Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

Les Misérables book cover
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Topics for Further Study

(Epics for Students)

Investigate current prison conditions in the United States and compare today's prison experience to Valjean's as described in the novel.

Consider the ethical issues surrounding imprisonment that the novel raises in book two, chapter seven ("The inwardness of despair"). Does Hugo see prison as an effective means of punishing criminals? Does prison reform criminals, according to Hugo, or does it make them more violent? How does the author suggest prisoners should be treated? Use examples from the book to support your answers.

Investigate the economic, legal, and social definition of poverty in the United States today and compare it to the conditions of poverty in Paris as described in the novel.