How does Fantine contribute to her own demise?

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The answer to how Fantine contributes to her own demise is an emotionally charged one in contemporary Western society. The answer is that she contributed through the act of intercourse with a man she was not married to. In Hugo’s, this action (by whatever means, love, seduction, molestation, voluntary engagement, etc.) reduces a woman to the categorization of "indecent," a categorization which can--and, for Fantine, did--prevent a woman from having or keeping employment. For Fantaine, once her coworkers found out about her baby Cosette who was born out of wedlock they successfully agitated to have her fired as being indecent. This reduced Fantine to the lowest means possible to earn money for food and shelter--selling her hair, teeth and finally her very body. Society then treated this final degradation as immaterial because Fantine was already indecent, the final lowering of herself to prostitution was, in that society's eyes, a repetition of what had already been. It is important to note that part of the reason Hugo wrote Les Miserable was to protest the very situation that Fantine lives through. He believed that the restraints of society described above were wrong and desperately in need of reform.