Books and Movies Reviews

Romanticism in Les Miserables

Many French novels written during the romantic era deal greatly with French history. The term couleur locale (meaning local color) refers to using distinctive details to describe plots, characters, and accurate historical objects, customs, or situations. In Hugo's novel, Les Miserables, one such character described in detail throughout the novel, and who also adds much depth and detail to the plot is Thenardier. Much of the happenings involving this character seem to be a result of coincidence.
Atfirst, it does not seem like much of a coincidence that Fantine leaves her young daughter Cosette in the care of Thenardier and his family. Yet this simple action sets up the whole novel for coincidental meeting, especially between Thenardier and Jean Valjean from the veryfirst time they encounter each other: when Valjean goes to rescue Cosette, fulfilling Fantine's dying wish.
Later in the novel, the two meet again. In this situation, Valjean's intention is to help poor Thenardier who has assumed the identity of Jondrette so Valjean does not know whom in reality he is aiding. And here, a dramatic revelation of true identity takes place; yet another characteristic of romanticism. But it does not end here. In the sewer, as Valjean searches for a way to rescue Marius, he again runs in to Thenardier. Yet this time, Valjean is not recognized until later. In these situations, Thenardier's ability to be at the right place at the right time add suspense to the novel, as Hugo uses dramatic irony, allowing the reader to know the true identity of all the characters while concealing this information from the other characters until just the right moment.
The coincidence, however, that most changes the course of events allowing for a happy ending comes right at the end of the novel. A coincidental meeting between Thenardier and Marius tied up the loose ends of the novel, dramatically revealing to Marius the good, cha…

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