Bishop Myriel arrives in the city of Senez riding on the back of a donkey. He tells the astonished crowd that he hopes they are not outraged that he has imitated Jesus Christ by riding a donkey. In fact, donkeys are an inexpensive and uncomfortable means of transportation, and the crowd is amazed that a man as important as Myriel is traveling in this way. This incident exhibits a gentle kind of irony, showcasing Myriel's playful sense of humor.
The Abandonment of Fantine (Dramatic Irony)
Tholomyés and his fellows tell Fantine and her friends that they have a surprise for them. After taking the girls on a lovely tour of the countryside, they tell them that the time for the surprise has come, and they shuffle out of the room. Unfortunately for Fantine, this surprise is a cruel abandonment - the young men tell the girls that the surprise is that they are leaving them forever. This cruel prank is especially hard on Fantine, who has recently given birth to Tholomyés' daughter.
Thénardiers in Poverty (Situational Irony)
The Thénardiers are adept at charging each guest at their inn for every little thing they use - for example, a room to which one "retires" costs more than a room in which one "sleeps." However, this nickel-and-diming does not benefit the Thénardiers, who eventually are forced to close their inn and end up in squalid poverty in Paris. This suggests that selfishness and cheating do not pay.
"He has two consuming ambitions, never achieved: to overthrow the government and to get his trousers mended" (Pg. 504) (Situational Irony)
This quote describes the Paris street urchin, the unique type of child who exists in poverty yet also knows a great deal about art, culture, and literature. The irony of this quote lies in the way that is juxtaposes the coexistence of the mundane, daily struggle for survival and the overarching divine ambitions that guide the destiny of nations. Because Victor Hugo describes the Paris urchin as the symbol of French culture, so this quote may also refer to the French populace in general.
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.