80 pages 2 hours read

Victor Hugo

Les Miserables

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1862

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Part 1, Books 1-4Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1, Book 1 Summary: "A Good Man"

Monseigneur Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel has been the bishop of the French town of Digne since 1806. He is now about 75. His wealthy family suffered during the French Revolution of 1789, and they were forced to flee to Italy. Myriel joined the clergy before returning to France, where a chance meeting with Napoleon elevated him from a lowly-ranked priest to a bishop. He lives in Digne in a small residence beside a hospital, having switched buildings so that the hospital would have more room for the sick in the "immense and handsome residence" (29) traditionally given to the town's bishop. Myriel is a generous, kind man who spends most of his money on helping the poor and impoverished. Having given over his carriage expenses to the poor, for example, he now visits his parishioners on foot, causing "a great outcry among the local bourgeoisie" (31). Any money donated to him by his parishioners is donated to the poor, who love him because he treats everyone equally, “whatever their social status” (35). He is particularly touched when, while ministering to a man condemned to death, the “phantom of social justice haunted him” (37).

His one luxury is a set of silverware, including cutlery and candlesticks; he admits that “it would be hard to give up eating off silver” (42).