The Wretched of the EarthWhile the whole novel is built around justice for those downtrodden by society, Victor Hugo focuses on five specific examples of poverty.
Valjean and the BishopThe Bishop's kindness doesn't trigger an instant conversion. It sets the stage by convincing Jean Valjean that change is _possible_.
Fantine: Alternate PossibilitiesFantine told Mme Thénardier that she was a widow. Could she have done the same in town? Would it have worked, or would it have just exposed Cosette to all the trauma alongside her?
The Crimes of Jean ValjeanJavert isn't persecuting an innocent man. He's persecuting a redeemed man who was driven to crime by desperation.
No Such Thing as CoincidenceLes Misérables is full of coincidences, some extremely far-fetched. But Victor Hugo treats them as divine design.
ConvictionsDonougher's translation of this chapter title is perfect: Where Convictions Take Shape. Double meaning preserved without being awkward.
Javert vs. the One Who Got AwayJavert cares about order, hierarchy, authority. He doesn’t care about people. Anyone on top of the heap he figures deserves to be there, and vice versa. That’s why “Madeleine” throws him for such a loop.
Back on the Chain GangWhat happens when Jean Valjean is recaptured, and how he fakes his death...but accidentally tips off Javert with a good deed.
Rescuing CosetteThe woodcut of Little Cosette drastically understates how badly she’s treated by the Thénardiers. So do all the adaptations I’ve seen.
The AmbushWe see the ambush entirely through Marius' limited POV. The reader has to piece things together, making the multiple dualities even clearer.
Lobster Jean Valjean?!? 🤪Saturday Night Live's sketch with Jean Valjean as a singing lobster is utterly bizarre. And it gets stranger as it goes along
Now Arriving at Rue PlumetBack to Jean Valjean and Cosette, POV changes, foreshadowing, and clear signs of PTSD a century before it was really understood.
Mugging FailThere are some wonderful reversals, irony and coincidence in the scene where Montparnasse tries (badly) to rob Jean Valjean.