Les Misérables: a Critical Analysis

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 505 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Feb 7, 2024

Words: 505|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Feb 7, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Historical Context
  2. Characters
  3. Themes
  4. Symbolism
  5. Critical Reception
  6. Conclusion

Les Misérables, written by Victor Hugo, is a classic novel that depicts the struggles of the poor and oppressed during the French Revolution. The purpose of this critical essay is to analyze the historical context, characters, themes, symbolism, and critical reception of the novel. The thesis statement is that Les Misérables is a powerful portrayal of the human condition, emphasizing the importance of redemption and compassion in a society plagued by poverty and inequality.

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Historical Context

During the French Revolution, the poor and oppressed suffered greatly, as there was a significant divide between the rich and the poor. Victor Hugo wrote Les Misérables to shed light on the struggles of the poor and to showcase the injustices of society. His intention was to inspire readers to take action against poverty and inequality.


Jean Valjean is the protagonist of the novel, and his journey towards redemption is a central theme. Javert, the antagonist, represents the law and justice, and his obsession with enforcing the law is a significant theme. Fantine represents the struggles of women in society, and her tragic story highlights the harsh realities of poverty. Cosette is a symbol of hope, as she represents the potential for a better future despite the effects of poverty on children.


The struggle between law and morality is a significant theme, as Javert and Jean Valjean represent opposing forces. The power of love and compassion is also a central theme, as the characters often demonstrate acts of kindness and empathy towards one another. The effects of poverty and inequality are a recurring theme, as the characters are constantly facing hardships due to their social status. Redemption and forgiveness also play a significant role in the novel, as the characters strive to overcome their past mistakes.


The barricade is a powerful symbol of resistance against oppression, as it represents the fight for justice and equality. The use of light and darkness is a recurring symbol, as light often represents hope and darkness represents despair. The sewers represent the dark, hidden places of society, where the poor and oppressed often reside. Music and song are also significant symbols, as they represent the power of art to inspire and uplift people.

Critical Reception

Contemporary reviews of Les Misérables were mixed, with some praising the novel's themes and characters, while others criticized its length and complexity. However, in the years since its publication, Les Misérables has become a classic work of literature and has had a significant impact on society and culture. It has been adapted into numerous movies, plays, and musicals, and its themes of social justice and compassion continue to resonate with audiences today.

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In conclusion, Les Misérables is a powerful and timeless novel that remains relevant today. Its portrayal of the struggle between law and morality, the power of love and compassion, the effects of poverty and inequality, and the importance of redemption and forgiveness continue to inspire readers around the world. I recommend further reading of the novel and its adaptations, as they offer valuable insights into the human condition and the struggle for social justice.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Les Misérables: A Critical Analysis. (2023, February 07). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from
“Les Misérables: A Critical Analysis.” GradesFixer, 07 Feb. 2023,
Les Misérables: A Critical Analysis. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Feb. 2024].
Les Misérables: A Critical Analysis [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Feb 07 [cited 2024 Feb 25]. Available from:
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