During the Romantic Movement in the 1700’s various writers were inspired to write poems or novels that include romantic qualities. What is Romanticism? Well it can be defined as a movement emphasizing self-expression and reason over logic. During this period, emphasis shifted from tradition of the church who gave people their experience to the importance of the individual’s experience. The aspect most stressed in France is echoed in Victor Hugo’s expression “liberalism in literature,” meaning the freeing the writer of restrains and rules marked by the inspiration of radical political ideas. The novel “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo indeed demonstrates romantic qualities such as spiritual growth, emotion/sympathy and Nature.
Jean Valjean is an exceptional character who demonstrates spiritual growth because he feels lost and nothing can change his life he has. All changes when he meets a Bishop who says “you no longer belong to evil but to good” (Hugo 34) he offers Valjean unconditional love, trusting the former convict with his life because of this Valjean becomes new man and goes on to become a kind yet humble mayor. The romantics were fascinated “with self-exploration and with the particulars of the individual’s experience in the world” (Milne) because of this writers consider the worth of the characters in their work. Years after the encounter with the bishop Valjean begins to grow spiritually by establishing himself as the mayor of a little town. There his love begins to extend to individuals in his care to the citizens of his town, and to the basic principle of a good natured person. Javert, a detective, constantly shows up to remind Jean Valjean of his criminal past and tells Valjean “the real Jean Valjean has been found” (…
…ave], I live…in the Rue del’ Homme arme, number seven” (Hugo 494). With emphasis on individuality “the romantics valued emotion, intuition, and feeling over logic” (Milne) so in the case of “Les Miserables”, Valjean lets Javert go because of his overall feeling. Logically Valjean should want to kill Javert but because he judges the situation on feeling that he comes to the conclusion to free him. Emotions drive each character to do the things they do.
“Romanticism.” Literary Movements for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Literary Movements. Ed. Ira Mark Milne. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 2009. 705-743. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 11 May 2014.
“Les Miserables: Victor Hugo 1862.” Epics for Students. Ed. Sara Constantakis. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2011. 377-417. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 11 May 2014.