Marxist Criticism in Les Miserables


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Les Misérables is a French historical novel published in 1862 by Victor Hugo. The novel has a musical drama film directed by Tom Hooper released in 2012. It is about an ex-convict, Jean Valjean, who was prisoned to jail for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread for his dying sister. He was hiding his true identity because he just escaped from the jail and he was being chased after by Javert, a police chief who dedicated his life finding to arrest Jean Valjean. The story showed the differences between classes in the society. This paper aims to evaluate the movie adaptation of Les Misérables in Marxist criticism approach.

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The movie started showing the prisoners working hard following the command of the police while singing “Look Down” which is about the poor begging the higher class to have mercy and save them from being slave. Jean Valjean finally receives his parole thinking that he’ll be free but Javert was a threat for his dream. From a Marxist perspective, in the story the society was classified into two groups: the bourgeoisie, which is the upper class who are powerful and has a control of the government while the proletariat, the lower class who is powerless, voiceless and the slaves of the law. It showed the unjust system between the rich and the poor. For example, in the movie, Jean Valjean can be classified as part of the working class while Javert belongs to the capitalists. Javert abused his power making Jean Valjean suffer in prison for 19 years just for stealing a loaf of bread with a valid reason because his sister was close to death. Yes, he can punish him for doing something against the law, but 19 years of mistreatment is too much. Another example, in Fantine’s situation, she was fired at work because she has an illegitimate child. After that, she worked as a prostitute in order for her to support her child, and she even had to sell her hair and teeth to earn money for her daughter. But if she was born rich and if everyone found out that she has a child out of wedlock, the society might have had a different view on her situation and maybe she will never experience this kind of sacrifices for a living. Fantine was also abused by a man but Javert immediately took the side of the man and never listened to her. This is because the man has a higher authority and Fantine has nothing. The law sees and hears the rich while it is blind and deaf for the poor. The abusive social differences in the society were too evident that the lower class started a war against the higher class, the government.   

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