Les Misérables Summary

The story is a build-up and escalation of the fate of several characters from different runs of life. The first character introduced is Jean Valjean, a man convicted for thievery who is released from prison and nobody at Digne takes him in except Myriel, a Bishop. He soon returns Myriel the favor by stealing his silverware. Later on, he takes the alias of Madeleine and becomes the mayor of Montreuil. Fantine, another character, struggles with her illegitimate child Cosette who is later adopted by Valjean. Valjean tries to help Fantine but she dies later. Cosette is taken from her foster-parents, the Thénardiers, by Valjean and they escape to a convent when Javert, an officer, finds their whereabouts. Cosette grows up and Marius, a young law student, falls in love with her. When Valjean prevents their love from happening, Marius joins the rebellion and, in the end, they are happily married off.

Fantine, Books 1-2
Myriel is a bishop who initially fled the country during the French Revolution. Later, he returns as a Bishop, appointed by Napoléon in Digne. He supports the city and donates everything.

Next comes Jean Valjean, a gardener convicted of stealing and frequent escapes that make him end up in jail for nineteen years. After release, he ends up accepted in Myriel’s house. Valjean steals from Myriel and gets caught, but after being caught, Myriel pardons him and makes him promise to be a good man.

Fantine, Books 3-4
The next part of the story begins with four aristocratic university students are seen to have a single mistress each of middle or lower class. The youngest, Fantine, falls in love with Tholomyes. Soon, Tholomyes severs their connections while Fantine is pregnant with his daughter.

A few years later, Fantine decides to raise her child in her hometown, Montreuil-sur-mer. Out of fear of being driven out since her daughter Cossette is illegitimate, she hands her over to the Thenardiers who mistreat her and charge money for fostering.

Fantine, Book 5
Fantine on returning to her hometown realizes how much it has flourished. The progress is due to Monsieur Madeleine, an industrialist who invented a cheaper way to produce black beads. He becomes the mayor in 1820 and very less about his past is known. Nobody is suspicious about him but Javert, a police inspector. Fantine loses her job since her secret is known. She becomes a prostitute and gets in a fight that involves Javert and soon Madeleine offers to help. This gesture infuriates Javert.

Fantine, Books 6-8
Fantine falls sick. Javert faultily recognizes Champmathieu as Valjean and asks for leave for trials of the man, of which he disapproves. Madeleine suffers from guilt remembering Myriel’s words.

Madeleine removes proofs of his past life. Soon he confesses in court that he is Valjean.

Champmathieu is exonerated. Javert stops Madeleine from helping Cosette. This news causes Fantine to die out of shock. Valjean, however, escapes prison and leaves for Paris.

Cosette, Books 1-2
The narrator describes the battle of Waterloo and gratifies the French and Napoleon. He opines that the bravery of the French won and the loss was bad luck. Thenardier, a thief is mistaken by a revived soldier to be his savior while robbing him.

Valjean is framed to have taken money. Old Boulatruelle is obsessed with digging a chest that contains wealth buried by a prisoner. Other news suggests a prisoner drowns after saving a drowning sailor by the name of Jean Valjean.

Cosette, Book 3
Cosette grows up mistreated by the Thenardiers. She is forced to bring resources from the woods where she meets Valjean. He persuades the Thenardiers to let her enjoy herself by tipping them now and then. Soon, he offers to buy Cosette from them because of which they try finding ways to scrape more money.

Cosette, Books 4-5
Valjean lodges in Gorbeau House with Cosette. He pretends she is his granddaughter and becomes a philanthropist despite being poor. Javert follows them even there and this compels him to leave the place.

Valjean packs and escapes with Cosette. But he is still chased by Javert and his men. Soon, he manages to get out of their sight and they get shelter in an old friend’s place. The narrator describes how he found Valjean’s whereabouts and how toying with Valjean let him escape.

Cosette, Books 6-8
The narrator describes the Petit-Picpus convent and its functions.  The nuns are kept under strict jurisdictions. Only the Archbishop and the gardener are allowed to enter the convent. Soon, the strictness of the place fades as no strict successors remain.

Then the narrator describes how religion and democracy do not necessarily conflict with each other but soon criticizes monasticism. He tries to opine that monasticism followers like Petit-Picpus are more of a religious prison.

Valjean acquires a job as a gardener at the convent and Cosette is enrolled in the convent school.

Marius, Books 1-3
The narrator describes Gavroche and his life. He is the unwanted son of the Thenardiers. They live at the Gorbeau House in disguise. He begs and steals to survive in the streets of Paris.

Next comes Marius Pontmercy, a man raised by his maternal grandfather, Monsieur Gillenormand. His father, Georges Pontmercy, is persecuted for supporting Napoleon and thus, Marius falls under his grandfather’s custody.

Marius visits his father, learns about his love for Marius and starts admiring his beliefs soon. Gillenormand knows of this and is enraged, which ends with Marius leaving the house for good.

Marius, Books 4-7
Marius meets like-minded people in politics in the club “Friends of the ABC”. He argues with them about Napoleon while they prefer democracy.

Marius soon leaves the club, passes law and yet remains poor. He refuses to take money and soon gets a job in a bookstore which doesn’t pay enough for his living.

Marius falls in love with Cosette but despite many efforts, he fails to know anything about her since Valjean disapproves of it.

The narrator next introduces the infamous Patron-Minette and how they execute and control criminal acts in Paris.

Marius, Book 8
Marius tries many more times to track down Cosette whose name he thinks to be Ursula. Soon, he meets Eponine, one of the Thenardier’s daughters, disguised under the surname of Jondrette.

Eponine is interested in him. Marius finds out that the Jondrettes know his Ursula. Soon, they threaten Valjean and Marius finds out their actual surname. He informs the cops about the incident. Later when Valjean is cornered by the Jondrettes, Marius and Javert create confusion and Valjean escapes.

Saint-Denis, Books 1-7
The first book narrates the brief description of how political chaos took over the government of France since the battle of Waterloo.

Marius obsesses over Cosette while Eponine finds her whereabouts out of love for him.

The next book describes Cosette’s yearnings for love and Valjean's fear of losing his childlike Cosette.

The preceding storyline narrates Gavroche picking money from Montparnasse and helping out Mabeuf who is in dire need of money.

Marius finally confesses his love for Cosette and she reciprocates.

Gavroche is seen helping feed his own little brothers, a freezing lady and his own father to escape from prison.

Saint-Denis, Books 8-15
Valjean plans on moving out of France while Marius and Cosette’s love deepens. He wants to marry Cosette but his grandfather disapproves.

Heartbroken Marius who fails to find Cosette joins the barricades.

The next book describes a cholera struck Paris which explodes in chaos on June 5, 1832.

Marius, Friends of the ABC, Gavroche and Mabeuf all join the ranks.

The students build barracks, Gavroche tries to be armed. The barricades are up. Javert is caught spying.

Marius loses his mind and proceeds to the barricades with guns in hand,

The preceding story reveals how Marius saves a failing revolt, Gavroche and Courfeyrac. Eponine dies to save Marius and Cosette’s whereabouts are known again.

Gavroche delivers Marius’s letter to Cosette where Valjean interferes. He rejoices Marius’s death but later makes a move to save him.

Jean Valjean, Books 1-3
Valjean gives up his uniform to save men, Gavroche dies gathering ammunition. Valjean saves both Marius and Javert.

The next chapter speaks about the sewers of Paris and how a person named Bruneseau redesigned the sewers.

Valjean finds a way out of the sewers. Javert captures him but Valjean asks for favors to help Marius and to see Cosette.

Jean Valjean, Books 4-9
This book starts with Javert failing to turn Valjean in and committing suicide.

Marius and Cosette are allowed to marry.

Finally, Valjean manages to marry off Cosette by faking an injury that saved him from signing any document.

Valjean confesses about his past to Marius who is filled with misconceptions.

Valjean is soon treated with less respect. Marius restricts his meetings with Cosette and Valjean falls sick.

Thenardier tells Marius about Valjean’s legitimate dowry source, Javert’s death and how Valjean saved him. Ultimately Marius forgives him and the couple rushes to meet him at his deathbed when he dies with peace and happiness.