About the Book

Book Protagonist: Jean Valjean
Publication Date: 1862
Genre: Historical Fiction


Les Misérables

By Victor Hugo

The classic French novel 'Les Misérables' is a beautiful novel that contends with themes of love, suffering and life struggles, religion, and freedom. The many diverse characters are incredibly well-crafted and inspiringly written by Victor Hugo. 

The novel is filled with many quotable lines that deal with love and relationships, knowledge, the future, and suffering/life struggles. The story of ‘Les Misérables compellingly describes the true nature of love and religion while inspiring readers to see the future in their dreams and know that it can be reality. 

Love and Relationships 

The power of a glance has been so much abused in love stories, that it has come to be disbelieved in. Few people dare now to say that two beings have fallen in love because they have looked at each other. Yet it is in this way that love begins, and in this way only.

This is one of the most memorable love-related quotes found in all of ‘Les Misérables.’ The lines are extraordinarily well-written and convey what the author believed was the heart of love—a look. There are many different relationships and types of relationships in this long novel, and it’s easy to imagine any of them when reading these lines. 

Promise to give me a kiss on my brow when I am dead. –I shall feel it. […]And by the way, Monsieur Marius, I believe that I was a little bit in love with you.

This heart-breaking line comes from Eponine and is spoken in the last moments of her life. She’s talking to Marius, with whom she’s been in love for a long time. He doesn’t love her in return, except in the way one might love a very close friend. She dies in his arms, finally having admitted how she feels. 


Teach the ignorant as much as you can; society is culpable in not providing a free education for all and it must answer for the night which it produces. If the soul is left in darkness sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.

These powerful lines speak to the importance of education and wisdom in everyday life. There are those, the speaker notes, who are left out in the dark and are not educated about certain important topics in one way or another. These people are consigned to the darkness, often both physically and metaphorically. It is “he who causes the darkness,” Hugo writes, who is responsible, not the one who turns to it because they have no other means. 

A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is visible labor and there is invisible labor.

This short quote concerns learning and the importance of mental labor or thinking about one’s situation, future, and choices with deep clarity and concern. The author suggests that mental labor (which people can’t generally see) is as important and exhausting as physical labor. 

The Future 

The future has several names. For the weak, it is impossible; for the fainthearted, it is unknown; but for the valiant, it is ideal.

Hugo’s handling of the future, particularly seen in these quotes, is interesting and romantic. Like the characters in his novel who fight for freedom in one way or another, these lines promote dreaming and idealized goals for oneself. Only the valiant, or the brave and daring, think of the future and see it as “ideal.” 

They then, in theory, work to make that ideal future a reality. The weaker members of society think of the future (perhaps what they want for themselves or even just making it to a future date) as “impossible.” Then, he adds, there are the “fainthearted,” or the cowards, who are too fearful even to imagine a future. 

There is nothing like a dream to create the future.

This short, impactful line from ‘Les Misérables speaks to the importance of the future and dreams. It takes a dream or a vision of what life could be like, for any kind of better future to take shape. Essentially, the author suggests that if one can’t dream it, it won’t come true. 

Suffering and Life Struggles 

The pupil dilates in darkness and in the end finds light, just as the soul dilates in misfortune and in the end finds God.

These lines compare eyes to the soul, a common comparison that Victor Hugo takes to a new place in these lines. Rather than suggesting that the eye is the gateway to the soul, as is commonly written, he suggests that eyes react to darkness and light in the same way that the soul reacts to misfortune. It “dilates,” and while in the darkness, it can finally see God. The speaker says that religion often comes to those who suffer, and true clarity about life and God accompanies it. 


What is the most important theme in Les Misérables

The most important theme of ‘Les Misérables‘ is love. Despite the book’s overall complexity and length, all the interrelated storylines boil down to the importance of love. 

What is the moral of Les Misérables

The novel’s moral is that love, and caring for those around you, is the most important part of life. Taking care of others and honoring your friends and family should be the goal of one’s life. 

What kind of novel is Les Misérables?

What kind of novel is ‘Les Misérables is a historical fiction novel set in France in the early-to-mid-1800s. It began in 1815 and ended in 1832. 

Emma Baldwin
About Emma Baldwin
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues on Book Analysis.
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