Study Guide

Les Misérables Tone

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Thorough and Sympathetic

Victor Hugo might be a great poetic writer, but he's also a man of facts. In some cases, readers can't stand the way he follows any thought to its conclusion, regardless of whether it's important to his plot. But hey, that's how you end up with a 1,200-page novel. At the very beginning of this story, for example, Hugo hits us with the following line:

Although it has no direct bearing on the tale we have to tell, we must nevertheless give some account of the rumours and gossip concerning [Bishop Myriel] which were in circulation when he came to occupy the diocese (

Oh well, that's just great. Exactly what this book needed: useless rumors. But okay, there's an important lesson to take from Hugo's tone. What he's really telling us here is that we should care just as much about people as we do about being entertained by plot. In the end, Victor Hugo wants his readers to walk away from this book feeling more sympathetic toward other people, especially the poor. And what better way to have sympathy for people than to focus on how deep and interesting they are?

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