What is the significance of the presence of children in Les Miserables?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Hugo's depiction of a world where human rights are not even close to be recognized, the presence of children help to enhance this idea.  When we consider the most innocent of society, children have to rise to the top of this list.  A society that mistreats its children is one that is begging to be criticized and reformed.  In the end, Hugo seeks to bring out the idea that society is misguided and misdirected in its ends.  Justice is for sale and human dignity is not something that is valued.  In his inclusion of children in this world, Hugo is able to vividly display this theme in the most broad of ways.  We might criticize the actions of Valjean and even Fantine.  Yet, when we see children, such as Fantine's, left to their own devices, denied their opportunity to live a productive life and victim to the practical and institutional unfairness in the world, it helps to bring to light the need for social change.  The presence of children helps to also bring to light the idea that what is can be transformed into what can be, as there exists such hope in the children who can be the inheitors of this new design.

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