The Historical Novel “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo

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Les Miserables is a historical novel that was written by French novelist Victor Hugo in 1862. The novel talks about a life of a person named Jean Valjean, who had been arrested for stealing a loaf of bread from his sister. When Valjean was taken to court, he was sentenced to five years in prison, but he was released after nineteen years, due to attempts he had tried to escape prison (Mardewi et al., 2021). When Valjean was released from prison, he was hosted by a bishop known as Myriel. Instead of reforming, Valjean steals silverware and is arrested, only to be defended by the same bishop on the promise that he would change to become an honest man. Later on, Valjean masks his identity and works hard to become a factory owner and later the town’s mayor.

The Character’s Perspective and Influence on Their Behavior and Choices

The factory workers who worked at Valjean’s factory were self-centered when it came to the relationship between them and Fantine. For example, Madame Victurnien, who was a widow of an ex-monk, thought Fantine was considering herself better than others (Mardewi et al., 2021). As a result, the factory female workers conspired against Fantine, which led to her dismissal from the factory (Lim & An, 2019). Fantine had a daughter named Cossette, who had been born out of wedlock. During the 19th century, women who had children outside wedlock were perceived to be immoral. The perceptions were based on jealousy of Fantine, who seemed to be more outgoing than the other factory workers.

Fantine’s perspective on the lifestyle she wanted to have made her make decisions that played a key role in the novel’s plot. After parting ways with her lover Felix Tholomyes, she decided to start working to help her daughter grow without hardships. Thus, being a responsible mother motivated her to work hard. Even though she was fired, she still had the motivation and vigor to raise her daughter Cossette (Lim & An, 2019). Due to the consequences of her decision, she is diagnosed with an unspecific ailment that claims her life later.

Understanding of Each Other’s Perspective and Behavioral Influence

Valjean understood Fantine’s perspective that being a single mother was not easy. When Fantine was fired from the factory, Valjean felt guilty and later defended Fantine when she was arrested after striking Bamatabois who had harassed her in the streets. Valjean’s decision to reinstate Fantine was influenced by the perspective that it was her responsibility for her daughter’s welfare (Lim & An, 2019). The perceptions that female staff from the working factory had about Fantine made her falsely accused of many things.

Due to the notion that the immortality of a lady was a sensitive issue, the boss, Valjean himself, was influenced by that perception to fire Fantine. According to the novel’s description of Fantine, she was prettier than the other ladies. Thus, she might have utilized the perspective of beauty she had to start selling her body at night. Understanding that Fantine had blonde hair and was more beautiful than the other women made them seek other alternatives to get her into tribulations (Mardewi et al., 2021). The ladies thought she was notably getting the interest of the foreman who was supervising them. That perspective determined their choice to conspire against her.

Perception Checking

If the factory workers had conducted a perception check, it would have made a difference. There would be no hatred and egocentric moves in the factory hence, Fantine would not have been fired. That means Valjean would not have been reported to French authorities since Javert had been probed to do so after he found Valjean defending Fantine’s arrest (Mardewi et al., 2021). The lifestyle that Fantine started when she was not at the factory led her to strike a man, resulting in her arrest. If she was still working at the company, such an incident could not have happened, hence, Valjean’s criminal background would not have been discovered. Due to a lack of perception checking, the women made a wrong decision against Fantine, which later affected Valjean when he was trying to save Cossette and her mother. Generally, there would be a significant difference as peace may have prevailed not only for Valjean but also for other people who worked closely with him.

Additionally, if the mayor had done perception checking on what made his foreman fire Fantine, perhaps her dismissal could not have happened. The city’s authorities did not perform a thorough check on who Monsieur Madeleine was, hence contributing to Valjean’s radical ideas on contemporary issues. To summarize, perception checking was a vital exercise that could have changed most of the incidents in the story to favor the victims. Thus, the theme of crime is seen through Valjean’s theft mentions. Furthermore, the theme of forgiveness is seen when Fantine and the bishop forgive Valjean. The theme of grace is significant in Valjean’s successful attempts to own a factory and become an administrator in Montreuil-sur-Mer town (Mardewi et al., 2021). The story is important as it helps one realize the importance of decision-making and relationship with people.


Lim, J., & An, S. (2019). The Study of forgiveness as the healing method of anger and broken hearts in the film Les Misérables. Theology and Praxis, 63(5), 359-387. Web.

Mardewi, T., Larashandy, H., Indriyani, F., & Dewi, N. (2021). The leadership of Jean Valjean in Les Miserable. English Education: Journal of English Teaching and Research, 6(1), 87-100.