Les Misérables Questions and Answers
by Victor Hugo

Les Misérables book cover
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What is the significance of the title Les Miserables?

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besure77 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The literal meaning of les miserables is "the miserable ones." The characters are french and the book is centered around their lives. The time period is the early 1800's. The main character is known as Jean Valjean. He is an ex-convict who is struggling with sorting his life out. He has been imprisoned because he stole bread to feed his starving family. After he is released he is forced to carry a yellow badge that identifies him as being an ex-con. He is looked down upon because he is publicly known as a criminal. He later gets a new identity and raises a family. It has many themes in it such as love, religion, politics, and justice.

I think that this book was given this title because it focuses on the struggles that Jean had to endure throughout his life.

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edthrows | Student

obviously the wretched are Jean, Javert, Fantine, and Cosette and Maruis start as miserables. But this novel isnt about some people's hard lives. it protrays an entire society ( the french's) and their struggles with poverty. Not only is Jean being judged for a small action, not only once but for the rest of his life, but he also has to payt for it. Les Miserables is all about how society was indifferent then to ones stuggles rich or poor. THe rich looked down on the poor, the poor looked down on the convicts, and the convicts looked down on the rich for treating them like dirt. Hugo doesnt just emplify how miserable the main characters are, but he also touches on the misery of everyone else in France. The book isnt just about these chararcters and their stuggles. It is France as a whole and the social injustice taking place at the time. It is France's poor who are the miserable ones ultamitely.

aboswell13 | Student

The title literally means, "The Miserable Ones" but it could also mean "The Wretched", "The Poor Ones", "The Wretched Poor", or "The Victims." In Les Misérables, the significance of the name involves the lives of the characters. Most of the characters, incluuding Jean Valjean, Cosette, Javert, and Marius are proof of that. With Cosette and Marius, it is almost like Romeo & Juliet being unable to see each other. Jean Valjean, being an inoccent man, now being hunted by Javert. Fantine, dying, being unable to see her child grow up, having to hand her over to Jean Valjean. Really, no one is happy in the story. Les Misérables has all the significance and the meaning of the whole story, because no one is happy until the end. The story actually has a lot to do with the struggles everyone goes through to survive. There is  a lot of pain the re, but eventually everyone is happy.

mkcapen1 | Student
The title of the book is implying that the people in the story are the miserable ones living miserable lives. The title is accurate as the novel begins with the character Jean Valjean who steals a loaf of bread to help feed his hungry sister's children. He is confined to prison for 19 years as a result. He continues to have trouble and misery after he gets out because he can not get work and is rejected by society. The woman Fantine has been with her boyfriend who no longer wants her and casts her out to fend for herself. She has a daughter Cosette. Her life is also one of misery as Fantine is beaten and no one cares that she is hurt. Cosette also grows up poor and in misery during her years with the Thénardiers. Jean takes the child to raise her. Even Javert who hounds after Jean is miserable as he lives a life of sworn duty needing to catch his man only to find out that he ahs never questioned the ethics of his actions. When he has to make an ethical decision on behalf of Jean, he is extremely confused and loses his own self identity.