Identify the importance of the social injustices that Fantine faces in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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For Hugo, the struggles that Fantine has to endure represents the basic need for change in French society.  The fact that the class system is so rigid that someone like Fantine who wishes to be an active contributor is maligned represents some of the problems that need to be overcome.  For someone who is poor, as Fantine is, there is little hope for her to better her lot.  Through a fatal combination of economic hardship and social hierarchy, Fantine is forced to degrade herself in the most brutal of manners.  In both a loss of dignity and a loss of basic staples of existence such as hair and teeth, Hugo is using Fantine as an embodiment of why the conditions of French society need to be changed.  Social injustices that Fantine endures and the stunning regularity with which her predicament is received represents why there must be a change in French society.  Hugo is making the assertion through Fantine that the obstacles that the poor must face and, in particular, poor women must face cry out for change.  These social injustices form the basic crux of the novel and help to drive the plot towards its thematic importance.

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