The theme of sacrifice in “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo's masterpiece "Les Miserables" is a novel that is rich in themes, one of the most prominent being the theme of sacrifice. Throughout the book, we see different characters making sacrifices, some voluntary and some involuntary, for the sake of others. These sacrifices take many forms, from giving up material possessions to sacrificing one's own life. In this essay, I will explore the theme of sacrifice in "Les Miserables" and how it is portrayed through artistic details, images, and characters.
One of the most significant examples of sacrifice in the novel is the sacrifice made by Jean Valjean. Valjean is a former convict who has turned his life around after being shown kindness by a bishop. He becomes a successful businessman and takes in the orphaned Cosette, whom he sees as his own daughter. However, he is always haunted by his past and the fear of being caught by Javert, the police inspector who has been pursuing him for years.
Valjean's sacrifice begins when he agrees to rescue Cosette's lover, Marius, from the barricades during the June Rebellion. This act of bravery puts his own life in danger, and he nearly loses it several times. However, he persists, and ultimately he is able to save Marius and bring him back to Cosette. In doing so, he puts aside his own fears and concerns for his own safety and focuses entirely on helping Marius.
Another example of sacrifice in the novel is that of Fantine, a young woman who is forced into prostitution to support her daughter. When she becomes seriously ill, she is unable to continue working, and her life is in danger. Valjean, who has taken pity on her, agrees to care for her and ensure that she receives proper medical attention. However, in order to do so, he must reveal his true identity and risk being caught by Javert. This act of sacrifice ultimately leads to Valjean's arrest, but it also saves Fantine's life.
The theme of sacrifice is also explored through the character of Enjolras, the young leader of the revolutionaries during the June Rebellion. Enjolras is willing to risk everything, including his own life, for the cause of liberty and justice. His dedication and selflessness inspire the other revolutionaries, and he becomes a symbol of hope and sacrifice for them.
Throughout the novel, Hugo uses artistic details and images to emphasize the theme of sacrifice. One example of this is the image of the barricades, which represent the sacrifices made by the revolutionaries during the June Rebellion. The barricades are a symbol of the struggle for justice and freedom, and they represent the willingness of the revolutionaries to put their lives on the line for their beliefs.
Another example of artistic detail is the character of the bishop, who is a symbol of selflessness and sacrifice. The bishop's act of kindness toward Valjean sets the stage for the rest of the novel, and his example inspires Valjean to become a better person and to make sacrifices of his own.
In conclusion, the theme of sacrifice is a central one in "Les Miserables," and it is portrayed through a variety of characters and situations. Hugo uses artistic details and images to emphasize this theme and to create a powerful emotional impact on the reader. Through the sacrifices of characters like Valjean, Fantine, and Enjolras, Hugo shows us the importance of putting others before ourselves and the transformative power of selflessness.