English II—Honors/AIG Name ________________________
Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
Directions: Write a brief answer to each study question as you read the novel. This study
guide will help you understand the plot of Les Misérables. Use the questions for review
before your novel test.
*Questions with stars are open-ended questions. There is no right or wrong
answer, but you must explain the reasons for your answer.
Les Misérables is, like a drama, divided into five sections. However, unlike most dramas, these
sections are the names of characters. The inner structure parallels that of a drama as well. The first
act is a suspenseful exposition; the second one contains the rising action. At the end of the third act,
most dramatists like to provide a climax or point of no return; is that the pattern here? What about
the fourth “act”? More climax, falling action? The fifth section, resolution and denouement? It has
been said that Hugo follows the pattern of most of Shakespeare’s tragedies, bringing together, at
almost exactly the midpoint of the book, all his key characters in a dramatic confrontation. The
confrontation is, however, inconclusive for all of the characters in Les Miserable, and we are left in
the expectation of a more decisive encounter later on. Stay tuned…
PAGE NUMBERS ARE BASED ON THE RECOMMENDED EDITION OF THE NOVEL.
FANTINE— pages 1-134
1. What is the setting at the beginning of the novel?
2. Why do the townspeople close their doors to the traveler?
3. Why was Jean Valjean sent to prison as a young man?
4. What sort of childhood and young adulthood has Jean Valjean had?
5. How does the bishop help Jean Valjean avoid arrest?
6. What does Jean Valjean take from Petit Gervais?
7. Who is Fantine?
8. Why does Fantine give Cosette to the Thénardiers?
9. Who is “Monsieur Madeleine?”
10. How does Monsieur Madeleine risk his life to save two children?
11. How does Monsieur Madeleine make his fortune?
12. How does Monsieur Madeleine spend most of his money?
13. What is your impression of Javert?
14. * How do you think the Thénardiers will treat Cosette?
15. * Name a real person who, like Jean Valjean, helped his whole community to prosper.
16. What crime has the man who called himself Father Champmathieu been accused of
17. How is his crime like the trouble Jean Valjean originally got into?
18. Why do most people think that the accused man is Jean Valjean?
19. Why does Jean Valjean decide to reveal his identity to the court?
20. Why does Jean Valjean prove that he is who he says he is?
21. What promise has Jean Valjean given to Fantine?
22. Why is Fantine so upset when she first sees Jean Valjean?
23. * Do you think Jean Valjean should have gone to get her child rather than turning himself in?
24. Explain what is meant by “No orthography can express the tone in which this was
pronounced.” (p. 92)
25. Why does Jean Valjean say that Javert has killed Fantine?
26. At this point, you should know from what point of view the author tells the story. Is it first
person or third person? ______________________________
27. You also know, of course, whether the narrator is omniscient (where the narrator knows
everything about the characters and can move about in time and place and can enter the mind
of any character) or limited (where narrative elements are limited to what a single character
sees, thinks, and hears). Is the narrator of Les Misérables omniscient or limited?
28. The protagonist is the chief character in a story. The character in fiction or drama who stands
directly opposed to the protagonist is the antagonist. Who is the protagonist of Les
Misérables? __________________________ Who is the antagonist?
1. How does Jean Valjean risk his life again to save someone else?
2. How does Jean Valjean become an escaped convict?
3. What type of place is Gorbeau House?
4. Why does Jean Valjean flee from Gorbeau House? Why has Jean Valjean chosen to live
5. Is Cosette happy here?
6. What does the landlady discover?
7. How does Fauchelevent repay his former debt to Jean Valjean?
8. What is Jean Valjean’s job in the convent? What kind of life do Jean Valjean and Cosette
have in the convent?
MARIUS-- pages 219-334
1. Describe Marius’s homelife at about age 11-12.
2. Briefly describe Monsieur Gillenormand.
3. Who lives in the house with M. Gillenormand?
4. How does M. Gillenormand feel about his grandson?
5. * How will Jean Valjean feel when Cosette falls in love?
6. * Describe a time when you—like Fauchelevent—returned a favor someone had once done
7. How did Marius’s grandfather end up raising him?
8. Who is George Pontmercy and what is his relationship to Marius?
9. Why does Abbé Mabeuf admire Pontmercy?
10. Put this statement into your own words: “…as he naturally imbibed by a sort of infiltration
and slow penetration, the ideas and opinions which formed, so to say, the air he breathed, he
came little by little to think of his father only with shame and with a closed heart.” (p. 200)
11. When does Marius go to see his father?
12. What does Marius’s father leave his son?
13. How does Marius learn his father loved him?
14. Why does Marius’s opinion of Napoleon change?
15. Why does Marius move out of his grandfather’s house?
16. What are the next three years of Marius’s life like?
17. Why does the young girl come to Marius’s door? How does she act?
18. Why does the young woman who Marius has been searching for come to the garret?
19. Why doesn’t Marius speak to her? What could he have said or done?
20. How and why does Jondrette ambush “Monsieur Leblanc?”
21. Who is Jondrette, really?
22. Why do you think Monsieur Leblanc brands himself with the glowing chisel?
23. Who is M. Leblanc, really?
24. How does Marius save M. Leblanc with a paper instead of a bullet?
25. Why does M. Leblanc not stick around once Javert and the police burst in?
26. Why does Marius move?
27. How does he get the address of the young woman?
28. Why do you suppose Eponine is helping Marius? What do you think she will ask in return?
29. THEME: The theme of a novel is the most important idea in a story—the “message”. It is
often about the way people deal with problems in life. What characters in a story (and its
readers, too) learn is often a clue to the theme. The title and direct comments also offer clues
to the theme.
What is one important theme of Les Misérables?_____________________________
Discuss what the title and the following statement (p. 254) reveal about the theme of
…there is a point, moreover, at which the unfortunate and the infamous are associated
and confounded in a single word, a fatal word, —Les Misérables; whose fault is it? And
then, is it not when the fall is lowest that charity ought to be greatest?
30. * Name and describe one historical fact that you learned from this section.
ST. DENIS—pages 337-466
1. Marius' old friend Mabeuf, the churchwarden, has been suffering a decline. One
evening, Mabeuf would like to water his flowers, but he doesn't even have the
strength. Unexpectedly, he has a bizarre visitor, Eponine, a ragged, undernourished
girl who waters his whole garden for him. What does she ask for a reward?
2. What does Eponine offer Marius?
3. What are Eponine’s feelings about Marius?
4. Why has Jean Valjean taken Cosette from the convent?
5. Why doesn’t Jean Valjean like Marius?
6. Do you think Cosette knows or suspects how Jean Valjean got the wound? Why does Valjean
say to himself, “Oh! The good wound!”
7. How does Cosette meet Marius face to face? How do they get along? Are you surprised that
things move so fast? Are you surprised that Cosette keeps this secret from Jean Valjean?
9. Why does Marius scrape his address on the wall?
10. What sad news does Cosette have soon for Marius?
11. Why isn’t Cosette there when Marius returns, as promised, two days later?
12. Why doesn’t Cosette send Marius a note?
13. Where has Marius been in the meantime?
14. Why does Marius go to the barricade?
15. Why is Enjolras suspicious of Javert? What does he do with the “spy?”
16. How does Jean Valjean end up with the note Marius sent Cosette? Why does it make him
17. * How do you feel toward Jean Valjean at this point in the story?
JEAN VALJEAN—pages 469-595
1. Why does Jean Valjean give up his National Guard uniform?
2. How does Gavroche die, despite Marius’s attempt to save him?
3. How does Javert escape from the insurgents?
4. How does Jean Valjean save Marius and why?
5. Why do you think he remembers that night he dropped into the convent carrying Cosette?
6. How does Jean Valjean manage to get out of the locked sewer? Who helps him? Why?
7. What does Thénardier think when he sees Jean Valjean carrying Marius?
8. How is Jean Valjean recaptured by Javert?
9. What does Jean Valjean ask Javert to do?
10. Why do you suppose Javert doesn’t say no to this request as he had years before, when
Valjean asked only to be allowed to find Fantine’s daughter before going to prison?
11. Who jumps into the Seine—and why?
12. How does Jean Valjean know where to take Marius? Why do you suppose he doesn’t wait
around until Marius’s grandfather appears?
13. *What will happen to the piece of Marius’s coat that Thénardier tore off?
14. How does Marius’s grandfather react when Marius announces that he plans to marry? What
had he planned to do if his grandfather had refused?
15. How does Cosette learn that Jean Valjean is not her father? Are you surprised by her
16. Why doesn’t Jean Valjean stay for the wedding banquet?
17. What is the “inseparable” and what does Jean Valjean carry in it?
18. How does Marius learn that Jean Valjean is a convict?
19. How does Cosette’s relationship with Jean Valjean change after her wedding?
20. Why does she meet Jean Valjean in a basement room? Is she worried about him?
21. How does Marius learn that Jean Valjean saved his life?
22. How does Marius learn that the money Jean Valjean has given the couple is “honest money?”
23. Who is with Jean Valjean when he dies? By what chance do they decide to visit Jean Valjean
on the very night he is dying?
24. Does Jean Valjean die happy? Explain.
25. *What values do you suppose Cosette will try to teach her own children, someday?
26. * Compose a sentence that begins “The ending of Les Misérables made me feel
________________________ because …
CHARACTERS: Briefly identify each character in a sentence or two.
1. Jean Valjean
5. Monsieur Madeleine
7. Madame Thénardier
9. Monsieru LeBlanc
12. George Pontmercy
14. Old Gillenormand
16. Petit Gervais
17. Old Fauchelevent
18. Monseigneur Bienvenu