Short summary - Les Misérables - Victor Hugo

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Les Misérables
Victor Hugo

In 1815, the bishop of the city of Digne was Charles-Francois Míriel, nicknamed for good deeds the Desired - Bienvenue. This unusual man in his youth had many love affairs and led a secular life - however, the Revolution broke everything. Mr. Míriel left for Italy, from where he returned as a priest. At the whim of Napoleon, the old parish priest takes the episcopal throne. He begins his pastoral career by surrendering the beautiful building of the episcopal palace to a local hospital, and he himself moves into a cramped small house. He gives his considerable salary entirely to the poor. Both the rich and the poor knock on the bishop's door: some come for alms, others bring it. This holy man is universally respected - he is gifted to heal and forgive.

In early October 1815, a dusty traveler enters Dinh - a stocky, sturdy man in his prime. His beggarly clothes and sullen weather-beaten face are repulsive. First of all, he goes to the mayor's office, and then tries to get a lodging somewhere for the night. But he is driven from everywhere, although he is ready to pay with a full-fledged coin. This man's name is Jean Valjean. He spent nineteen years in hard labor - because he once stole a loaf of bread for seven hungry children of his widowed sister. Embittered, he turned into a wild hunted beast - with his "yellow" passport, there is no place for him in this world. Finally, a woman, taking pity on him, advises him to go to the bishop. After hearing the gloomy confession of the convict, Monsignor Bienvenue orders him to be fed in the guest room. In the middle of the night, Jean Valjean wakes up: he is haunted by six silver cutlery - the only wealth of the bishop, kept in the master's bedroom. Valjean tiptoes to the bishop's bed, breaks open the cupboard with silver and wants to smash the good shepherd's head with a massive candlestick, but some incomprehensible force is holding him back. And he flees through the window.

In the morning the gendarmes bring the fugitive to the bishop - this suspicious man was detained with apparently stolen silver. Monsignor can send Valjean to life in prison. Instead, Mister Míriel brings out two silver candlesticks, which yesterday's guest allegedly forgot. The last parting word of the bishop is to use the gift to become an honest person. The shocked convict hastily leaves the city. A difficult, painful work is going on in his hardened soul. At sunset, he automatically takes the forty sous coin from the boy he meets. Only when the baby runs away with bitter crying, the meaning of his act comes to Valjean: he sags heavily on the ground and cries bitterly - for the first time in nineteen years.

In 1818, the town of Montreil flourished, and it owes this to one person: three years ago, an unknown person settled here, who managed to improve the traditional local craft - the manufacture of artificial jet. Uncle Madeleine not only became rich himself, but also helped many others to make a fortune. Until recently, unemployment raged in the city - now everyone has forgotten about the need. Uncle Madeleine was distinguished by extraordinary modesty - neither the deputy chair, nor the Order of the Legion of Honor attracted him at all. But in 1820 he had to become mayor: a simple old woman ashamed him, saying that he was ashamed to back down if the opportunity fell out to do a good deed. And Uncle Madeleine became Monsieur Madeleine. Everyone was in awe of him, and only the police agent Javert looked at him with extreme suspicion. In the soul of this man there was room for only two feelings, taken to extremes - respect for power and hatred of rebellion. In his eyes, a judge could never make a mistake, and a criminal could never correct himself. He himself was blameless to the point of disgust. Surveillance was the meaning of his life.

One day Javert repentantly informs the mayor that he must go to the neighboring city of Arras - there will be tried the former convict Jean Valjean, who immediately after his release robbed the boy. Javert had previously thought that Jean Valjean was hiding under the guise of Monsieur Madeleine - but that was a mistake. After releasing Javert, the mayor falls into deep thought, and then leaves the city. At the trial in Arras, the defendant stubbornly refuses to recognize himself as Jean Valjean and claims that his name is Uncle Chanmatier and there is no fault of him. The judge is preparing to pass a guilty verdict, but then an unknown person gets up and announces that he is Jean Valjean, and the defendant must be released. Word spreads quickly that the venerable Mayor, Monsieur Madeleine, is an escaped convict. Javert is triumphant - he cleverly set a snare for the criminal.

The jury ruled that Valjean be sent to the galleys in Toulon for life. Once on board the Orion ship, he saves the life of a sailor who has fallen off the yacht, and then throws himself into the sea from a dizzying height. A report appears in the Toulon newspapers that the convict Jean Valjean drowned. However, after some time he is announced in the town of Montfermeil. He is brought here by a vow. During his tenure as mayor, he treated the woman who gave birth to an illegitimate child with excessive harshness, and repented, remembering the merciful Bishop Myriel. Before his death, Fantine asks him to take care of his girl Cosette, whom she had to give to the thenardier innkeepers. The Thenardiers represented cunning and malice in marriage. Each of them tortured the girl in his own way: she was beaten and forced to work to a pulp - and this was the fault of his wife; She walked in winter barefoot and in rags - the reason for this was her husband. Taking Cosette, Jean Valjean settles on the most remote outskirts of Paris. He taught the little girl to read and write and did not interfere with her playing to her heart's content - she became the meaning of the life of a former convict who kept the money earned from the production of jet. But Inspector Javert does not give him rest here either. He arranges a night raid: Jean Valjean is saved by a miracle, unnoticed jumping over a blank wall into the garden - it turned out to be a convent. Cosette is taken to the convent boarding house, and her adoptive father becomes the gardener's assistant.

The respectable bourgeois Monsieur Gillenormand lives with his grandson, who bears a different surname - the boy's name is Marius Ponmercy. Marius's mother died, but he never saw his father: M. Gillenormand called his son-in-law "the Loire robber", since the imperial troops were taken to the Loire to disband. Georges Pontmercy reached the rank of colonel and became a Knight of the Legion of Honor. He almost died in the Battle of Waterloo - he was carried from the battlefield by a marauder who cleaned the pockets of the wounded and dead. All this Marius learns from the dying message of his father, who turns for him into a titanic figure. The former royalist becomes an ardent admirer of the emperor and begins to almost hate his grandfather. Marius leaves home with a scandal - he has to live in extreme poverty, almost in poverty, but he feels free and independent. During his daily walks in the Luxembourg Gardens, the young man notices a handsome old man, who is always accompanied by a girl of about fifteen. Marius passionately falls in love with a stranger, but his natural shyness prevents him from getting to know her. The old man, noticing Marius' close attention to his companion, moves out of the apartment and stops appearing in the garden. It seems to the unhappy young man that he has lost his beloved forever. But one day he hears a familiar voice behind the wall - where a large family of Jondrets lives. Looking through the crack, he sees an old man from the Luxembourg Gardens - he promises to bring money in the evening. Obviously, Jondrette has the ability to blackmail him: an interested Marius overhears how the villain is conspiring with the members of the "Cock's Hour" gang - they want to arrange a trap for the old man in order to take everything from him. Marius notifies the police. Inspector Javert thanks him for his help and hands him pistols just in case. In front of the young man's eyes, a terrible scene is played out - the innkeeper Thenardier, hiding under the name of Jondrette, hunted down Jean Valjean. Marius is ready to intervene, but then policemen led by Javert burst into the room. While the inspector is dealing with the bandits, Jean Valjean jumps out the window - only then Javert realizes that he has missed a much larger game.

In 1832, Paris was in fermentation. Friends of Marius rave about revolutionary ideas, but the young man is occupied with something else - he continues to stubbornly search for a girl from the Luxembourg Gardens. Finally, happiness smiled at him. With the help of one of the Thenardier's daughters, the young man finds Cosette and confesses his love to her. It turned out that Cosette also loved Marius for a long time. Jean Valjean is unaware of anything. Most of all, the former convict is worried that the Thenardier is clearly watching their quarter. Comes on June 4. An uprising breaks out in the city - barricades are being erected everywhere. Marius cannot leave his comrades. Alarmed, Cosette wants to send him a message, and Jean Valjean's eyes finally open: his baby has become an adult and found love. Despair and jealousy strangle the old convict, and he goes to the barricade defended by the young Republicans and Marius. They fall into the hands of a disguised Javert - the detective is seized, and Jean Valjean again meets his sworn enemy. He has full opportunity to deal with the person who has done him so much harm, but the noble convict prefers to free the policeman. Meanwhile, government troops are advancing: the defenders of the barricade are dying one after another - among them the glorious little boy Gavroche, a true Parisian tomboy. Marius shattered his collarbone with a rifle shot - he finds himself in the complete power of Jean Valjean.

The old convict carries Marius off the battlefield on his shoulders. Punishers prowl everywhere, and Valjean descends underground - into the terrible sewers. After long ordeals, he gets out to the surface only to find himself face to face with Javert. The detective allows Valjean to take Marius to his grandfather and stop by to say goodbye to Cosette - this is not at all like the ruthless Javert. Valjean's amazement was great when he realized that the policeman had released him. Meanwhile, for Javert himself, the most tragic moment in his life comes: for the first time he broke the law and set the criminal free! Unable to resolve the contradiction between duty and compassion, Javert freezes on the bridge - and then a dull splash is heard.

Marius is between life and death for a long time. In the end, youth wins. The young man finally meets Cosette, and their love blossoms. They receive the blessing of Jean Valjean and Monsieur Gillenormand, who, with joy, completely forgave his grandson. The wedding took place on February 16, 1833. Valjean confesses to Marius that he is a fugitive convict. Young Ponmercy is horrified. Nothing should darken Cosette's happiness, so the criminal should gradually disappear from her life - after all, he is just an adoptive father. At first, Cosette is somewhat surprised, and then gets used to the increasingly rare visits of her former patron. Soon the old man stopped coming altogether, and the girl forgot about him. And Jean Valjean began to wither and fade away: the doorkeeper invited a doctor to him, but he only threw up his hands - this man, apparently, lost the most dear creature for himself, and no medicine will help here. Marius believes that the convict deserves such an attitude - undoubtedly, it was he who robbed Monsieur Madeleine and killed the defenseless Javert, who saved him from the bandits. And here the greedy Thenardier reveals all the secrets: Jean Valjean is not a thief or a murderer. Moreover, it was he who carried Marius off the barricade. The young man pays generously to the vile innkeeper - and not only for the truth about Valjean. Once a villain did a good deed, rummaging in the pockets of the wounded and killed - the man he saved was called Georges Pontmercy. Marius and Cosette go to Jean Valjean to beg for forgiveness. The old convict dies happy - his beloved children took his last breath. The young couple orders a touching epitaph on the grave of the sufferer.