Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

From plot debriefs to key motifs, Thug Notes’ Les Miserables Summary & Analysis has you covered with themes, symbols, important quotes, and more.

Les Miserables (1862) | Written by: Victor Hugo

Les Miserables
Thug Notes Summary & Analysis

Sup yall? This week we beastin’ through the darkness with Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.

Afta’ 19 years of hard time in a French prison fo’ stealin bread to feed his fam, Jean Valjean all cashed out lookin’ fo help. Nobody in town showin’ him any love til a righteous holy man named Myriel like “come on in, padna!”

But when da po-lice catch Valjean tryna boost Myriel’s silverware, Myriel jus’ let it slide and tell the fuzz he gave it to him as a gift. Myriel say “look man I just saved yo ass. You best stop all dat hood shit and become a better man, yo!”

Afta’ one last dick move- jackin’ some coin from a lil’ kid- Valjean break down and decide he gotta put his bangin’ days behind him. He change his name to Monsieur Madeleine and move to a new town where he start stackin MAD cheddar. Befo’ you know it- brutha becomes the damn mayor!

Meanwhile this po’ girl Fantine be straight buggin: 1. She DESPERATE fo’ cash. and 2. Her man just left her with a love-child named Cosette, and there ain’t no way she gonna get work if word gets out bout her. So this shysti dude named Thenardier say Cosette can hide with him and his fam so long as Fantine throw em some ends erry month.

Fantine lands a gig grindin’ at Madeleine’s factory, but gets da axe as soon as errybody find out bout Cosette. And with the Thenardiers greedy lyin asses hittin’ her up fo’ mo cash, shit so raw for Fantine that she gotta sell her hair, her teeth, and start turnin’ tricks on da streets. Plus, all this shit is LITERALLY killin’ her. Damn.

One night, da local law-man Javert arrests Fantine, but Madeleine step in, tells Javert to hop off, and start to give Fantine a lil’ TLC.

When Javert figger out Madeline’s real identity, Javert cuff him right in front of Fantine- girl wigs out so hard she just up and dies. By the way: Valjean’s real identity only hit da streets cuz he wanted to save somebody’s life.

Thankfully, ain’t no cell can keep dat boy Valjean down- dude swangs back to town to save Cosette from dem hater Thenardiers, who been treatin’ her like shit fo’ years. Valjean drop some phat stacks, buys her off em, and chunks deuce to Paris.

Things aight in Paris fo’ a lil’ while, but when Javert hear dat Valjean back in town, Val and Cosette gotta pack their shit and lay low in a convent.

Years later, a dude named Marius peep game at a DIME and immediately falls BALLS DEEP IN LOVE! And what do ya know? It’s Cosette all grown up.
“The woman whom he now saw was a noble, beautiful creature, with all the most bewitching feminine outlines at the precise moment when they are still combined with all the most charming graces of childhood – that pure and fleeting moment that can only be translated by these two words: sweet fifteen.” (697)

Marius try to holler at a girl, but Valjean moves they asses outta there befo’ brutha can get his mack on. Marius’s gets a tip about Cosette’s new digs and they eventually meet and confess they love fo’ eachother. Cept Valjean ain’t down wit dat. And with all da political unrest goin down in the streets- Valjean decide it’s time fo’ them to roll out to England.

Marius gets so to’ up dat he ain’t gonna be with his baby dip that he decide he don’t give a fuck no mo and gonna join da revolution. When Valjean figger out dat Cosette and Marius are in love FO REAL, he can’t let loverboy get his ass merced, so he straps up and joins the fight too.

When da rebels find out dat Javert a royalist snitch, they give Valjean the job of ghosting his ass. But Valjean, bein a nice dude n’ all, just let’s him walk away. Later, Marius get pretty messed up and Valjean gotta carry his ass through some boo-boo sewers to get him help. Valjean runs in to Javert AGAIN, and Valjean finally like: “Aight, aight. You can arrest me. Just let me drop this dude off at his crib, and make one last stop at my pad.” Javert oblige a brutha, but start losin’ his shit when re realize he compromising errything his life stood for, and straight ENDS it.

Marius heals up and him and Cosette get hitched. S’all good, right? Nah. Not in this fuckin’ book. Valjean tell Marius bout his crimin’ days and Marius start givin’ Valjean the cold shoulder. Our boy gets da hint and stops droppin by. Dat little shit Marius got NO idea it was Vajean dat saved his ass in dat sewer. With nuthin left to live for, Valjean start wastin’ away, hops in bed, and doesn’t ever leave.

Later, Marius conversatin’ wit Thenardier when brutha finally recognize dat da only reason he alive is cuz of Valjean. Plus, Valjean the only reason he wit Cosette now. Oh yeah… and Valjean left ’em MAD bank. Feelin’ like a real asshole, Marius and Cosette swang over to Valjean’s spot and forgive him. Now Valjean can die in peace.

Maaan, this book is straight RELENTLESS- gnarly prisons, po’ girls turnin’ tricks, disease wasting’ errybody! V-hug gonna lay out da worst that life’s got offer, and he throws out his biggest beefs in the preface:
“So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation which, in the midst of civilization, artificially creates a hell on earth, and complicates with human fatality a destiny that is divine; so long as the three problems of the century – the degradation of man by the exploitation of his labor, the ruin of woman by starvation, and the atrophy of childhood by physical and spiritual night – are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a still broader point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, there should be a need for books such as this.” (1862)

So three big things he buckin’- rich people takin’ advantage of da workin’ man, women starving to death, and lil’ kids drownin’ in a dark world dat ain’t got no hope. In short, Hugo wagin’ war on a society that fuckin’ over it’s peeps. In fact, that’s one of Hugo’s main jams in this big ass book: society got da power to COMPLETELY wreck somebody- not only their body, but their soul too. Whether it da big house dat make turn Valjean in to a stone cold gangster, or da poverty and shaming dat make Fantine turn to a life of hookin’- society burnin’ errybody. Like Valjean himself say:
“The prison makes the convict. Make of this what you like. Before prison, I was a poor peasant, unintelligent, a sort of idiot; prison changed me. I was stupid, I became wicked; I was a log, I became a firebrand. (277)

And lemme tell you a lil’ somethin: Society didn’t break no regular erryday thug. Valjean is hella SWOLE- fo’ real. On page 90 it even say he got the got da strength of FOUR MEN. He still ain’t got nuthin on deez guns (Greg flexes) Don’t hate. But no matta’ how jacked Valjean be, he still ain’t got da muscle to flex with a broken system.

Hugo’s book ain’t all bad, tho. For Javert’s ice-cold justice, there’s Myriel’s mercy; for Thenardier’s greed we see Valjean’s willingness to give away ERRYTHING- even his life. And fo’ all the darkness that society can drop on a brutha, there’s also light: we got da power to lift eachother up, and redeem erry brutha and sista with love and kindness. Valjean and Cosette reppin this idea perfectly:
He loved, and he grew strong again. Alas, he was as frail as Cosette. He protected her, and she gave him strength. Thanks to him, she could walk upright in life; thanks to her, he could persist in virtue. He was this child’s support, and she was his prop and staff. “(436)

Valjean try to make this same point to a bunch of hoods while they gardening:
“One day [Valjean] saw some peasants busily pulling out nettles; he looked at the heap of plants, uprooted, and already wilted, and said, ‘…If we took a little time, the nettle would be useful; we neglect it, and it becomes harmful. Then we kill it. Men are so like the nettle!’ After a short silence, he added, ‘My friends, remember this: There are no bad herbs,(*) and no bad men; there are only bad cultivators.” (164)

As all mah well-read ballas know, my numba 1 motto is “Don’t Judge a Book by its cover”. Y’all know I’m all about dat. But lemme leave you with my #2 motto, which Les Mis perfectly reppin: don’t EVER underestimate yo own power and how much of a difference you can make. If you let anger, hatred, and injustice keep you down, ain’t no tellin’ what kinda harm you can do; but if you let love and light guide the way, then the world’s darkside cain’t touch you. You got da power to cultivate good in da world. Use it.

Thanks for keepin’ it real with me mah well-read ballas. Sparky Sweets OUT!

As all mah well-read ballas know, my numba 1 motto is “Don’t Judge a Book by its cover”. Y’all know I’m all about dat. But lemme leave you with my #2 motto, which Les Mis perfectly reppin: don’t EVER underestimate yo own power and how much of a difference you can make. If you let anger, hatred, and injustice keep you down, ain’t no tellin’ what kinda harm you can do; but if you let love and light guide the way, then the world’s darkside cain’t touch you. You got da power to cultivate good in da world. Use it.

I wanna know what book I should do next? To vote for The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, don’t panic, and grab this towel. To vote for Life of Pi, click here on Richard Parker.
Thanks for keepin’ it real with me mah well-read ballas. Sparky Sweets OUT!”

As all mah well-read ballas know, my numba 1 motto is “Don’t Judge a Book by its cover”. Y’all know I’m all about dat. But lemme leave you with my #2 motto, which Les Mis perfectly reppin: don’t EVER underestimate yo own power and how much of a difference you can make. If you let anger, hatred, and injustice keep you down, ain’t no tellin’ what kinda harm you can do; but if you let love and light guide the way, then the world’s darkside cain’t touch you. You got da power to cultivate good in da world. Use it.

Hey, if you digged this episode, take a couple minutes and go check out my episode on the counte of monte cristo by clicking here.
Thanks for keepin’ it real with me mah well-read ballas. Sparky Sweets OUT!

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