What is it that Valjean steals that turns him into "a slave of the law" in Les Miserables by Victor Hugo?
Jean Valjean was born into a poor family, and after the death of his parents he and his sister had to support one another. When his sister is widowed, Valjean's meager income is not enough to feed himself, his sister, and her many children. In an attempt to literally put food on the table, he steals a loaf of bread. Valjean is caught and initially imprisoned for five years, but after many attempted escapes, his sentence totaled nineteen years. Upon release from prison, as a parolee, Valjean is issued an identity card which marks him as a criminal. As part of his parole, he is supposed to go to Ponterlier and live in highly controlled circumstances, but he flees instead and tries to make a new life under a new name. Because he is marked as a criminal and an outcast everywhere he goes, Valjean feels barely more free outside of prison than he did inside.