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Les Misérables ( ; translated variously from French as The Miserable Ones, The Wretched, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, The Victims) (1862) is a novel by French author Victor Hugo and is widely considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. It follows the lives and interactions of several French characters over a twenty-year period in the early 19th century, starting in 1815, the year of Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloomarker.

The novel focuses on the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption. It examines the nature of law and grace, and expounds upon the history of France, architecture of Parismarker, politics, moral philosophy, antimonarchism, justice, religion, and the types and nature of romantic and familial love. The story is historical fiction because it contains factual, historic events, including the Paris Uprising of 1832 (often mistaken for the much earlier French Revolution).

Les Misérables is known to many through its numerous stage and screen adaptations, such as the stage musical of the same name, sometimes abbreviated "Les Mis" ( ).

Novel form

Les Misérables contains many plots, but the main thread is the story of ex-convict, Jean Valjean (known by his prison number, 24601), who becomes a force for good in the world, but cannot escape his dark past. The novel is divided into five volumes, each volume divided into books, and subdivided into chapters (for a total of 365 chapters). Each chapter is relatively short, usually no longer than a few pages. Nevertheless, the book as a whole is quite lengthy by common standards, often exceeding 1,200 pages in unabridged editions. Within the borders of the novel's story, Hugo fills many pages with his thoughts on religion, politics, and society, including his three lengthy digressions, one being a discussion on enclosed religious orders, another being on argot, and most famously, his epic retelling of the Battle of Waterloomarker.


Volume I – Fantine

The story starts in 1815, in Dignemarker. The peasant Jean Valjean has just been released from imprisonment in the Bagne of Toulon after nineteen years: five for stealing bread for his starving sister and his family, and fourteen more for numerous escape attempts. Upon being released, he is required to carry a yellow passport that marks him as a convict, despite having already paid his debt to society by serving his time in jail. Rejected by innkeepers, who do not want to take in a convict, Valjean sleeps on the street. This makes him even more angry and bitter. However, the benevolent Bishop Myriel, the Bishop of Dignemarker, takes him in and gives him shelter. In the middle of the night, he steals the bishop’s silverware and runs. He is caught, but the bishop rescues him by claiming that the silverware was a gift and at that point gives him his two silver candlesticks as well, chastising him to the police for leaving in such a rush that he forgot these most valuable pieces. The bishop then "reminds" him of the promise, which Valjean has no recollection of making, to use the silver to make an honest man of himself. As Valjean broods over these words, he steals a child's silver coin purely out of habit. He chases the boy away (Petit Gervais) but soon after, he repents, and decides to follow the bishop's advice. He searches the city for the child whose money he accidentally stole. At the same time, his theft is reported to the authorities, who now look for him as a repeat offender. If Valjean is caught, he will be forced to spend the rest of his life in prison, so he hides from the police.

Six years pass and Valjean, having assumed the pseudonym Monsieur Madeleine to avoid capture, has become a wealthy factory owner and is appointed mayor of his adopted town of Montreuil-sur-Mermarker. While walking down the street one day, he sees a man named Fauchelevent pinned down under his cart, caught by the wheels. When no one volunteers to lift the cart, he decides to rescue Fauchelevent himself. He crawls underneath the cart and manages to lift it, freeing him. The town's police inspector Javert, who was an adjutant guard at the Bagne of Toulon during Valjean's imprisonment, becomes suspicious of the mayor after witnessing his heroics. He knows the ex-convict Jean Valjean is also capable of such strength.

Sometime later, Valjean meets Fantine. Years earlier in Parismarker, she was very much in love with a man named Félix Tholomyès, who also fathered their daughter Cosette. His friends Listolier, Fameuil and Blachevelle were also paired with Fantine’s friends Dahlia, Zéphine and Favourite. They later abandon the women as a joke, leaving Fantine to care for Cosette by herself. When Fantine arrives at Montfermeil, she leaves Cosette to live with the Thénardiers, a corrupt innkeeper and his selfish, cruel wife. Fantine is unaware that they abuse her daughter and use her as forced labor for their inn, and continues to try to pay their growing, extortionate demands for her upkeep. She is later fired from her job at his factory due to the discovery of her illegitimate daughter and had been forced to resort to prostitution to pay for her daughter's board and expenses. Fantine is also slowly dying from an unnamed disease (probably tuberculosis). While roaming the streets, a dandy named Bamatabois harasses Fantine and puts snow down her back. She retaliates by attacking him. Javert sees this and arrests Fantine. She begs to be let go so she can provide for her daughter, but nonetheless Javert sentences her to six months in prison. Valjean then intervenes and orders Javert to release her. Javert strongly refuses but Valjean still persists and orders him dismissed. Valjean, seeing in Fantine similarities to his former life of hardship and pain, promises her that he will bring Cosette to her. He takes her to a hospital.

Later, Javert comes to see Valjean again. Javert admits he had accused him of being Jean Valjean to the Parisian authorities after Fantine was freed. However, he tells Valjean that he no longer suspects him because the authorities have announced that another man has been identified as the real Jean Valjean after being arrested and having noticeable similarities. His trial is set the next day. At first, Valjean is torn whether to reveal himself, but decides to do so to save the innocent man. He goes to the trial and reveals his true identity. He then returns to Montreuil-sur-Mer to see Fantine, followed by Javert, who confronts him. After grabbing Valjean, Javert reveals Valjean’s true identity to Fantine. Shocked, and with the severity of her illness, she falls back in her bed and dies. Valjean goes to Fantine, speaks to her in an inaudible whisper and kisses her hand. He then leaves with Javert.

Volume II – Cosette

Valjean manages to escape, only to be recaptured and sentenced to the galleys. While being sent to Toulon, a military port, Valjean saves a sailor about to fall from the ship's rigging. The crowd begins to call, "This man must be pardoned!" but Valjean fakes a slip and falls into the ocean to escape, relying on the belief that he has drowned.

Valjean arrives at Montfermeil on Christmas Eve. He finds Cosette fetching water in the woods alone and walks with her to the inn. After ordering a meal, he observes the Thénardiers’ abusive treatment of her. He also witnesses their pampered daughters Éponine and Azelma treating Cosette badly as well when they tell on her to their mother for holding their abandoned doll. Upon seeing this, Valjean goes out and returns a moment later holding an expensive new doll. He offers it to Cosette. At first she is unable to contemplate that the doll really is for her, but then happily takes it. This results in Mme. Thénardier becoming furious at Valjean, while M. Thénardier dismisses it, informing her that he can do as he wishes as long as he pays them. It also causes Éponine and Azelma to become envious of Cosette.

The next morning on Christmas Day, Valjean pays off the Thénardiers to obtain Cosette, and flees with her to Paris. Later, Javert finds Valjean’s new lodgings at Gorbeau House.

Valjean takes Cosette and they try to escape Javert. They soon successfully find shelter in the Petit-Picpus convent with the help of Fauchelevent, the man whom Valjean rescued and who is a gardener for the convent. Valjean also becomes a gardener and Cosette becomes a student.

Volume III – Marius

Eight years later, the Friends of the ABC, led by Enjolras, are preparing an anti-Orléanist revolution on the eve of the Paris uprising on June 5–6, 1832, following the death of General Lamarque, the only French leader who had sympathy towards the working class. They are also joined by the poor, including the Thénardiers' eldest son Gavroche, who is a street urchin.

One of the students, Marius Pontmercy, has become alienated from his family (especially his grandfather M. Gillenormand) because of his liberal views. After the death of his father Colonel Georges Pontmercy, Marius discovers a note from him instructing his son to provide help to a sergeant named Thénardier who saved Pontmercy's his life at Waterloomarker -- in reality M. Thénardier was looting corpses and only saved Pontmercy's life by accident; he had called himself a sergeant under Napoleon to avoid exposing himself as a robber. At the Luxembourg Gardensmarker, Marius falls in love with the now grown and beautiful Cosette. The Thénardiers have also moved to Paris and now live in poverty after losing their inn. They live under the surname "Jondrette" at Gorbeau House (coincidentally, the same building Valjean and Cosette briefly lived in after leaving the Thénardiers' inn.) Marius lives there as well, next door to the Thénardiers.

Éponine, now ragged and emaciated, visits Marius at his apartment to beg for money. To impress him, she tries to prove her literacy by reading aloud from a book and by writing "The Cops Are Here" on a sheet of paper. Marius pities her and gives her some money. After Éponine leaves, Marius observes the "Jondrettes" in their apartment through a crack in the wall. A philanthropist and his daughter visit them—actually Valjean and Cosette. Marius immediately recognizes Cosette. After they leave, Marius asks Éponine to retrieve her address for him. Éponine, who is in love with Marius herself, reluctantly agrees to do so. The Thénardiers have also recognized Valjean and Cosette, and vow their revenge. M. Thénardier enlists the aid of the Patron-Minette, a well-known and very feared gang of murderers and robbers.

Marius overhears M. Thénardier's plan and goes to Javert to report the crime. He then goes back home and waits for Javert and the police to arrive. When Valjean returns with rent money, M. Thénardier, with Patron-Minette, ambushes him and he reveals his true identity to Valjean. Marius recognizes M. Thénardier as the man who "saved" his father's life at Waterloo and is caught in a dilemma. He tries to find a way to save Valjean while not betraying M. Thénardier. He sees the scrap of paper that Éponine earlier wrote on and throws it into the Thénardiers’ apartment through the crack. M. Thénardier reads it and thinks Éponine threw it inside. He, Mme. Thénardier and Patron-Minette try to escape, only to be stopped by Javert. He arrests all the Thénardiers and Patron-Minette (except Claquesous, who escapes during his transportation to prison, Montparnasse, who stops to run off with Éponine instead of joining in on the robbery, and Gavroche, who was not present and does not participate in his family's crimes). Valjean manages to escape the scene before Javert sees him.

Volume IV – St. Denis

After Éponine’s release from prison, she finds Marius and sadly tells him that she found Cosette’s address. She leads him to Valjean and Cosette's house at Rue Plumet, and Marius watches the house for a few days. He and Cosette then finally meet and declare their love for one another. M. Thénardier, Patron-Minette and Brujon manage to escape from prison with the aid of Gavroche. One night, during one of Marius’ visits with Cosette, the six men attempt to raid Valjean and Cosette's house. However, Éponine, who was sitting by the gates of the house, threatens to scream and awaken the whole neighborhood if the thieves do not leave. Hearing this, they reluctantly retire. Meanwhile, Cosette informs Marius that she and Valjean will be leaving for Englandmarker in a week’s time, which greatly troubles the pair.

The next day, Valjean is sitting in the Champ de Marsmarker. He is feeling troubled due to seeing M. Thénardier in the neighborhood several times. Unexpectedly, a note lands in his lap, which says "MOVE OUT." He sees a figure running away in the dim light. He goes back to his house tells Cosette they will be staying at their other house at Rue de l'Homme Arme and reconfirms with her about moving to England. Marius tries to get permission from M. Gillenormand to marry Cosette. His grandfather seems stern and angry, but has been longing for Marius' return. When tempers flare, he refuses, telling Marius to make Cosette his mistress instead. Insulted, Marius leaves. The following day, the students revolt and erect barricades in the narrow streets of Paris. Gavroche spots Javert and informs Enjolras that Javert is a spy. When Enjolras confronts him of this, he admits his identity and his orders to spy on the students. Enjolras and the other students tie him up to a pole in the Corinth restaurant. Later that evening, Marius goes back to Valjean and Cosette’s house at Rue Plumet, but finds the house no longer occupied. He then hears a voice telling him that his friends are waiting for him at the barricade. Distraught over Cosette gone, he heeds the voice and goes.

While Marius fights at the barricade, a soldier makes it in and aims at Marius. However, a man steps between them and puts his hand and body in front of the musket. The soldier fires, fatally shooting the man. The man then calls Marius by his name. Marius, and the reader, discover that it is actually Éponine, dressed in men's clothes. Dying, she confesses that it was she who told him to go to the barricade, in hoping that the two would die together. The author also states to the reader that it was also Éponine who anonymously threw the note to Valjean. Éponine gives Marius a letter which is addressed to him. It is written by Cosette, which she also confesses to obtaining a day earlier. After Éponine dies, Marius reads Cosette's letter and writes a farewell letter to her. It is given to Valjean by Gavroche. Valjean, learning that Cosette's lover is fighting, is at first relieved, but an hour later, he puts on a National Guard uniform, arms himself with a gun and ammunition, and leaves his home.

Volume V – Jean Valjean

Valjean arrives at the barricade and immediately saves a man's life, though he is still not certain if he wants to protect Marius or to kill him. Marius recognizes Valjean upon seeing him. Enjolras announces that they are almost out of cartridges. Overhearing this, Gavroche goes to the other side of the barricade to collect more from the dead National Guardsmen. While doing so, he is shot and killed by the soldiers.

Later, Valjean saves Javert from being killed by the students. He volunteers to execute Javert himself, and Enjolras grants permission. Valjean takes Javert out of sight, and then shoots into the air while letting him go. As the barricade falls, Valjean carries off the injured and unconscious Marius. All the other students, including Enjolras, are killed. Valjean escapes through the sewers, carrying Marius' body on his shoulders. At the exit, he runs into Javert, whom he persuades to give him time to return Marius to his family. Javert grants this request. After leaving Marius at M. Gillenormand’s house, Valjean makes another request that he be permitted to go home momentarily, which Javert also allows. They arrive at Rue de l'Homme Arme and Javert informs Valjean that he will wait for him. As Valjean walks upstairs, he looks out the landing window and finds Javert gone. Javert is walking down the street alone, realizing that he is caught between his strict belief in the law and the mercy Valjean has shown him. He feels he can no longer give Valjean up to the authorities. Unable to cope with this dilemma, Javert commits suicide by throwing himself into the Seinemarker.

Marius slowly recovers from his injuries and he Cosette are soon married.

Meanwhile, M. Thénardier and his younger daughter Azelma are attending the Mardi Gras as "masks." M. Thénardier spots Valjean among the wedding party heading the opposite direction and bids Azelma to follow them. After the wedding, Valjean confesses to Marius that he is an ex-convict. Marius is horrified by the revelation. Convinced that Valjean is of poor moral character, he steers Cosette away from him. Valjean loses the will to live and takes to his bed.

Later, M. Thénardier approaches Marius in order to blackmail him with what he knows of Valjean, but, in doing so, he inadvertently reveals all of the good Valjean has done, including his saving Marius' life on the barricades. Stunned by these revelations, Marius confronts M. Thénardier with his crimes and offers him an immense amount of money if he departs and promises never to return. M. Thénardier accepts the offer, and he and Azelma travel to America where he becomes a slave trader.

As Marius and Cosette rush to Valjean's house, he informs her that Valjean saved his life at the barricade. They arrive to see him, but the great man is dying. In his final moments, he realizes happiness with his adopted daughter and son-in-law by his side. He also reveals Cosette's past to her as well as her mother's name. Joined with them in love, he dies.



  • Jean Valjean (a.k.a. Monsieur Madeleine, a.k.a. Ultime Fauchelevent, a.k.a. Monsieur Leblanc, a.k.a. Urbain Fabre, a.k.a. 24601 a.k.a. 9430) — Convicted for stealing a loaf of bread, he is paroled from prison nineteen years later. Rejected by society for being a former convict, Bishop Myriel turns his life around. He assumes a new identity to pursue an honest life, becoming a factory owner and a mayor. He adopts and raises Fantine's daughter Cosette, saves Marius from the barricade, and dies at an old age.
  • Javert — An obsessive police inspector who continuously hunts, tracks down, and loses Valjean. He goes undercover behind the barricade, but is discovered and unmasked. Valjean has the chance to kill Javert, but lets him go. Later Javert allows Valjean to escape. For the first time, Javert is in a situation in which he knows that the lawful course is immoral. His inner conflict leads him to take his own life by jumping into the River Seinemarker.
  • Bishop Myriel, the bishop of Digne (full name Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel, a.k.a. Monseigneur Bienvenu) — A kindly old priest who is promoted to bishop by a chance encounter with Napoleon. He convinces Valjean to change his ways after Valjean steals some silver from him and saves Valjean from being arrested.
  • Fantine — A Parisian grisette abandoned with a small child with her lover Félix Tholomyès. Fantine leaves her daughter Cosette in the care of the Thénardiers, innkeepers in a village called Montfermeil. Unfortunately, Mme. Thénardier spoils her own daughters and abuses Cosette. Fantine finds work at Monsieur Madeleine's factory, but is fired by a female supervisor who discovers that she is an unwed mother, as Fantine, being illiterate, had other people write her letters to the Thénardiers. To meet repeated demands for money from the Thénardiers, she sells her hair, then her two front teeth, and finally turns to prostitution. Valjean learns of her plight when Javert arrests her for attacking a man who called her insulting names and hurled snow at her back. She dies of a disease that may be tuberculosis before Valjean is able to reunite her with Cosette.
  • Cosette (a.k.a. Euphrasie, a.k.a. The Lark, a.k.a Ursula) — The illegitimate daughter of Fantine and Tholomyès. From approximately the age of three to the age of eight, she is beaten and forced to be a drudge by the Thénardiers. After Fantine dies, Valjean ransoms her from the Thénardiers and she becomes his adopted daughter. She is educated by nuns in a convent in Paris. She later grows up to become very beautiful. She falls in love with Marius Pontmercy, and marries him at the end of the novel.
  • M. & Mme. Thénardier (a.k.a. the Jondrettes, a.k.a. M. Fabantou, a.k.a. M. Thénard) — A corrupt innkeeper and his wife. They have five children: two daughters (Éponine and Azelma) and three sons (Gavroche and two unnamed younger sons). They take in Cosette in her early years, mistreating and abusing her. They also write fabricated letters about Cosette to Fantine in order to extort money from her. They end up losing the inn due to bankruptcy and moving to Paris, living as the Jondrettes. M. Thénardier is associated with an infamous criminal gang called the Patron-Minette, but contrary to common belief he is not their head, both sides operate independently. The Thénardier family also live next door to Marius, who recognizes M. Thénardier as the man who "tended to" his father at Waterloo. They are arrested by Javert after Marius thwarts their attempts to rob and kill Valjean in their apartment. At the end of the novel, Mme. Thénardier has long since died in prison while M. Thénardier and Azelma travel to America where he becomes a slave trader.
  • Marius Pontmercy — A second-generation aristocrat (not recognized as such because it was Napoleon who made Marius' father a noble) who fell out with his royalist grandfather after discovering his father was an officer under Napoleon. He studies law, joins the revolutionary ABC students and later falls in love with Cosette.
  • Enjolras — The leader of the Friends of the ABC in the Paris uprising. A charming and intimidating man with angelic beauty, he is passionately devoted to democracy, equality and justice. Enjolras is a man of principle that believes in a cause – creating a republic, liberating the poor – without any doubts. He and Grantaire are executed by the National Guards after the barricade falls.
  • Éponine — The Thénardiers' elder daughter. As a child, she is pampered and spoiled by her parents, but ends up a street urchin when she reaches adolescence. She participates in her father's crimes and begging schemes to obtain money. She is blindly in love with Marius. At Marius' request, she finds Cosette's address for him and leads him to her. After disguising herself as a boy, she manipulates Marius into going to the barricades, hoping that they will die together. However, she saves Marius' life by reaching out her hand to stop a soldier's bullet heading for Marius; she is mortally wounded as the bullet goes through her hand and back. As she is dying, her final request to Marius is that once she has passed, he will kiss her on the forehead. He fulfills her request not because of romantic feelings on his part, but out of pity for her hard life.
  • Gavroche — The unloved middle child and eldest son of the Thénardiers, younger than his sisters. He lives on his own and is a street urchin. He briefly takes care of his two younger brothers, unaware they are related to him. He takes part in the barricades and is killed while collecting bullets from dead National Guardsmen for the ABC students at the barricade.


  • Mademoiselle Baptistine — Bishop Myriel's sister. She loves and venerates her brother.
  • Madame Magloire — Domestic servant for the Bishop and his sister. She is fearful that he leaves the door open to strangers.
  • Petit Gervais — A small boy who drops a coin. There are two perspectives on Jean Valjean's encounter with him. According to one, Valjean, still a man of criminal mind, places his foot on the coin and refuses to return it to the boy, despite Gervais' protests. When the boy flees the scene and Valjean comes to his senses, remembering what the bishop had done for him, he is horribly ashamed of what he has done and searches for the boy in vain. Another interpretation of this scene is that Jean Valjean was not aware that he was stepping on the coin, and snarls at Petit Gervais, thinking he is just annoying him, but realizes later that the coin was under his foot and feels horrible. Either way, he was uncaring of the boy's pleas.
  • Félix Tholomyès — Fantine’s lover and Cosette’s biological father. A wealthy student, he cares more about his own welfare than for his responsibilities. He does not think much of his relationship with Fantine, considering it as "a passing affair." After impregnating Fantine, he abandons her as a joke. Hugo then concludes Tholomyès’ involvement in the story by saying that "twenty years later, under King Louis Philippe, he was a fat provincial attorney, rich and influential, a wise elector and rigid juryman; always, however, a man of pleasure."
  • Fauchelevent — Valjean saves Fauchelevent’s life when Valjean lifts a carriage underneath which he is caught. Fauchelevent later will return the favor by providing sanctuary for Valjean and Cosette at a convent, and by providing his name for Valjean's use.
  • Bamatabois — An idler who harasses Fantine and puts snow down her back. He is also one of the jurors at Champmathieu’s trial.
  • Champmathieu — A vagabond who is mistakenly accused of being Valjean.
  • Brevet — An ex-convict from Toulon who knew Valjean there. In 1823, he is serving time in the prison in Arras for an unknown crime. He is the first to claim that Champmathieu is really Valjean. Used to wear knitted, checkered suspenders.
  • Chenildieu — A lifer from Toulon. He and Valjean were chain mates for five years. He once tried to remove the lifer's brand TFP (travaux forcés à perpetuité, forced labor for life) by putting his shoulder on a chafing dish full of embers. He is described as a small, wiry but energetic man.
  • Cochepaille — Another lifer from Toulon. He used to be a shepherd from the Pyrenees who became a smuggler. He is described as stupid and has a tattoo on his arm, March 1, 1815.
  • Sister Simplice — A nun who cares for Fantine on her sickbed. She lies to Javert to protect Valjean, despite her reputation for never having told a lie in her life.
  • Mother Innocente (a.k.a. Marguerite de Blemeur) — The prioress of the Petit-Picpus convent.
  • Toussaint — Valjean and Cosette's servant in Paris. She has a slight stutter.
  • Monsieur Gillenormand — Marius' grandfather. A Monarchist, he disagrees sharply with Marius on political issues, and they have several arguments. He attempts to keep Marius from being influenced by his father, an officer in Napoleon's army. While in perpetual conflict over ideas, he does illustrate his love for his grandson.
  • Mademoiselle Gillenormand — M. Gillenormand's surviving daughter, she lives with her father. Her half-sister (M. Gillenormand's daughter from another marriage), deceased, was Marius' mother.
  • Colonel Georges Pontmercy — Marius' father, and an officer in Napoleon's army. Wounded at Waterloo, Pontmercy erroneously believes M. Thénardier saved his life. He tells Marius of this great debt. He loves Marius with his very heart, and even spies on him when M. Gillenormand does not allow him to visit.
  • Ma'am Bougon (real name Madame Burgon) — Housekeeper of Gorbeau House.
  • Mabeuf — An elderly churchwarden. He was friends with Colonel Pontmercy, and then befriends Marius after Colonel Pontmercy's death. He helps Marius realize the true identity and intentions of his father. He has a great love for plants and books, but ends up having to sell his books due to descending into poverty. Feeling that all hope is lost, he joins the students in the insurrection. He is shot and killed at the top of the barricades when raising their flag.
  • Magnon — Former servant of M. Gillenormand and friend of the Thénardiers. She had been receiving child support payments from M. Gillenormand for her two illegitimate sons, who she claimed were fathered by him. When her sons died in an epidemic, she had them replaced with the Thénardiers' two youngest sons so that she could protect her income. The Thénardiers get a portion of the payments. She is soon arrested due to being allegedly involved in the Gorbeau Robbery.
  • Two little brothers — The two unnamed youngest sons of the Thénardiers. The Thénardiers send their sons to Magnon to replace her own two sons who died of illness. When Magnon is arrested, a cobbler gives the boys a note written by Magnon with an address to go to. Unfortunately, it is torn away from them due to a strong wind. Unable to find it, they end up living on the streets. They soon run into their brother Gavroche, who gives them temporary care and support. The two boys and Gavroche are unaware they are related. Immediately after Gavroche's death at the barricade, the two boys are last seen at the Luxembourg Gardens retrieving and eating discarded bread from a fountain. Their fates are left unknown.
  • Azelma — The younger daughter of the Thénardiers. Along with her sister Éponine, she is spoiled as a child, and suffers the same ragged and impoverished fate with her family when she is older. She also takes part in her father’s crimes. Unlike her sister, Azelma is dependent and faint-hearted. She also does not show any defiance toward her father (this is evident when, before Valjean and Cosette’s charitable visit, he orders her to punch out a window pane in their apartment in order to look poorer. Although hesitant, she does so, resulting in cutting her hand). After the failed robbery of Valjean, she is not seen again until Marius and Cosette’s wedding day, when she and her father are dressed up as "masks" for the Mardi Gras. At the end of the novel, Azelma is the only known Thénardier child who does not die and travels with her father to America.
  • Patron-Minette — A quartet of bandits who assist in the Thénardiers' ambush of Valjean at Gorbeau House and the attempted robbery at the Rue Plumet. The gang consists of Montparnasse, Claquesous, Babet, and Gueulemer. Claquesous, who escaped from the carriage transporting him to prison after the Gorbeau Robbery, joins the revolution under the guise of "Le Cabuc" and is executed by Enjolras for firing on civilians.
  • Brujon — A robber and criminal. He participates in crimes with M. Thénardier and the Patron-Minette gang (such as the Gorbeau Robbery and the attempted robbery at the Rue Plumet). The author describes Brujon as being "a sprightly young fellow, very cunning and very adroit, with a flurried and plaintive appearance."
  • Friends of the ABC — A group of revolutionary students. They fight and die in the insurrection of the Paris uprising on June 5th and 6th, 1832. Led by Enjolras, its other principal members are Courfeyrac, Combeferre, Jean Prouvaire, Feuilly, Bahorel, Laigle (nicknamed Bossuet, sometimes also written L'Aigle, Lesgle, Lègle or Lesgles), Joly, and Grantaire.
  • Grantaire — Alcoholic student who, unlike the other revolutionaries, does not strongly believe in the cause of the ABC Society, but associates with them because he admires, loves and venerates Enjolras. In the novel their relationship is compared to that of Orestes and his pederastic companion Pylades. Grantaire is executed alongside Enjolras.

Critical reception

The first two volumes of Les Misérables were published on April 3, 1862, heralded by a massive advertising campaign; the remainder of the novel appeared on 15 May 1862. At the time, Victor Hugo enjoyed a reputation as one of France's foremost poets, and the appearance of the novel was a highly anticipated event. Critical reactions were wide-ranging and often negative; some critics found the subject matter immoral, others complained of its excessive sentimentality, and still others were disquieted by its apparent sympathy with the revolutionaries. The Goncourt brothers expressed their great dissatisfaction, judging the novel artificial and disappointing. Flaubert could find within it "neither truth nor greatness." French critic Charles Baudelaire reviewed the work glowingly in newspapers, but in private castigated it as "tasteless and inept."

The book was a great commercial success. The shortest correspondence in history is between Hugo and his publisher Hurst & Blackett in 1862. It is said Hugo was on vacation when Les Misérables (which is over 1200 pages) was published. He telegraphed the single-character message "?" to his publisher, who replied with a single "!". First translated into foreign languages (including Italian, Greek and Portuguese) the same year it originally appeared, it proved popular not only in France, but across Europe. It has been a popular book ever since it was published, and was a great favorite among the Confederate soldiers of the American Civil War, who called it "Lee's Miserables" (a reference to their deteriorating conditions under General Robert E. Lee). Its popularity continues to this day, and it is viewed by many as one of the most important novels written.

English translations

  • Charles E. Wilbour. New York: Carleton Publishing Company. June 1862. The first American translation, published only months after the French edition of the novel was released. Also, New York: George Routledge and Sons. 1879.
  • Lascelles Wraxall. London: Hurst and Blackett. October 1862. The first British translation.
  • Translator unknown. Richmond, Virginia. 1863. Published by West and Johnston publishers.
  • Isabel F. Hapgood. Published 1887, this translation is available at Project Gutenberg.
  • Norman Denny. Folio Press, 1976. A modern British translation subsequently published in paperback by Penguin Books, ISBN 0-140-44430-0. In the very strictest sense this edition is not quite an unabridged translation: Norman Denny explains in his introduction that he moved two of the novel's longer digressive passages into annexes, and that he also made some minor "abridgements" in the text.
  • Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee. Signet Classics. March 3, 1987. An unabridged edition based on the Wilbour translation with modernization of language. Paperback ISBN 0-451-52526-4
  • Julie Rose. 2007. Vintage Classics, July 3, 2008. The first new complete translation for over a decade. Julie Rose lives in Sydney and is the translator of more than a dozen works, including a well-received version of Racine's Phèdre as well as works by Paul Virilio, Jacques Rancière, Chantal Thomas, and many others. This new translation published by Vintage Classics includes a detailed biographical sketch of Victor Hugo’s life, a chronology and notes. ISBN 9780099511137


Film and television


  • 1977, Cosette, Soviet animation
  • 1979, Jean Valjean Monogatari, directed by Takashi Kuoka for Toei Animation and written by Masaki Tsuji, Japanese animation
  • 1988, by Emerald City Productions
  • 1992, a 26 episode French animated TV series by Studio Animage, AB Productions and Pixibox
  • 2007, Les Misérables: Shōjo Cosette, a 52 episode Japanese animated TV series by Nippon Animation


  • 1937, written, produced, and directed by Orson Welles
  • 1952, directed by Earl Ebi
  • 1982, directed by Hyman Brown
  • 2001, directed by Sally Avens
  • 2002, directed by Philip Glassborow


  • 2007, Les Misérables: School Edition, copyrighted

  • 2008, Les Misérables: Le Capitole de Québec version, directed by Frédéric Dubois


  • In 1863, one year after the novel was published, Charles Victor Hugo (Hugo's son) and Paul Meurice first adapted the novel for theatre.

  • In 1906, Broadway actor Wilton Lackaye wrote an adaption in five acts, titled The Law and the Man, though primarily with the interest of creating himself a strong role (he would play Valjean).

  • An outdoor adaptation was performed in the summer at the Citadelle in Francemarker.

  • There is a play adaptation by Tim Kelly.

  • There is a play adaptation by Spiritual Twist Productions. This play highlights more of the religious aspect from the novel. It was last performed in April 2005 at the Clayton Center.


  • An adventure game has been released by Chris Tolworthy, intended as a direct adaptation of the book.

  • There is a free downloadable amateur 2D fighting game based on the musical. The game is called ArmJoe, which is created by Takase. The name is a pun on the novel's Japanese title Aa Mujou (ああ無情). The game incorporates the major characters as they appear in the musical, namely Jean Valjean, Enjolras, Marius, Cosette, Éponine, Thénardier, and Javert — as well as a policeman, a robotic clone of Valjean called RoboJean, an embodiment of Judgement, and a rabbit named Ponpon.

Unofficial sequels

  • In July 1995, Laura Kalpakian's novel Cosette: The Sequel To Les Misérables was released. The novel is published by HarperCollins. Tom De Haven from Entertainment Weekly called the novel "dull and overwrought and corny," and gave it a C- grading.

  • In 2001, François Cérésa released his own two sequels to the novel: Cosette or the Time of Illusions and the follow-up Marius or The Fugitive. Both novels are published by Plon. Hugo's descendants, including his great-great-grandson Pierre Hugo, wanted the novels banned, considering that they breach the moral rights of the author and betrays the "respect of the integrity" and "spirit" of Hugo's original novel to make money. Cérésa had even retconned a key scene in the original novel, bringing back the character Inspector Javert and changed him to be a hero. In 2007, the Cour de Cassation ruled in favor of Cérésa and Plon.


  • 120 years earlier, Italian composer Giacomo Puccini attempted to adapt the book as an opera, but gave up on the project, declaring it impossible.

  • Valjean's 19-year imprisonment coincides, almost exactly, with the rise and fall of Napoleon Bonaparte.

  • The book is also known for having one of the longest sentences in literature, with 823 words.

See also


External links

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