Wait, did you think that a book called Les Misérables was going to be all sunshine and rainbows? (Of course you didn't; you're Shmoopers.) The stinkin' book has "suffering" in its very name, so no surprises here: pretty much everyone in all 1,200 pages suffers in some way. Okay, so suffering in a big fancy house with a lot of money is probably easier than suffering on the street, but the point is that life is hard. No matter who you are. It just is. That's probably why two of the most important qualities you can have in Victor Hugo's world are faith and resilience.
Questions About Suffering
What is the biggest cause of suffering in Les Misérables? Why?
Who tends to suffer most in this book? Is their suffering redeemed in any way?
How does Thénardier react to other people's suffering? How is this reaction different from that of someone like Jean Valjean?
How does Bishop Myriel's treatment of Jean Valjean set the tone for the rest of this book?
Chew on This
In Les Misérables, Victor Hugo says that suffering will always exist. You just need to make sure that someone else does the suffering and not you.
Les Misérables wants us to know that our lifelong duty is to take away other people's suffering in whatever way we can.