Les Misérables Book Summary, Characters, Analysis, Victor Hugo


What is the summary of the book Les Misérables written by Victor Hugo? Information about the summary, characters and analysis of Les Misérables.

Les Misérables

Les Misérables

“Les Misérables” is a novel written by Victor Hugo and published in 1862. Set in France during the early 19th century, the story follows the life of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who becomes a respected member of society, but is relentlessly pursued by the inspector Javert, who is determined to bring him to justice.

The novel explores themes such as justice, redemption, love, and the human condition. Through the various characters, Hugo depicts the harsh realities of life for the poor and the working class in France, as well as the struggle for social justice and political change.

The main character, Jean Valjean, is a former convict who spent 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving family. After being released from prison, he is unable to find work or a place to stay due to his criminal past. He is taken in by the bishop of Digne, who shows him kindness and teaches him the value of mercy and forgiveness.


Valjean eventually becomes a successful businessman and mayor of a small town, but his past catches up with him when he is recognized by Javert, a police inspector who has been pursuing him for years. Javert’s obsession with bringing Valjean to justice drives the two men to a final confrontation.

Other important characters include Fantine, a single mother who is forced to sell her body to support her daughter Cosette; Marius, a young revolutionary who falls in love with Cosette; and the streetwise Gavroche, who represents the plight of homeless children in Paris.

Throughout the novel, Hugo weaves together the stories of these characters to create a powerful commentary on the social and political realities of 19th century France. The novel’s themes of justice, mercy, and redemption continue to resonate with readers today, making “Les Misérables” a timeless classic of literature.

Book Summary

“Les Misérables” is a novel by Victor Hugo published in 1862. Set in 19th-century France, it follows the life of ex-convict Jean Valjean as he struggles to escape his past and live an honest life. The novel is a sprawling epic, weaving together themes of justice, love, sacrifice, and redemption.

The story begins with Jean Valjean, who has just been released from prison after serving a 19-year sentence for stealing a loaf of bread. He is homeless and desperate, and when he is offered shelter by a kind bishop, he repays the bishop’s kindness by stealing his silverware. When Valjean is caught by the police and brought back to the bishop’s home, the bishop lies and tells the police that the silverware was a gift, effectively saving Valjean from being sent back to prison.

This act of mercy and forgiveness changes Valjean’s life, and he decides to start anew under a new name. He becomes a successful factory owner and mayor of a small town, but his past continues to haunt him in the form of the ruthless police inspector Javert, who is determined to bring him to justice.

Meanwhile, another major character is introduced: Fantine, a young woman who has been abandoned by her lover and forced to turn to prostitution to support her daughter, Cosette. When Fantine falls ill and is unable to work, Valjean takes pity on her and promises to care for Cosette after she dies.


Valjean and Cosette flee the town and settle in Paris, where they encounter a group of revolutionary students led by the idealistic Enjolras. Among them is Marius, a young man who falls in love with Cosette. Marius becomes embroiled in the revolution and is injured, but Valjean saves him and carries him to safety. In the chaos of the revolution, Javert is captured by the revolutionaries but is released by Valjean, who believes that mercy is more important than revenge.

The novel reaches its climax when Valjean is forced to reveal his true identity to save an innocent man from being falsely accused of his crimes. Javert is unable to reconcile this act of mercy with his rigid sense of justice and commits suicide.

The novel ends with Valjean’s death, having found redemption through his acts of kindness and sacrifice, and with Marius and Cosette living happily ever after.

Overall, “Les Misérables” is a sweeping epic that explores the themes of justice, love, sacrifice, and redemption through the eyes of a diverse cast of characters. Through Valjean’s struggles and triumphs, Hugo asks the reader to consider what it truly means to be a good person and to live a virtuous life.


  • Jean Valjean: The protagonist of the novel, Valjean is an ex-convict who is imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread. He escapes and begins a new life as a successful businessman, but his past continues to haunt him. He becomes Cosette’s father figure and protects her fiercely.
  • Javert: Javert, the novel’s antagonist, is a police inspector obsessed with catching Valjean and bringing him to justice. He strictly abides by the law and sees the world in black and white.
  • Fantine: Fantine, a young woman who works in Valjean’s factory, is forced to prostitute herself to support her daughter Cosette. She is finally saved by Valjean, who takes Cosette under his protection after Fantine’s death.
  • Cosette: Daughter of Fantine, Cosette is mistreated by her guardians, the Thénardiers. She is eventually rescued by Valjean and becomes a kind and loving young woman.
  • Marius Pontmercy: Marius, a young student who falls in love with Cosette, is a member of a revolutionary group that seeks to overthrow the monarchy. At first unaware of Cosette’s true identity, he distances himself from his wealthy family because of his political convictions.

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