Study Guide

Les Misérables Religion

By Victor Hugo

Religion

Fact: the world is full of suffering. Also fact: sometimes the people who suffer are harmless, like Fantine, or innocent, like Cosette. Now, you could certainly take this undeniable fact and run with it, saying that the existence of suffering is proof either that God doesn't exist or that God does exist and he's not actually all that good. On the other hand, you could say that the world is full of suffering and therefore we all need to get religion, believe firmly in God and heaven, and know that all of our suffering will be paid back in full—as long as we live good lives, helping the less fortunate and always acting morally. Can you guess which side Les Misérables is on?

Questions About Religion

  1. Do you think religion helps give a sense of redemption for all the suffering that characters in this book endure, or is it just an empty comfort?
  2. Do you agree with the government official who tells Bishop Myriel that religion is just for poor people with no sense of hope other than their faith in God? Why or why not?
  3. What role does religion play in making Jean Valjean a better person? Do you think he'd still be the same guy without religion in his life? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
  4. Does Hugo ever portray religion in a negative way? Where and why?

Chew on This

In Les Misérables, Victor Hugo shows us that religion is one of the only things that can save us from the crushing power of greed.

We learn in Les Misérables that religion is whatever people make of it. For judgmental people, it's an excuse to be judgmental. For nice people, it gives inspiration to be nice.

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