Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

Les Misérables book cover
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Assess the relationship between sacrifice and love in the novel.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Hugo seems to be suggesting that a true form of love is one that enables sacrifice to happen.  For Hugo through his characterizations, sacrifice is a transcendent reality of what love is and what it means to individuals.  For example, Valjean's understanding of love is where sacrifice can be seen.  His love for his older sister enables him to sacrifice for her.  The stealing a loaf of bread is a sacrifice he makes for the betterment of others.  It is here where sacrifice can be seen as the transcendent extrapolation of love.  Valjean sees this mirrored back to him in the transcendent love offered by the Bishop, who takes Valjean in without any benefit for himself.  In this relationship, Valjean understands that sacrifice is the result of love, something that he strives to embody in his later years.  His love for Cosette is one rooted in sacrifice.  Hugo shows this in other characters.  The students who sacrifice their own lives for the revolution's cause do so as a commitment to see others' lives improve, even at the cost of their own.  Eponine's sacrifice of her own life for Marius' represents how Hugo sees that sacrifice is linked to love, something that anyone and everyone can share.  It seems that Hugo makes it clear that society can benefit immeasurably if individuals link love and sacrifice to one another and demonstrate it in as many realms as possible.

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