Study Guide

Les Misérables Youth

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You're only young once—but in the world of Les Misérables, even that might be too long. Childhood in nineteenth century France is not some draw-out idyll of eating popsicles, drawing hearts in your Lisa Frank notebook, and scheming up ways to get out of doing your homework. Instead, it looks a lot more like scrounging for scraps on the streets, sleeping in hollow elephants, and trying to avoid physical abuse at the hands of the nearest. The flip side? If anything is going to change the world, it's going to be the idealism and optimism of the young.

Questions About Youth

  1. What does Fantine's relationship with Tholomyès tell us about youth? How could you read it as a warning about being young and inexperienced?
  2. Why does the young Gavroche never show fear? How has his life on the street molded his character?
  3. Is Monsieur Gillenormand jealous of Marius' youth? Why or why not? Use specific evidence from the text to support your answer.
  4. How do the members of the ABC Society decide to spend their youth? Why?

Chew on This

In Les Misérables, Victor Hugo shows us that young people can be a truly transformative force in society once they start caring about something.

In Les Misérables, we learn that youth should be a time of ignorance and enjoyment, but that's not what most young people get to experience.

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