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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 514

The following paper topics are based on the entire novel. Following each topic is a thesis and sample outline. Use these as a starting point for your paper.

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Topic #1
Discuss the ways in which Jean Valjean finds redemption in the course of the novel. How is Jean Valjean an honorable man?

I. Thesis Statement: Through his actions, Jean Valjean seeks to redeem himself for past crimes and becomes an honorable man.
II. Jean’s decision to seek redemption
A. Past crimes
B. The influence of the bishop.

III. The path to redemption
A. Jean resurrects M—— sur M—— and becomes a respected citizen
B. The rescue of Fauchelevent
C. The Champmathieu affair
D. Jean loves and cares for Cosette
E. Acts of charity
F. Jean spares Javert
G. Jean rescues Marius

Topic #2
How does Hugo express human misery in Les Misérables?

I. Thesis Statement: Both the unfortunate and the infamous experience misery in the novel.

II. The misery of man.
A. Jean Valjean.
B. Thénardier.

III. The misery of women.
A. Fantine.
B. Thénardier’s wife.

IV. The misery of children.
A. Eponine and Azelma.
B. Cosette.

Topic #3
Discuss the bravery and courage of the characters in the novel.

I. Thesis Statement: Hugo’s characters exhibit courage in battle and in their daily lives.
II. Bravery in the barricade.
A. The rebels fight although they know they cannot win the battle.
B. Marius saves the barricade and risks his life to help Gavroche.
C. Gavroche dies collecting cartridge boxes
D. Eponine intercepts a bullet meant for Marius.
E. Jean spares Javert.

III. The courage of Jean Valjean.
A. The rescue of Fauchelevent.
B. Jean’s testimony saves Champmathieu
C. The risk of caring for Cosette
D. Saving Marius

Topic #4
How does Hugo portray women in the novel? How is this a reflection of the historical context of the novel?

I. Thesis Statement: Women are dominated by the men in their lives and treated as second-class citizens in the novel. None of the women in the novel achieve true independence.
A. Fantine
1. Her social condition
2. The pain of leaving her child
B. Cosette
1. The faithful daughter
2. Her relationship with Marius
3. Finds happiness, but even she continues to be dominated by the men in her life
C. The downtrodden Thénardiers
1. The wife is ruled by her husband
2. Eponine reaches for independence
3. Azelma remains with her father
D. Gillenormand’s daughters
1. The eldest remains unmarried and under her father’s influence
2. The younger marries the man she loves in spite of her father’s opposition

Topic #5
Discuss how Hugo employs the sewers as a symbolic device and metaphor.

I. Thesis Statement: The escape through the sewers symbolizes Jean’s journey toward redemption.
II. Overcoming obstacles on the journey
A. Low ceilings force him to bend over and grope his way through the passage
B. Jean tries to find his way through the darkness
C. Slippery footing
D. Jean carries Marius and the weight of his sins on his back
E. The danger of drowning

III. Encountering Thénardier

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