What are some important life lessons and quotes in Les Miserables? I would prefer help from the abridged version but any help is appreciated. 

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amymc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Les Miserables is a great book to pull some superb quotations that give readers lessons about life that still apply today. Some of my favorites are as follows:

"Monsieur to a convict is a glass of water to a man dying of thirst at sea" (19). Here, the bishop has just shown Jean Valjean some politeness, which he has not known for 19 years.  This metaphor shows us that all people deserve kindness and respect.

"Liberation is not deliverance.  A convict may leave his galleys behind but not his condemnation" (26).  Here Jean Valjean is commenting upon how his life is forever changed as the result of his wretched conditions in prison.  People can can learn that everyone's past is different and makes a mark upon how that person will interact with others.

"Do what he might, he always fell back upon this sharp dilemma which was at the bottom of his thought.  To remain in paradise and there become a demon!  To re-enter hell and there become an angel!" (76).  Here Jean Valjean is considering whether to admit to being a convict and returning to prison or allowing an innocent man be arrested and jailed in his place.  Moral dilemmas about whether to advance oneself at another's expense arise for most people.  Jean Valjean compares his choice to one between heaven and hell, and he decides to be true to his word to the bishop and turn himself in.

"...nothing is more dangerous than discontinued labor; it is habit lost.  A habit easy to abandon, difficult to resume" (238). Here Marius has lost his hope of seeing Cossette.  As a result he falls into depression and stopped working and studying.  This quote is a lesson to all people who hit a low point to get back up again or else you may not have another chance to do so.

Of course there are many more, but these are those that I go back to time and again.

The source I used for these quotes is

Hugo, Victor.  Les Miserables.  Trans. Charles E. Wilbour.  Fawcett: Random House, 1961.

 

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