Ah, family. They love you, they encourage you, they … throw you out on the street if they can't feed you. Wait, what? In Les Misérables, family feeling is a luxury for the rich—and then, only if they happen to agree with your every word. (Ahem, Monsieur Gillenormand.) But it's not all gloom and doom. Hugo also shows that family can be the greatest thing in the world, even, or maybe especially, for people who aren't blood relatives. Just look at how much Jean Valjean and Cosette bring to one another's lives.
Questions About Family
- Do you think that Jean Valjean's attachment to Cosette is an appropriate one? What about when he starts to feel jealous toward Marius? Are there other examples of family attachments that seem a little questionable?
- How would you describe the family dynamics of the Thénardiers? Who gets treated well? Who poorly? Why?
- Do you think that on the whole, Victor Hugo has a positive or negative view of family? Support your answer with evidence from the text.
Chew on This
In Les Misérables, Victor Hugo shows us that "family" refers to whoever you love. It's not just a blood relation.
In Les Misérables, we learn that family can be a burden just as much as a blessing.