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Les Misérables is set in the Parisian underworld. The protagonist, Jean Valjean, is sentenced to prison for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. After his release, Valjean plans to rob Monseigneur Myriel, a saintlike bishop, but cancels his plan. However, he forfeits his parole by committing a minor crime, and for this crime Valjean is haunted by the police inspector Javert. Valjean eventually reforms and becomes under the name of M. Madeleine a successful businessman, benefactor, and mayor of a northern town. To save an innocent man, Valjean gives himself up and is imprisoned in Toulon. He escapes and adopts Cosette, an illegitimate child of a poor woman, Fantine. Cosette grows up and falls in love with Marius, who is wounded during a revolutionary fight. Valjean rescues Marius by means of a flight through the sewers of Paris. Cosette and Marius marry and Valjean reveals his past. The story has been filmed several times and made into a musical by the composer Claude-Michel Schönberg and the librettist Alain Boublil, opening in 1980 in Paris. The English version was realised in 1985 and the Broadway version followed two years later.
This is the story of Jean Valjean, a convict freshly out of prison after serving nineteen years hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread. The original sentence was five years; unsuccessful escape attempts and the resulting additional time pushed it to a grand total of nineteen years. He believed that his sentence was grossly out of proportion to his crime, and by the time of his release he had built up a tremendous bitterness toward society. This bitterness was only intensified by the rejection and scorn which he experienced in attempting to find work and lodging immediately after his release; he was determined to have his revenge against society and against God in some form or fashion. But an unthinkable act of mercy and generosity by a saintly small-town bishop drastically alters the trajectory of Valjean’s life. From that point on, Valjean determines to live as an honest man, and through the rest of the story he struggles–quite imperfectly at times–to become an honest man. Javert, an extremely zealous police chief who once supervised Valjean’s work gang, is never far behind, and is determined to have Valjean back in prison for breaking parole. Monsieur and Madame Thenardier, the owners of an inn in Montfermeil, are also pursuing Valjean for their own corrupt and dishonest ends. The story takes us from one end of France to the other, from the very top of Parisian society to the very bottom, from Waterloo to the July Revolution of 1830 and the student-led uprising of 1832 which serves as the story’s climax.--Submitted by Joseph Derbes
The story of Les Miserables is the story of the man of law and the man of grace. Both men come from poverty. One becomes a convict the other a prison guard and then a police commissioner. Javert the man of law can never accept the grace given to Jean Val Jean the convict, through the kindness of a Bishop, accepts forgiveness. In the character of Javert the poice commissioner I see a reflection of Victor Hugo's own life. He put his faith in a better society for France with better conditions and laws but because of sin, saw the people were no better off and he became disillusioned.This is a wonderful story of how our lives can completely change through the forgiveness and grace of God giving us all another chance but we have to give away our pride and be prepared to become a humble servant of God and some of us maybe most of us are not prepared to do that. As the two year old child will say, "I do it myself".--Submitted by Barbara Sands
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