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Les Misérables

by Victor Hugo

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In what instances are ideals seen in the plot of Les Miserables? none

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If by ideals, you mean standards of moral behavior, there certainly are plenty of instances in this novel to explore this motif. Hugo was determined to glorify the beauty, resilence, and ulitmate goodness of humanity in the face of a cruel and unforgiving society. Therefore, moments of "revelation" are rife!

The earliest and, some may argue, most significant moment occurs between Valjean and the Bishop. The Bishop, having been abused by the convict, is not only forgiving of Valjean, but also generous and loving towards him. He insists, despite the objections of his own housemates, that Valjean is likewise a child of God, and therefore a man worthy of love. Valjean begins to question his cynical judgments of the world.

The next instance that illuminates Hugo's ideals comes shortly after, when Valjean meets Petit Gervais. Valjean has not yet left behind his cold, calculating persona. He deliberately steps upon the child's coin. However, lost in a reverie of recollection, Valjean allows the Bishop's words and actions to effect change upon him, and spends his life attempting to find and repay the small theft he committed.

Valjean's amnesty, as Mayor, towards Fantine is another instance in which the ideals are portrayed. He is not only atoning for his own mistake in allowing her to be fired, but recognizing the parallels between his and Fantine's stories. They were both, to extent, products of the environment they lived in. Choosing to care for her, and then for her daughter, demonstrates Valjean's acceptance of the moral ideal over the idea of social success.

Skipping over many instances for the sake of brevity, lets focus on Javert's personal revelation. When Valjean spares his life, Javert faces a truth he never allowed. He understands that a man can be morally good and socially bad. A man can break society's laws and still uphold God's law. Javert, believing himself to be pious, had never thought that could be true. His suicide, while tragic, glorifies the ideal of moral supremacy over social justice - he can't live with the things society has made him do, understanding at last that he has blasphemed God in the name of his occupation.

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