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Les Misérables

by Victor Hugo

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What is the rising action, climax, and resolution of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables?

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Les Misérables is actually a lot of little stories all rolled into one; therefore, the plot structure will be different per story. However, Jean Valjean is without a doubt the hero of our story, making the story essentially about his story of redemption. Therefore, since we are limited to space, below is a discussion of some of the elements of plot structure surrounding the story of Jean Valjean.

The rising action characterizes any event in the story that leads up to the climax. The novel certainly is a huge book, and there certainly are many events pertaining to the rising action. One of the most important moments of rising action is the moment that Valjean receives forgiveness and redemption from the Bishop of Digne. This is the most driving moment in the story, leading up to all other plot and character development. The Bishop of Digne was the only person willing to treat Valjean like a human being, with dignity and respect, when he was released from prison. He even gave Valjean every possession of value he had, all of his silver, so that Valjean would have enough money to make a new man of himself, as we see him say, "It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God" (Vol. 1, Bk. 2, Ch. 7). Other important moments of rising action in Valjean's story are the moments he meets Fantine and takes Cosette into his care.

The plot certainly does take many twists and turns, making it a little difficult to determine the exact moment of climax for Valjean's story. However, the climax is the most emotionally tense moment of the story, but also the moment leading to the resolution, the moment when the resolution is inevitable. At first it might seem that the climax is the moment Cosette and Marius marry; however, that only brings more torment for Valjean. Valjean confesses to Marius about his past as a convict, and Marius, believing that Valjean did evil things such as steal M. Madeleine's identity and kill Javert, decides that Cosette should no longer see Valjean. Being forbidden to see Cosette breaks Valjean's heart. However, Marius soon learns Valjean's full story, including that he was the honorable M. Madeleine, spared Javert's life, and even saved Marius's own life. It is this moment of revelation that acts as the climax for Valjean's story. It is at this moment when Valjean's nature is truly brought to life, showing us that he has been redeemed. Not only that, this moment leads to the resolution of being reunited with Cosette and Marius who acknowledges that Valjean is a saint, and then the denouement of his death.

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