Les Miserables ~ The Theme Of Redemption

2854 words - 12 pages

“We are products of our past, but we don't have to be prisoners of it” (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?). People do bad things - it’s human nature. It is how these wrongs are fixed that make a person truly remarkable. People have strived to make themselves better and are always searching for ways to fix the things they did wrong. This idea of redemption is especially evident in Victor Hugo’s classic, Les Miserables. Les Miserables, is based in the post French Revolutionary period and through the events in the story, characters such as Jean Valjean and Javert are tried and tested. Many characters within this French epic commit their lives to redeeming ...view middle of the document...

Jean Valjean hopes to change this as he struggles for redemption. In this passage, Bishop Myriel withdraws Jean Valjean “from dark thoughts and from the spirit of perdition” (Hugo 34). Monseigneur Bienvenu ultimately frees Jean Valjean from his sins and tells him to go and change his ways. Jean Valjean is told to set forth and become an honest man. Jean Valjean strives to do this in his journey for redemption, which is furthered when he helps Cosette. Cosette, daughter of now-deceased Fantine, is living a life of work and terror. She lives in fear of her so-called caretakers, the Thenardiers, who treat her as a slave. One night, the Thenardiers order Cosette to fetch water from the forest, during the evening, for one of the men at the chophouse. Cosette goes to retrieve the water from the dark forest and is, understandably, in fear. As she obtains the water, she notices a man and quickly sets the bucket down and hides behind a tree. The man greets her kindly, as he senses that she is panicky. Surprisingly, she was no longer afraid for “At that moment she felt all at once that the weight of the bucket was gone” (Hugo 157). This bucket was symbolic of Cosette’s burdens, those of fear, labor, and lack of love. This man, who was Jean Valjean, frees Cosette from all of her burdens in an act of redemption. Jean Valjean saves Cosette to fulfill his promise to Fantine, whose wish was to see Cosette. By saving Cosette and taking her in from the Thenardiers, Jean Valjean shows that he is kind and cares for others. Through this act of redemption, Jean Valjean shows that he is no longer a convict, but someone who will go out of his way to care for others. Symbolism had a profound effect in conveying the theme of redemption. In a like way, characterization is used to portray the theme of redemption.
Through the description and development of characters Victor Hugo is able to establish the theme of redemption. Javert was born to a family of criminals, both of his parents were convicts. He was destined to be a criminal - this in and of itself is a reason that Javert struggles for redemption. Javert “was a compound of two sentiments, very simple and very good in themselves, but he almost made them evil by his exaggeration of them; respect for authority and hatred of rebellion; in his eyes, theft, murder, all crimes, were only forms of rebellion”. Javert’s family consists of criminals and he did not want to be part of that. Javert wants to change the path that his family has set for him and becomes a police official to distinguish himself from the them. Javert believes that to redeem himself from the crime his family has committed, he must do the opposite which he perceives to be strict enforcement of law. This is an instance in which too much of a good thing is bad. Javert’s perception that good law is strict law is over exaggerated and, at times, can become dreadful. When Javert arrests Fantine, he arrests her for an act of self-defense. Javert does not see...

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