Les Miserables

Jean Valjean: An Angel in Hell

Les Miserables is a story of redemption, forgiveness, charity, salvation and moral obligation. The main character, Jean Valjean, enters the novel as a thief, having spent nineteen years in prison. He is given this second chance by M. Myriel, a prominent bishop, who offers Jean Valjean food and lodging, and by doing so he paves the way for Jean Valjean to live a life of financial prosperity and renewed spiritual faith. Jean Valjean poses as M. Madeleine in this pure and natural life but soon comes across a dilemma. Jean Valjean has to choose "to remain in paradise and there become a demon!" or "to reenter into hell and there become an angel" (p. 84)! Through this conflict, Hugo proposes two kinds of life: the life of a comfortable, wealthy man with few moral obligations and the life of a struggling, but ultimately virtuous convict. Through this conflict, Hugo expresses Jean Valjean"s inner turmoil and his ultimate choice to trade material comfort for moral comfort and selfishness for selflessness.

In this paradise that Jean Valjean lives in, he takes on the role of M. Madeleine, a prosperous mayor, who brings wealth to the entire region of which he governs. He is very generous to the poor, has a good...

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