Different Moral Philosophies In Victor Hugo's Les Miserables

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Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables tries to explore the effects of different moral philosophies. In the first part of the novel, it mainly deals with Hedonistic and Utilitarian views, focusing on how they have affected two main characters: Fantine and Jean Valjean, respectively. Both were cast away into the lowest reaches of society, but were exposed to different moral philosophies by the people around them. Those morals shaped the path they took in their lives, and the decisions they have made since then. Jean Valjean was imprisoned for 19 years, constantly belittled by those around him as well as those in positions of authority. It made him have a very Hedonistic mentality: he only cared about himself, because nobody else seemed to, “There is my passport, yellow as you see. That is enough to have me kicked out wherever I go,” (Hugo 14). With his yellow passport, which labeled him a felon, he traveled aimlessly to live the rest of his life. Fantine, however, was an orphan but eventually lived a good life. But then she became pregnant before marriage, and so descended in the social ladder. For her sake and the child’s, she decides to give her away. As Hugo writes, “Yes, but she must hide her fault. And she had a focused glimpse of the possible necessity of a separation still more painful than the first,” (Hugo 37).…show more content…
Hedonism caused Fantine to spiral into the lower depths of the social ladder, and made her seen as undesirable. However, Utilitarianism made Jean Valjean an honest man, and drove him to pass on that good will to the others around him. Despite their similarities, from their treatment from the society around them to the symbols of their pasts that they held onto, Fantine and Jean Valjean had very different outcomes due to these philosophies. It shows how Victor Hugo focuses on characterization, and how different upbringings
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