist, poet, political activist, and painter, Victor Hugo was a central figure in the Romantic movement of 19th-century France. Both his family and […]

Plot Summary

Les Miserables is the story of four people-Bishop Myriel, Valjean, Fantine, and Marius-who meet, part, then meet again during the most agitated decades of 19th-century […]


A Monsieur Mabeuf An elderly churchwarden, he befriends Marius’s father Pontmercy, and Marius becomes friends with Mabeuf after his father dies. He is a gentle […]


A Change and Transformation The most important theme the novel examines is that of transformation, in the individual and in society. Jean Valjean, the chief […]


A Structure In some ways the novel is structured traditionally. It has a rising action, that is the part of the narrative that sets up […]


Investigate current prison conditions in the United States and compare today’s prison experience to Valjean’s as described in the novel. Consider the ethical issues surrounding […]

Compare and Contrast

1830s: Under public pressure, French legislators reformed prisons to some extent. They abolished some of the more barbaric forms of punishment that were practiced under […]

Further Reading

Victor Hugo’s other major works include the novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, published in 1831, and the poetry collection Contemplations, released in 1856, which […]