What does Victor Hugo accomplish by comparing Thenardier to a beast in "Les Miserables"?
In this novel, Hugo honors the humanity in man. His hero is a man who has lied and stolen, but who is heroic for his devotion to helping others and for his faith. Other characters, who are immorally suspect, are redeemed for their compassion and remorse. Hugo suggests that this ability to love and care for others, to want to "do right", is what makes us humans.
Thenardier, however, has none of the humanistic characters. He cares only for himself, behaves out of desire with no concern for who he hurts, and shows no compassion for anyone else's situation. By comparing him to a beast, Hugo is asserting that humanity must involve love and morality. Thenardier is not human because he does not have those things.