Let's stop getting personal for a minute and get general—very, very general. For Victor Hugo, poverty is an abyss that sucks you down into it. Okay, sure, it's remotely possible for someone to use innovation and hard work to get out of this abyss. Jean Valjean, after all, makes himself a very rich man. But this kind of upward jump is extremely rare and depends on his (1) receiving a large and unexpected windfall, and (2) totally leaving his old life, a.k.a. criminal record behind. In other words, let's not start relying on Valjean's story as a general example.