Les Miserables is a captivating French novel, which follows the life of an unfortunate man named Jean Valijean. Jean Valijean is an escaped prisoner, who was convicted for stealing a loaf of bread. Valijean makes many escape attempts from jail, and comes in contact with many different characters, including Javert, the police officer who is desperately trying to catch him, as well as Fantine, the mother of a young girl named Cosette, who Valijean eventually adopts as his own daughter. Throughout the book, Valijean takes on many different, “personalities,” in an attempt to escape the law and regain his life. In the end, Valijean struggles with having to give up his daughter to Marius, her beloved, and eventually works himself into a state, becoming malnourished and very ill. Immediately before his death, Valijean prays to see Cosette one last time, and as he is doing so, she and Marius enter, showering him with love and thanking him for his goodness to them. With his prayer answered, Valijean is content, and dies happy.
Les Miserables is a believable book in many areas. One example of the mimetic quality of Les Miserables is in the struggle of Fantine. Fantine becomes pregnant by a wealthy student, who eventually abandons her. Desperately trying to find work, Fantine returns to her hometown, only to realize that no one will take her if she has an illegitimate child. Thinking only of her daughter’s well-being, Fantine leaves her with a family on her way to town, with the promise of paying the family a monthly allowance for her daughter’s shelter. This makes the book believable because of the way in which single mothers were treated in the 1700s. The fact that she was so looked down upon ultimately caused Fantine to lose her daughter and resort to prostitution to make ends meet. A second mimetic element of Les Miserables is in the Setting. Victor Hugo gives excellent examples of town and street names throughout the book. This makes the book more believable because the settings used the book actually exist. For example, when speaking of Fantine’s journey home, the book gives the name, “Montfermeil,” which is an actual region in France. One way in which Les Miserables was not as mimetic was with the many different characters played by Jean Valijean.