Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

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In Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, what does the quote on Jean Valjean's gravestone mean in reference to the novel? He sleeps. Although his fate was very strange, he lived. He died when he had no longer...

In Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, what does the quote on Jean Valjean's gravestone mean in reference to the novel?

He sleeps. Although his fate was very strange, he lived. He died when he had no longer his angel. The thing came to pass simply, of itself, as the night comes when day is gone. (Vol. 5, Bk. 9, Ch. 6)

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The note refers first to the irony of Jean Valjean's life. He lived through countless struggles. He was arrested for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his seven starving nephews and nieces and was sentenced to prison for 19 years. While in prison, he was treated like an animal and tormented by the fact that he had been taken away from caring for his sister and her starving children. He is so tormented that it eventually hardens him, and he is described as having had "entered the galleys sobbing and shuddering; he emerged impassive. He had entered in despair; he emerged gloomy" (Vol. 1, Bk. 2, Ch. 6). Hugo's point is to show the injustice of the law and how it robs a man's soul. However, later, Valjean's soul is redeemed by the Bishop of Digne who treats him respectfully as a man and a brother of faith and gives Valjean everything the Bishop owns of value to use the money to redeem himself.

Valjean begins a new life as a just and moral mayor under the name M. Madeleine but is later recognized by Inspector Javert and must flee in order to rescue Cosette, Fantine's daughter, whom he promised he would always protect. In fact, several times in the book he must flee from the law, with no other motive than fulfilling his promise to protect Cosette. At one point he even frees Inspector Javert from being executed; Javert then commits suicide, freeing Valjean from his enemy of so many years. But even though the Bishop of Digne redeemed Valjean's soul so many years ago, and now he is free of his enemy, Valjean remains haunted by his past . When Cosette marries Marius, Valjean confesses to Marius about who he really is....

(The entire section contains 570 words.)

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