Les Miserables Essay

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In the following excerpt, Sagarin argues that Valjean fails as a symbol of redemption because his crime-stealing a loaf of bread for his sister's children-was an act of altruism.

[What delineates Jean Valjean in Les Miserables] is the essential innocence of the man. If he were innocent only in the sense of having been falsely accused, his would be a different tale, and probably one with far less significance for us. Jean Valjean does indeed commit the act that sends him to the galleys and that is the beginning of his downfall. Hugo's supreme indictment of society-for this is an indictment of society (he was a forerunner of Zola and other novelists who saw themselves as social Critics)-lies in the nature of the act which his hero has perpetrated and for which he is imprisoned. Literally, Jean Valjean is guilty of stealing a loaf of bread.

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This section contains 3,084 words
(approx. 8 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Les Miserables Study Guide
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Les Miserables from Novels for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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