English II H
In the novel, Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo, the protagonist, Jean Valjean transforms dramatically and ends up sacrificing for the benefit of others. For Fantine, Valjean gives up his time and work to help her survive as long as possible. Valjean sacrifices his freedom by adopting Cosette, and for Marius’ sake, Jean Valjean suffers pain by releasing his secret of his pitiful past. Starting out with an empty life, absent of morals, he turns it around and uses his pain and suffering to accommodate those around him.
In the beginning, Jean Valjean was like a ship lost at sea. He spent nineteen years in prison for stealing a piece of bread, and years were added due to escape attempts. After being released, he comes into contact with bishop Bienvenu who shows him the difference between good and evil and demonstrates kindness. He informs Valjean that his past should be forgotten: “It is your soul I am buying for you. I withdraw it from dark thoughts and from the spirit of Perdition and I give it to God.”(Hugo, 34) After Valjean leaves the bishop, and repents of his old ways, he sets out to help people in need. Fantine, a poor, hopeless prostitute, is the first to tug on Valjean’s heart and cry out for help. She is struggling to support her daughter, Cosette, while fighting for her own life. This poor wretch gave up her long hair and her perfect teeth to save her little girl, whom she is led to believe is dying. Taking action, Jean Valjean liberates her from jail so she may continue working. Then, when Fantine becomes ill, Valjean cares for her, guaranteeing that Cosette will soon be safe and well. With this in mind, the woman dies a peaceful death. For Fantine, Jean Valjean gives up his time and goes out of his way to help her in a time of strife. Little did he know, her daughter would shortly change his life.
Carrying out his promise to Fantine, Valjean immediately sets out in pursuit of Cosette. When he finds her in the hands of a...