59 pages 1 hour read

Christina Soontornvat

A Wish in the Dark

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2020

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.


Literary Context: Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables

Les Misérables is a French novel written by Victor Hugo and originally published in 1862. The novel explores themes of redemption and grace as it follows several characters through their struggles with poverty, the criminal justice system, and the turbulence of the 1830s French political climate. A Wish in the Dark is directly inspired by Hugo’s novel; it explores similar themes and adapts many of Les Misérables’s characters and structures.

Jean Valjean, the protagonist of Les Misérables, is an escaped convict who spends 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread, as well as several additional sentences for multiple escape attempts. Throughout the novel, Valjean evades capture by Javert, a police inspector from the prison. Valjean learns about atonement and redemption when he encounters Bishop Myriel, who shows Valjean grace and compassion; thereafter, Valjean dedicates his life to becoming a good man. Javert, whose strict adherence to the law is motivated by his desperate desire to escape his parents’ criminal history, has his views about justice challenged when Valjean mercifully spares Javert’s life at the end of the novel. 

The two protagonists of A Wish in the Dark, Pong and Nok, are based on the major protagonists of Hugo’s novel, and their arcs mirror those of Valjean and Javert, respectively.