Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo, starts out with Valjean saying how he is 19 years old and a thief. The novel goes through his whole life. It explains the many conflicts he faces. But mainly it shows how he tries to escape his past during the French Revolution.
Valjean was not a very wealthy man. He stole a piece of bread because he was hungry. He got tried and committed as if he had done a major crime and served 5 years in prison. He ended up doing 19 years of hard labor because he had tried to escape and failed. After he got out he had no where to go. A forgiving bishop decided to take him in. He feeds him and gives him clothes and shelter. Even after all that the bishop has done for him, Valjean steals silverware from the bishop. Once the bishop found out it was him who had stole it, the bishop tells the police that he gave it to Valjean, so Valjean could get off.
After this Valjean decides to shape himself up. He sold the silver and moved to a town up north. He gets a job and he tries to start a life. Not only did he change his name, but he becomes a changed person as well. He eventually becomes mayor of this town. However, his past comes to haunt him. A police officer, which goes by the name of Javert, followed him to this town. Javert accuses another man of being the thief, so Valjean, being a changed man, turns himself in to save an innocent man. Eventually, Valjean escapes.
When he is out he meets this woman Fantine, who is a prostitute. She is very sick and Valjean helps nurse her. On her deathbed, Fantine asks Valjean to take care of her
daughter who is now owned by a money hungry family. Valjean agrees and buys her daughter, Cosette, from this family. He then takes her and all of the money he has left and flees to Paris.
The novel then moves to 9 years later. This is during the French Revolution. Cosette is now a young adult. She meets a student revolutionary named Marius. Javert, the police officer, is trailing Marius. That brings Javert back on the trail of Valjean. Once again, he can not escape his past.
Cosette and Marius fall in love and plan to wed. Before they could wed, Marius had to go into battle. He led mobs of people to police barricades and started fighting. Marius gets knocked unconscious and winds up in a sewer. Valjean knows how much Marius means to his adopted daughter and saves him. Javert finds Valjean during this and they end up getting into a fight. Javert ends up dying. Valjean finally reveals his past to Cosette and Marius. Valjean tells Cosette and Marius that the only thing that matters is love. Valjean is able to forgive and love everybody except for himself. Due to this, he died of a broken heart.
Les Miserable, by Victor Hugo not only shows how your surroundings can change but it shows how you, yourself, can change as a person. Valjean kept trying to clean up his life, but his past just kept following. This novel also shows the kind of things that happened during the French Revolution. Les Miserables is a classic.