80 pages 2 hours read

Victor Hugo

Les Miserables

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1862

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Redemption and Grace

Les Misérables interrogates the true meaning of redemption and grace through the life and death of Jean Valjean. In this context, grace is used in a religious sense. The grace of God represents the potential for redemption, even if that redemption is not always realized. Characters move toward and away from grace with their actions. Valjean's frequent acts of charity, for example, bring him closer to God's grace and redeem him for the sins of his past. Thénardier's refusal to entertain any form of morality means that he is denied God's grace. Valjean can achieve redemption because he wants to better himself in spite of his suffering. Thénardier will never achieve redemption because he simply does not care about morality. As such, Valjean's journey from ex-convict to fully redeemed figure demonstrates the potential for redemption in any person, even someone who has supposed been damned in the eyes of society.

Valjean's search for redemption is based on his promise to the bishop. After being released from prison, he finds himself ostracized by society. The people he encounters believe that he is beyond redemption as he is weighed down by the sins of his past, to the extent that they may also be tainted with sin by association.