Jean Valjean is the main protagonist of the novel. At the beginning of the story, he is convicted for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister’s family, who were starving. Originally, he was sentenced to five years in prison. However, as he tried to escape for several times, the sentence was increased to nineteen years. Nineteen years of imprisonment have not passed without a trace in Valjean’s heart. The novel shows the transformation, which Valjean has undergone because of cruelty and injustice. As he was released from the prison, he lived at Bishop Myriel’s place, and first, he tried to rob him and even thought of murdering him. However, the story demonstrates how cruelty can make a good man bad; and kindness can turn a bad man into good again. Bishop Myriel is kind to Valjean despite everything, and it makes Valjean rethink his behavior and find goodness in the depth of his soul.
In general, throughout the whole story, the reader can see how Valjean’s character grows and develops. As he decides to adopt Cosette, once again, he shows both positive and negative traits of his personality. For one thing, his attitude toward Cosette can be characterized as a jealous attachment. He protects Cosette too much that is why when he finds out that she has an admirer, he starts to feel his old savagery take over his whole being. At the same time, his love for Cosette also reveals that despite all the life circumstances, Valjean remains good and kind. At the end of the story, when Colette is getting married, he reveals his dark past, so that Cosette will never be impacted by the shadow of his reputation. It is a kind of sacrifice from his point because he realizes that once Cosette finds out the truth, she will never want to have anything in common with him.
Jean Valjean is an example of a kind, loving, caring, and merciful man, who is first of all a human being, and like any human being, he may fail and rise again. He may learn by his own mistakes and become a better person through overcoming life challenges and twists of fate.
Jean Valjean in the Essays