Jean Valjean commits a petty crime, stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sisters hungry family, and is sent to a harsh prison for his crime. When he gets out, he is not prepared to support himself and he commits another crime, against Bishop Digne.
Valjean tries to steal from the Bishop, but in return, he is not punished, but given another chance by the compassionate Bishop. The only condition on his second chance is to use it to improve his life.
Valjean goes to a small town Montreuil sur Mer, where he uses his new found wealth to help the town by rebuilding its industries providing many jobs for the people. He also saves the daughter of the prostitute, Fantine, taking her into his house as his own daughter.
Jean Valjean becomes mayor of the small town and is gracious and generous to all its citizens. He is a much loved mayor, not pretentious, but a humble servant of the people.
In all of his actions, he is generous and kind, especially to Cosette.