( ; translated variously
as The Miserable
, The Wretched
, The Poor Ones
, The Victims
) (1862) is a novel by
French author Victor Hugo
and is widely
considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century.
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 Waterloo.
The novel focuses on the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean
and his experience of redemption.
examines the nature of law and grace, and expounds upon the
history of France, architecture of Paris, politics, moral
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
mistaken for the much earlier French
is known to many through its numerous stage
and screen adaptations, such as the stage musical of the same
, sometimes abbreviated "Les Mis
" ( ).
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
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
Volume I – Fantine
starts in 1815, in Digne.
peasant Jean Valjean
has just been
released from imprisonment in the Bagne
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 Digne, 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
) 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.
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
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
earlier in Paris, she was
very much in love with a man named Félix Tholomyès, who also fathered
their daughter Cosette.
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
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
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
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
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
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
, 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
Waterloo -- 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
Gardens, Marius falls in love with the now grown and
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
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
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 England in a week’s
time, which greatly troubles the pair.
day, Valjean is sitting in the Champ de Mars.
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
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.
cope with this dilemma, Javert commits suicide by throwing himself
into the Seine.
Marius slowly recovers from his injuries and he Cosette are soon
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 Seine.
- 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
- 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
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Bamatabois — An idler who harasses Fantine and
puts snow down her back. He is also one of the jurors at
- 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,
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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.
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 1907, On the barricade, directed Alice Guy Blaché, early adaptation of
a part of the novel
- 1907, Le Chemineau
- 1909, directed
by J. Stuart Blackton
- 1909, The Bishop's Candlesticks, directed by Edwin S. Porter
- 1911, directed by Albert
- 1913, directed again by Albert
- 1913, The Bishop's Candlesticks, directed Herbert Brenon, adaptation of the second book
of the first volume
- 1917, directed by Frank Lloyd
- 1922, director unknown
- 1923, Aa Mujou, directed by Kiyohiko Ushihara and
Yoshinobu Ikeda, Japanese film, production cancelled after two of
- 1925, directed
by Henri Fescourt
- 1929, The Bishop's Candlesticks, directed by Norman
McKinnell, first sound film adaptation
- 1929, Aa Mujou, directed by Seika Shiba, Japanese
- 1931, Jean Valjean, directed by Tomu Uchida, Japanese film
- 1934, directed
by Raymond Bernard
- 1935, directed
by Richard Boleslawski
- 1937, Gavrosh, directed by Tatyana
Lukashevich, Soviet film
- 1938, Kyojinden, directed by Mansaku Itami, Japanese film
- 1943, Los Miserables, directed by Renando A. Rovero,
- 1944, El Boassa, directed by
Kamal Selim, Egyptian film
I Miserabili, directed by
- 1949, Les Nouveaux Misérables, directed by Henri Verneuil
- 1950, Re mizeraburu: Kami to Akuma, directed by
Daisuke Ito (English title: Gods and Demons)
- 1950, Ezai Padum Pado, dirceted by K. Ramnoth, Indian
- 1952, directed
by Lewis Milestone
- 1952, I miserabili,
re-release of the 1947-film
- 1955, Kundan, directed by Sohrab Modi, Indian Hindi film
- 1958, directed
by Jean-Paul Le Chanois, starring Jean
- 1958, Os Miseráveis, directed by Dionísio Azevedo,
- 1961, Jean Valjean, Korean film by Seung-ha Jo
- 1961, Cosette, directed by Alain Boudet on Claude
Santelli’s program Le Théâtre de la jeunesse
- 1962, Gavroche, directed by Alain Boudet on Le Théâtre
de la jeunesse
- 1963, Jean Valjean, directed by Alain Boudet on Le
Théâtre de la jeunesse
- 1967, TV miniseries directed by Alan
Bridges, starring: Frank Finlay
(Jean Valjean), Anthony Bate (Javert),
Alan Rowe (Thénardier), Judy Parfitt
(Mme. Thénardier), Michele Dotrice
(Fantine), Lesley Roach (Cosette), Elizabeth Counsell (Éponine),
Vivian Mackerall (Marius), Derek Lamden (Gavroche), Cavan Kendall
(Enjolras), Finlay Currie (Bishop of
- 1967, Os Miseráveis, Brazilian film
- 1967, Sefiller, Turkish film
- 1972, French TV miniseries directed by Marcel Bluwal, starring: Georges Géret (Jean Valjean), Bernard Fresson (Javert), Nicole Jamet
(Cosette), François Marthouret (Marius), Alain Mottet (Thénardier),
Micha Bayard (Mme. Thénardier), Hermine Karagheuz (Éponine),
Anne-Marie Coffinet (Fantine), Jean-Luc Boutté (Enjolras), Gilles
- 1973, Los Miserables, directed by Antulio Jimnez Pons,
- 1978, UK
telefilm, directed by Glenn Jordan and
starring Anthony Perkins, Richard Jordan, John
Gielgud, Cyril Cusack, and Claude Dauphin
- 1978, Al Boasa, Egyptian adaptation
- 1982, directed
by Robert Hossein
- 1985, TV version of the 1982 film, which is 30 minutes longer
and divided into four parts
- 1995, directed
by Claude Lelouch (a loose,
multi-layered adaptation set in the 20th century starring Jean-Paul Belmondo)
- 1995, Les
Misérables - The Dream Cast in Concert (musical done in
- 1998, directed
by Bille August and starring Liam Neeson, Geoffrey
Rush, Uma Thurman, Hans Matheson, and Claire Danes
- 2000, 6-hour French TV miniseries directed by Josée Dayan and
co-produced by Gérard
Depardieu, starring: Gérard
Depardieu (Jean Valjean), John
Malkovich (Javert), Christian
Clavier (Thénardier), Veronica
Ferres (Mme. Thénardier), Charlotte Gainsbourg (Fantine),
Virginie Ledoyen (Cosette),
Enrico Lo Verso (Marius), Asia Argento (Éponine), Jeanne Moreau (Mother Innocente), Steffen Wink
(Enjolras), Jérôme Hardelay (Gavroche)
- 2000, 3-hour English TV movie version of the 2000 French
- 1977, Cosette, Soviet animation
- 1979, Jean Valjean Monogatari, directed by Takashi
Kuoka for Toei Animation and written
by Masaki Tsuji, Japanese
- 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
- 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
- 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
outdoor adaptation was performed in the summer at the Citadelle in
- 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
- 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
- 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-
- 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
- The book is also known for having one of the longest sentences
in literature, with 823 words.