Suggested Essay Topics
1. Discuss the internal struggle which haunts Jean after his release from prison. What forces influence the path he ultimately decides to travel?
2. Discuss the injustice of Jean Valjean’s sentence. How does Victor Hugo use this character to protest the treatment of prisoners and convicts?
3. What social forces prompt Fantine to leave her child with the Thénardiers? Why does she think that she is doing the best possible thing for her child?
4. By the end of the first section, the reader develops a great deal of sympathy for Jean in spite of the fact that he is an ex-convict. How does the author use Jean’s good deeds to develop him into a heroic character?
1. Discuss the ways in which Jean depends on his great physical strength to help him escape from the Orion and from Javert.
2. Javert is primarily a symbol of law and order. Contrast the author’s development of this character with his development of the character Jean Valjean.
3. Comment on the settings the author uses in this section of the novel. How are they used to contribute both to the development of the characters and the advancement of the plot?
4. Discuss the relationship that develops between Cosette and Jean Valjean. What fulfillment does each find in the relationship, and why is Jean willing to risk his freedom for it?
1. M. Gillenormand is a bourgeois gentleman and a royalist. His son-in-law, George Pontmercy, is a military hero and a revolutionary. Discuss the political differences which separate M. Gillenormand and George Pontmercy and the ways in which these differences affect the way they treat each other and other people.
2. Discuss the title of the novel, and show how Hugo has created characters to support his definition of misery. Comment on the characters he creates to represent various human conditions of misery.
3. Discuss the underhanded ways in which members of the Gillenormand family strive to maintain control over Marius and deprive him of a relationship with his father.
4. How does Marius change in this portion of the novel? What steps does he take toward his own independence?
5. What good deeds does Marius do which cause the reader to think of him as an honorable man? How do these compare with the good deeds of Jean Valjean?
1. Trace Cosette’s...
(The entire section is 592 words.)