Character Analysis Unit

  • Character Analysis Unit


    SO long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine, with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.


    -Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables


    In the author’s preface of Les Miserables, Hugo indicates that as long as the “law and custom to impose social condemnation… creates artificial hells on earth,” and as long as “three problems of the age” continue to exist in society, books like this will continue to be useful.  These issues are oftentimes raised through Hugo’s description of characters, both dynamic and static.  We learn, for example, the horrors of prostitution and general treatment of women through Fantine’s story; the justice system is perfectly exemplified in the persona of Javert; the problems with French politics that lead to the revolution are discussed through Marius’ family.  These characters and their actions help provide insight into a previous society that is not too unlike present day society.


    Your task in this unit and final exam project is to examine what insight the author gives the reader through the actions and narration of the novel.  


    In this unit, you will complete 3 different tasks:


    1.       Annotation Assignment on Victor Hugo’s background and experiences

    2.       A series of Socratic discussions on the novel

    3.       A final exam project/presentation that explores the characters of Les Miserables and their connection to larger societal issues