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Les Misérables

by Victor Hugo

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Examine the significance of the obstacles does Valjean have to surpass to achieve his ultimate goal of redemption.

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Hugo configures a situation for Valjean.  In order for him to achieve spiritual redemption, Valjean has to rise above the condition in which he lives.  Hugo designs is so that Valjean does not acquiesce to the condition that is around him.  He must envision the change he wishes society to demonstrate in order for him to find redemption.  As a youth, Valjean must demonstrate the power of sacrifice and eventually suffer for it in terms of his harsh imprisonment.  At the same time, when he is released, Valjean must face the obstacle of social malignment in order for him to truly understand what it will take to transform this condition.  Valjean is about to take the form of the world around him, succumbing to such a condition of being that in which redemption is impossible.  It is through this that the example of the Bishop towards Valjean sets him on a path to find his own spiritual redemption in the selfless acts towards others.  From this point, Valjean understands that his own redemption lies in being able to sacrifice for others, creating a world that should be as opposed to one that is.  In giving back to others as a leader or caring for Cosette, or showing benevolence to individuals in order to advance a higher cause, Valjean does not do these things for his own redemption.  Yet, he understands that the condition of living a life of anger and bitterness has run its course.  The only other option for social and personal change lies in the ability to do what he can in order for something larger than himself. It is here where his own redemption can be evident, something that requires him to overcome a great many obstacles in order to find this change and his own redeeming in the process.

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