Imprisoned for stealing bread in order to feed his sister's children, Valjean is a good man turned bad by circumstances. When he meets a generous priest, he begins to turn his life around, becoming a successful businessman and later taking in the lost child Cosette. However, his past threatens to follow him into his brighter present, and he has to go into hiding once more. He is also referred to as Monsieur Madeleine. Valjean is intelligent and resourceful, and notable for his incredible physical strength.
A young and beautiful woman from an impoverished background, Fantine is impregnated and abandoned by the man she loves. In order to support her daughter Cosette, she takes up a number of low paying manual jobs, and finally resorts to prostitution. She dies from consumption, but not before securing a better future for her daughter.
A narrow-minded police officer, Javert is completed focused on upholding the law and punishing every kind of criminal activity. He does not believe that one can reform oneself from a criminal background, and he pursues Valjean relentlessly, waiting for him to take a misstep. Javert is completely without mercy, but this harshness stems from his own past: he was born in a prison.
The daughter of Fantine, Cosette is abandoned by her father shortly after her birth. In order to earn money, Fantine was forced to leave her daughter with the Thénardier family, who use her as a servant and a means to extort money from her mother. Valjean rescues her and raises her as his daughter. A gentle and pure young woman, she falls in love with Marius.
The son of a war hero and grandson of an eccentric member of nobility, Marius is an intelligent and idealistic young man. He falls in love with Cosette and fights on the barricades.
The eldest daughter of the Thénardiers, Éponine enjoys a pampered childhood but an impoverished adolescence. Her parents teach her to steal and cheat, but she is redeemed by her deep love for Marius.
A greedy and selfish man, he works in a variety of jobs, including tavern owner. He claims to have fought in the 1815 campaign. He is the husband of Madame Thénardier and the father of Azelma and Éponine. He and his wife take in Cosette, charging her mother a great deal of money and forcing the little girl to perform a number of chores.
A nasty and selfish woman, she is the wife of Monsieur Thénardier and the mother of Azelma and Éponine. She and her husband take in Cosette, charging her mother a great deal of money and forcing the little girl to perform a number of chores.
The leader of the ABC Society, Enjolras is an intense young student and a radical revolutionary. Despite his good looks, he is uninterested in women, focusing all of his efforts on revolution.
A little urchin boy, he roams the streets of Paris. He is the neglected son of the Thénardiers, but he prefers the streets to the company of his family. He dies a heroic death on the barricades.
Despite a tragic past (the French Revolution ruined his family, and his wife died young), Myriel is a generous and kindhearted man of God. He is famed for his good deeds throughout the area of Digne. Myriel is the one who restores Valjean's faith in humanity.
A member of the ABC society, he differs from the other students in that he has little interest in revolution; he spends most of his time drinking and chasing after women. However, he deeply admires the radical Enjolras, and spends time with the ABC society despite his disagreement with their ideals.
Sister of Bishop Myriel. She is a kind and religious woman, devoted to her brother.
A student in Paris. He is the lover of Fantine and the father of her child. He abandons her in order to assume an important political position.
A nun who looks after Fantine during her final illness. She is a kind and dedicated woman who refuses to tell a lie, until she breaks this rule to save Valjean.
Arrested for the theft of some apples, Champmathieu resembles Jean Valjean so closely that the authorities assume he is Valjean under another name. Champmathieu faces a much harsher sentence if he is truly a recidivist criminal, and Valjean goes to Arras to try to exonerate him.
A man living in Montreuil-sur-mer; he dislikes Valjean/Madeleine, until Valjean saves his life after Fauchelevent's cart overturns. Valjean finds him a job as a gardener in Paris, and Fauchelevent repays Valjean later by helping him stay in the Petit-Picpus convent.
The youngest daughter of the Thénardier family. She adores her sister, Éponine.
A hero in the Napoleonic army, Georges marries the younger daughter of Monsieur Gillenormand and fathers Marius Pontmercy. However, after the death of his wife, Monsieur Gillenormand attempts to sever ties with Georges (whom he hates for his political beliefs) and adopts Marius. Georges spends the rest of his life tending his garden and snatching brief glimpses of his son.
He is a relic of the old, pre-revolutionary order; he hates the new political ideas, and gathers in a salon with other like-minded people to relieve the old, bourgeois order. Though he is gruff and curt, he loves his grandson Marius deeply.
A member of the ABC society. He is one of Marius' closest friends, and lends him money during the desperate days after his separation with his grandfather. He is an influential speaker and very appealing to the ladies.
A member of the ABC society, second-in-command to Enjolras. He provides a more practical focus to Enjolras' intensity. He is said to represent the philosophy of the revolution.
A member of the ABC Society; he is the only member of the group who is not a student but rather a worker, who makes fans for a living. He is an orphan and taught himself to read and write.
A member of the ABC society. He loves languages and history; he is the quietest member of the group.
A member of the ABC society, he is a hypochondriac who studies medicine. Still, he has a very happy disposition.
Also known as also Lègle, Laigle, L'Aigle [The Eagle], or Bossuet, he is a member of the ABC society. He is often unlucky but still maintains a happy disposition. He became friends with Marius when he covered for him during roll call in the university.
A churchwarden who tells Marius the truth about his estranged but devoted father. He and Marius later become close friends. He loves books, but is forced to slowly pawn his magnificent collection during a time of poverty.
Les Miserables Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Les Miserables is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Valjean is an ex-convict who was imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread. Upon his release, he finds that he is treated like an outcast everywhere he goes in Paris. Nobody will give him work and he finds himself starving and walking the streets.