80 pages 2 hours read

Victor Hugo

Les Miserables

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1862

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Important Quotes

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“As he walked past the cathedral, crossing the square in front of it, he shook his fist at it.”

(Part 1, Book 2, Page 74)

As Valjean is ostracized from society, he searches for someone to blame for his misfortune. He shakes his fist at the cathedral, directing his anger at the physical institution that embodies religion in his world. Valjean has been driven to hating religion due to the way he has been mistreated; his mistreatment drives him further from God's grace. His anger illustrates how economically disadvantaged people are placed in an impossible circumstance, in which each unfortunate event causes the next until they are abandoned and desperate, so much so that they are shaking their fist at God.

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“Just being wicked is not enough to prosper.”

(Part 1, Book 4, Page 135)

This quote characterizes Thénardier as relentlessly wicked and rarely prosperous. In this sense, Les Misérables dismisses the idea that there is a clear link between wealth and morality. The most moral figures, for example, are often those who have the least. Thénardier is neither wealthy nor moral. His poverty is not the cause of his wickedness, as Fantine is poorer than Thénardier but retains whatever morality she can. Nonetheless, society treats Fantine and Thénardier as one when all they have in common is their poverty.