RE: Who are the major characters in “Les Misérables” and what roles do they play?

Can someone provide a breakdown of the main characters in Victor Hugo's "Les Misérables" and their significance in the story?

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Certainly! "Les Misérables" is a monumental novel by Victor Hugo, originally published in 1862. It is a rich tapestry of interwoven stories set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, dealing with themes of justice, morality, and redemption. Here are the major characters and their roles within the novel: 1. **Jean Valjean** – He is the protagonist of the story, a former convict who seeks redemption after serving 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread and subsequent escape attempts. After an encounter with the kind Bishop Myriel, Valjean decides to change his life and live under a new identity. Throughout the novel, he is dedicated to acts of kindness and justice, while constantly evading the law. 2. **Inspector Javert** – The primary antagonist, Javert, is a police inspector who represents the rigid law enforcement of France. He is unyieldingly moral and believes in the letter of the law above all else. He becomes obsessed with recapturing Valjean, whom he views as an embodiment of criminality. 3. **Fantine** – A young woman who is tragically forced to become a prostitute to pay for the care of her illegitimate daughter, Cosette. She represents the plight of the poor and the societal indifference to their suffering. Valjean promises to take care of her daughter as Fantine lies on her deathbed. 4. **Cosette** – Fantine’s daughter, who is initially mistreated by the Thenardiers (to whom Fantine entrusts her) before being adopted by Valjean. She grows up to be kind and compassionate and falls in love with Marius. 5. **Marius Pontmercy** – A young, idealistic revolutionary who is part of the Friends of the ABC, a group who participate in the June Rebellion of 1832. He falls in love with Cosette and his relationship with her ultimately intersects with Valjean's journey. 6. **Éponine** – The daughter of the Thenardiers, she is raised to be manipulative and petty. However, she harbors an unrequited love for Marius, and experiences a profound character arc when she selflessly aids him, demonstrating her capacity for good. 7. **Thenardier and Madame Thenardier** – The unscrupulous innkeepers and the parents of Éponine. They mistreat Cosette and later engage in various criminal activities. They symbolize the selfishness and corruption present in society. 8. **Enjolras** – The charismatic and passionate leader of the Friends of the ABC. He is the embodiment of the revolutionary spirit of the youth of France, dedicated to liberty and justice. 9. **Gavroche** – A young boy of the streets who provides both comic relief and poignant commentary on the societal conditions of the time. He is fearless, resourceful, and affiliated with the Friends of the ABC. 10. **Bishop Myriel (Monseigneur Bienvenu)** – A kind-hearted bishop who changes Valjean’s life by showing him mercy and compassion when Valjean is released from prison. His actions set the tone for the novel’s themes of grace and redemption. These are just the core cast members of a much larger ensemble that Victor Hugo uses to explore various social and philosophical issues of his time. "Les Misérables" endures because each character embodies a deep human or societal issue that continues to resonate with readers today.
Answered on June 19, 2024.
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