The Themes of Les Miserables

by - June 03, 2017

Note: This post is about the book and the stage musical. The 2012 movie, while decent, will not make appearances; if I use pictures from it it's because they're just nice pictures of the characters.

It's the first week of June. 185 years ago, in the city of Paris, dozens of young university students rose up against the messy French government in hopes of fixing the government. Their goal was for the people of Paris to join them in their uprising. But no one did, and they were left to be slaughtered by the French National Guard.

It is against this backdrop that Les Miserables is set.

While the book can be quite difficult to get through (Hugo likes to go off on random rabbit trails the entire time) he's not afraid to deal with difficult themes or the truth of human nature. One of his protagonists is an ex-convict; another is a young prostitute; the villain is an unrelenting law officer. Thieves, murderers, cons, and shady people fill most of the supporting spots.
There's a lot of darkness. But there is also hope. Lots of hope.
Fantine (Ruthie Henshall)

In honor of the June Rebellion, the next few posts on this blog will be Les-Mis themed, and I hope you'll be inspired to check out the book or the Broadway musical. (I'll give you a rundown of the different versions of the musical in a couple of days. See how helpful I am? XD)

Today's post: The Themes of Les Miserables.


When your hero is a convict, you're going to have to deal with redemption at some point; and we see this theme reoccur multiple times. The most prominent example, of course, is Jean Valjean, who went to jail for nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread.
Jean Valjean (Colm Wilkinson)
As Valjean goes from a hardened man to a guy who makes it his mission to help people, we see the hope that we are offered. And this leads me to


Valjean is housed by a bishop, who feeds him and gives him a good room. And he repays this kindness by stealing all his silver. The next morning the police catch him and the bishop has to decide: will he help this man or let him go back to jail, probably for life?
The Bishop (also Colm Wilkinson)
That's when the bishop tells a lie. To keep the man who stole his stuff free. He could have let him go back, but instead, he gives him the silver as a gift, including two candlesticks that Valjean didn't grab on his way out.
And the man who should have gone to jail becomes a priest. He begins to use his money to help the poor. He helps people who most would walk right past.
When you are redeemed and find grace, you become a new man, and Jean Valjean certainly does.


The boys who started the June Rebellion knew that they were probably all going to die. They didn't have to do it. But they did anyway. They wanted the people around them to have a shot at freedom and real life.
Enjolras (Anthony Warlow)

This may not have been entirely necessary, but it was still brave and defiant of the system that did nothing for the poor. And when you defend the least, when you're willing to give your life for it...


You remember that prostitute I mentioned earlier in this post? Well, her name is Fantine, and she was a girl who made a mistake when she was young that led to her having a child out of wedlock. She left her daughter to board with a family in a small town a long way away and went to work in a factory.
But then she loses her job.
Cosette (Alex Finke)

That's the whole reason she became a prostitute- she was told her daughter was dying and she had to save her. She sacrificed herself for her child.
A mother's love is a force to be reckoned with, and Fantine is no exception. A woman who was willing to sell her body and soul for her little girl to live. The love of a mother knows no bounds.

There you have it: my four biggest themes from Les Mis. There were more of them when I was thinking about it, but, ya know.... I hope you enjoyed reading this list! And I hope you check back for more Les Mis-style stuff on Tuesday!

Have you read/listened to Les Miserables? Do you agree with my themes? Chat with me!

You May Also Like


  1. HAVE YOU SEEN THE 1998 MOVIE? (maybe I've asked before sorry)
    And yessssss. I agree with them all gosh. I could talk about this forever.

    1. I haven't yet, but my library has it so I may get it at some point.

      XD I know me too. I looooove Les Mis.

  2. I have listened to Les Mis. It's one of my favorite musicals!

    These were some really good points. Great post!!!!


  3. I read Les Mis a few months ago! It was sooooo long and really hard to read, but it was such a beautiful story that I just couldn't give up. I think this is one of the best classics out there because of these beautiful themes. I love this post so much! Thanks for posting it! <3

    1. It is really long and hard, but... I love it anyway. It's worth the slogging XD

  4. Replies
    1. Yeah, I do too... I mean, I can give it a couple more years, but eventually I'll get around to doing that again XD

    2. I'm glad you got the time-frame right! Every time someone calls it the French revolution I have a conniption.

      Les Mis is such a rich story, there's quite a bit to be said about the themes!

    3. IKR? It makes me so crazy! THEY'RE TWO SEPERATE THINGS WHY IS THAT SO HARD TO GET RIGHT???????!!!!!!!!!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. I have yet to read Les Mis - because the size of it is DAUNTING. It's HUGE! xD But I really should at some point, just to say that I did :D.

    (also I JUST FINISHED THE WARDEN AND THE WOLF KING. My heart is broke. What even do I do anymore except for be a small and melting puddle of feels in the corner. Someone send help. *sobs over the book*)

    ~ Savannah @ Scattered Scribblings

    1. It is huge! I'll give musical recommendations (the musical is totally worth it and just as good ;))

      And yes that book destroyed me. Aaahhhh. *dies*

  7. I MUST READ THIS. I love how deep and complex classics are, and if the theme is redemption, I must read it, because that's one of my favorite themes xD

    audrey caylin


Hello, friends! Do make yourselves comfortable and stay for a while--I'd love to chat with you! I simply ask that you keep it clean. :)