39 votes
Accepted

Was there a reason Victor Hugo chose 24601 as the number for Jean Valjean?

Yes: it corresponds to the date of Hugo's conception. This is part of a pattern of similarities between the character of Jean Valjean and the author himself: both are of similar age, have similar ...
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  • 63.4k
15 votes
Accepted

What does Victor Hugo mean by "the red ant heaps of Toulon"?

By “the red ant heaps of Toulon”, Hugo means the Bagne de Toulon, a notorious prison where the convicts wore red jackets and red caps. This is the prison where Jean Valjean serves nineteen years for ...
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15 votes
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Why all those tangents in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables?

Norman Denny has this to say in the introduction to his translation of Les Misérables: Hugo [...] had little or no regard for the discipline of novel-writing. He was wholly unrestrained and ...
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  • 6,644
9 votes

Was there a deliberate parallel between the Thénardiers and Gollum?

I think you're reading too much into it. Gollum has the One Ring because the One Ring "wants to be found." It was at the bottom of a lake for a long time and wanted to get back to Sauron. Fantine ...
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8 votes

Why was "Notre Dame de Paris" changed from "Notre Dame of Paris" to "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" when it was re-published in English?

In Recomposing the Past: Representations of Early Music on Stage and Screen, it's claimed that: The original title of Hugo's work was Notre Dame de Paris, making no mention of the disfigurement of ...
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  • 6,644
6 votes
Accepted

In Les Miserables, why can Javert be the judge of Fantine and why does Monsieur Madeleine have the power to stop him?

If you are asking about the historical reasons, then asking in History.SE might be better. From the literature point of view the answer lies in text: This class of women is consigned by our laws ...
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  • 1,905
6 votes

Who does “he” refer to in this passage from Les Miserables?

In the original French (Tome 2 "Cosette", Livre 3, Chapitre IX), it reads: Quoi qu'il en fût, en entamant la conversation avec l'homme, sûr qu'il y avait un secret dans tout cela, sûr que l'homme ...
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  • 958
6 votes
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Why did Victor Hugo take several pages to say that his knowledge of Paris was woefully out of date?

TL;DR: If you don’t like Hugo’s prose, why are you reading Les Misérables?! The lengthy disclaimer is just one paragraph long, a drop in the ocean of this novel, so I will take the liberty of quoting ...
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5 votes

Was there a deliberate parallel between the Thénardiers and Gollum?

Absolutely agree with #3! I just finished Les Mis (took me like 6 months!) and had the exact same impression about Thenardier/Gollum parallel. To me it seems likely that Thenardier was an ...
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  • 59
5 votes

What does Victor Hugo mean by "the red ant heaps of Toulon"?

I just figured out the answer to my own question. By the "Red ant heaps of Toulon", Hugo most likely means the Bagne of Toulon, the prison that is also prominently featured in "Les ...
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  • 257
4 votes
Accepted

Is there a Reader's Guide to Hunchback of Notre Dame?

The 1906 Clarendon Press edition of the French text of the novel, edited by Léon Delbos, is available at the Internet Archive and has comprehensive notes starting at page 353: Page 1. (Heading of ...
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4 votes

Why did Victor Hugo write that "the interior of the soul" is "grander than the sky"?

If you look at the totality of Hugo's quotation in French, it clearly encompasses evil-doers. This is a misleading translation of a sentence taken out of context. They have translated the word grand (...
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  • 7,890
3 votes

What did the convict mean by “I’m a number: number 15,729” in "The Bishop's Candlesticks"?

In Les Misérables, Jean Valjean spent nineteen years in the Bagne de Toulon, a notorious prison. Nineteen years. In October, 1815, he was released; he had entered there in 1796, for having broken a ...
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