Les Miserables Essay

890 words - 4 pages

After spending nineteen years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread, Jean Valjean is refused lodging at Digne because he is an ex-convict. Just when he is about to give up, M. Myriel, the Bishop of Digne, offers him dinner and a place to spend the night. Later that night, Valjean finds himself unable to resist stealing the Bishop's silver; he is arrested by the police the next morning. But M. Myriel pretends that he gave Valjean the silver as a gift, making him promise to reform and become an honest man. The Bishop's lesson deeply affects Valjean, who eventually redeems his dark past through financial prosperity, renewed spiritual faith, and philanthropy. Posing as "M. Madeleine," Valjean becomes the mayor of Montreuil-sur-mer, bringing prosperity to the entire region and acquiring a widespread reputation for his charity and devotion to the poor.Even though the local police inspector, Javert, is suspicious of him, Valjean intervenes in the arrest of a prostitute named Fantine. Before selling her body, she had sold her hair and two front teeth in order to support her daughter, Cosette, whom she left at the Thénardier tavern. She first rejects Valjean's offer to help her retrieve Cosette, spitting in his face because she thinks he was responsible for her being fired from his factory. He insists that he wants to help, but before he can, a serious moral dilemma causes him to leave town. A man named Champmathieu is about to be convicted for being Jean Valjean; after debating what to do for an entire night, the real Valjean decides to turn himself in. Fantine dies just before he is arrested, and Valjean vows to take care of Cosette.After faking his death, Valjean escapes from prison and liberates Cosette from the depraved Thénardiers. They move to Paris and soon love each other as father and daughter. Javert, however, has refused to give up on his search for Valjean and eventually learns where he lives in Paris. Valjean realizes that he is in danger, and, after an agonizing and suspenseful pursuit throughout Paris, Valjean and Cosette just barely escape by hiding in the Petit Picpus Convent. They end up staying there for a few years, while Valjean avoids the police and Cosette gets an education.The narrator then introduces Marius Pontmercy, the son of a famous Napoleonic colonel. Marius' maternal grandfather, a staunch monarchist named M. Gillenormand, refuses to let Marius' father, Georges Pontmercy, have custody of Marius for political reasons, threatening to disown Marius if he refuses. His father reluctantly agrees, and it is not until he dies that Marius begins to love him. Marius soon becomes an...

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