Re-Reading Les Misérables

Thoughts and commentary on Victor Hugo’s masterpiece.


Les Misérables is full of such timeless examples of social injustice that it’s hard not to find parallels in a modern context.

Mme Thénardier’s empathy is limited. Anything she gave to Cosette would be taken away from her daughters, in her eyes. So she hates the girl, mistreating her even as they benefit from her labor & exploit her illegitimate status. Not that Cosette had any choice in the matter - her mother brought her, hoping for a better life, and hiding her own status so she could find work. But they blame her anyway, resenting that she takes up space in the inn and uses their resources (meaning table scraps and rags), totally ignoring the contribution she makes to keeping the inn going - and keeping Éponine and Azelma from having to do the drudge work.

Meanwhile in Montreil-sur-Mer, a self-made man single-handedly revives local industry with his invention of a new process, leading to an economic boom for the community. Good thing officials didn’t demand his papers first, or they would’ve missed out!