Les Miserables is a famous French historical novel published in 1862. The book was written by Victor Hugo and is known to be one of the greatest stories of the 19th century. The book confines the tale of an ex-convict Jean Valjean and the girl he adopts with his new identity in a new town. The historical novel depicts some actual historical events in the story too.
The story shows the importance of love and compassion in people. It also indicates betrayal and hatred. The effect of social injustice and the French Revolution in the 19th century is also present throughout the story.
- Jean Valjean: The Protagonist of the story. After being released from French Prison, he finds it difficult to find any jobs back home. People chased him away from villages while he was in jail. Finally, he meets a kind-hearted person named M.Myriel who helps Jean to mask his identity as Madeleine and live as an honest man.
- Fantine: Fantine is a young lady from Montreuil living in Paris. Her lover abandoned her after getting pregnant, and she had no choice but to return to her town. She knew the people would chase her away, too, if they knew she had an illegitimate child. She gave her daughter to the Thénardiers to take care of her in return for money. However, she dies from overworking as the Thénardiers keep demanding more money from her.
- Inspector Javert: Javert is Montreuil's police chief. Throughout the story, he tries to find the real Jean Valjean to arrest him again. In the end, when he realizes Jean lived as an honest man, he lets him go and commits suicide for his obsession and sins.
- Cosette: Cosette is Fantine's daughter. Jean adopts Cosette from the Thénardiers' and they both continue to live in hiding from inspector Javert. Jean becomes protective of Cosette like a real father and ends up losing her for being possessive.
- Marius Pontmercy: Marius is a young guy who is the only grandchild of wealthy grandparents. He lived with his grandfather and fell in love at first sight with Cosette. Cosette also ends up falling in love with Marius, and they both get married.
- Thénardiers: The family ran an inn and agreed to take care of Cosette while Fantine worked. The family was greedy and biased only toward their daughters. They spoiled their daughters with the money but abused Cosette until Jean came and adopted her from them.
- Eponine: One of the Thénardiers' daughters. She loved Marius in secret but couldn't tell him. Eponine joins Marius in the social unrest and uprising. She saves Marius from rifle shots and ends up dying in his arms.
Les Miserables Complete Summary
The story begins with Jean Valjean being released from prison after nineteen years. He was convicted of stealing a loaf of bread and trying to escape prison multiple times. Valjean goes to the town of Digne for a new life, but no one provides him with any shelter. People try to get him out of town for his criminal records. Jean Valjean tries to seek the help of the bishop of Digne named M.Myriel. The kind bishop takes him to his house and helps him. Jean, however, steals the bishop's silverware and gets caught again by the police.
M.Myriel testimonies in favour of Jean and gets him out of the police case. After getting Jean Valjean out, the bishop makes him promise to live as an honest man. Jean promised the bishop and left the town. Valjean hides his real identity and names himself Madeleine. He arrives at the town of Montreuil. His mechanical knowledge and creativity soon make him famous in the city. He helped Montreuil and increased the town's prosperity by inventing the manufacturing machine. The people make him the town mayor, and he owns the factory where the townspeople work.
Fantine, a young lady, returns to her town Montreuil with a child. She used to live in Paris with her lover. She was abandoned after getting pregnant and had no option but to return. She realized if people got to know about her illegitimate child, she would be cast out of the town with her child. Fantine meets the Thénardiers and gives them her daughter to raise in return for money. Fantine starts working in Madeleine's factory to make a living. Soon the other workers find out about her daughter, Cosette, and the factory manager fires her.
The Thénardiers' kept demanding more money from Fantine for Cosette. Seeing no other option, Fantine chooses prostitution to provide for her daughter. However, she soon gets exposed by the Montreuil Police chief named Javert. When Fantine is on her way to be sent to prison, Madeleine bails her out and brings her home. Fantine falls sick and bedridden.
Jean takes care of her and tells Fantine his whole story about changing his identity to Madeleine. Fantine asks Jean if she could see Cosette for the last time as she knows she will not live much longer. Jean agrees and decides to bring Cosette to her mother. On the other hand, the police chief, Javert, discovers Madeleine's real identity as Jean Valjean. He appears at Jean's house to arrest him when Fantine dies in distress without seeing her daughter.
After a few years, Valjean escapes from prison and goes to find Cosette. He discovers that the Thénardiers' abused Cosette throughout the years while spoiling their daughters, Eponine and Azelma. Jean soon pays the family money to get Cosette out of there. Javert was still out to find Jean, who had escaped prison again. Cosette and Jean take help from a Church and start living in a convent. Jean attends school, and Valjean works as a gardener.
One day Cosette was walking in a public park when she met Marius. At first sight, Marius falls in love with Cosette and tries to find out more about her. Marius was a young college student living with his rich grandfather, M. Gillenormand. Marius was always told bad stories about his father and his political views by his grandfather. Although after the death of his father, Marius learned more about him and admired his diplomatic views as a politician. Marius left his grandfather's house angrily and lived as a poor law student in a town.
There Marius meets Eponine, who helps him to find his address, Cosette. Eponine falls in love with Marius but cannot tell him. Marius met Cosette again and confessed his love for her. Cosette, too, fell for Marius, and they both decided to marry. Marius soon goes to his grandfather to ask for permission for their marriage but bitterly declines. Valjean soon figures out about Marius's whereabouts and his intention toward Cosette. He forcefully takes Cosette and flees to England. When Marius comes back for Cosette, he discovers an empty house.
Heartbroken, Marius joins the student uprising fighting against the government. Eponine secretly follows him in pretending to be a student. During the protest, the students discover Javert is a spy in disguise as a police officer. Marius ties him up and holds him hostage. Suddenly the army launches an attack, and Eponine saves Marius from fired shots by throwing herself in front of him. Eponine dies in Marius's arms and hands him the letter Cosette left before leaving France.
Jean Valjean, on the other hand, discovers Cosette's true feelings for Marius and goes to save him. Valjean finds Marius injured and exhausted at the border and secretly takes him away. When the students plan to execute Javert, Valjean interferes and lets him escape, forgiving him for everything. Javert felt guilty and committed suicide to redeem himself for his sins.
Jean takes the injured Marius to his grandfather for recovery. After Marius can speak, he asks his grandfather's permission again to marry Cosette. Both families agree this time, and Cosette returns to France for the wedding. At the wedding, Jean Valjean confesses his real identity to everyone and Cosette.
Marius, learning he is a criminal and an ex-convict, separates Cosette from Jean and forbids her to meet him. Valjean returns to his house alone and depressed, where he awaits his death. He lies in bed sick, atoning for his past. Marius later finds out from Eponine's sister, Azelma, that Valjean saved him at the border. Marius hurries and takes Cosette to meet Valjean and asks for his forgiveness. Valjean sees his adopted daughter happy with Marius and dies in peace.