Appearances matter—especially in the nineteenth-century, when most people really did believe you could judge a book by its cover. Hugo tries to get us to be less prejudiced about judging people by their appearances—he's the guy who wrote a whole book about a misunderstood hunchback, after all—but the fact remains that nearly every character in Les Misérables tends to size other people up before they've even had a chance to speak. And how often are they wrong? In the long run, even Hugo seems to think that good on the outside equals good on the inside.
Questions About Appearances
Is Victor Hugo being a hypocrite when he asks us not to judge people by their appearances? After all, aren't most of the "bad" characters in this book pretty unpleasant to look at?
Are there any examples of characters in this book who are more than meets the eye? Who?
Why does Jean Valjean dress in a poor person's clothing, even though he's rich? Support your view with evidence from the text.
Chew on This
In Les Misérables, people's appearances tend to tell us everything we need to know about them.
Les Misérables shows us that we should never judge a book by its cover or a person by their appearance.