Asf Essay, Research Paper
During the 19th century the treatment of both convicts and ex-convicts was in most peoples eyes inhumane. A convict would be worked for long hours without food. Many ex-convicts were never fully re-accepted back into society due to their past as a convict. If an ex-convict managed to keep his past a secret and make a new life for himself, if and when the ex-con revealed his past he was once again excluded and not considered a part of society.
When Jean Valjean is finally released from the galleys after 19 years he emerges a strong, but frail man. His original sentence was 4 years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his poor family. Jean Valjean tries and fails to escape several times adding the 15 years to his sentence. “In the sixth year his turn for escape came again; he tried it, but failed again. He did not answer at roll call and the alarm cannon was fired. At night the people of the vicinity discovered him hidden beneath the keel of a vessel on the stocks; he resisted the galley guard that seized him. Escape and resistance. This the provisions of the special code punished by an addition of five years, two within the double chain, thirteen years (p 32).” Here one can see how the punishment for certain acts of convicts was taken care of. When Jean Valjean is put to work on the double chain he is given very little food and worked for extremely long hours.
After Jean Valjean is finally released from the galleys after 19 years he journeys to a small town and seeks lodging. Jean Valjean tries several inns and taverns but none accept him because he was a convict. Jean Valjean then finds a doghouse and crawls in and is still forced out by a dog baring all its teeth. “The peasant?s face assumed an expression of distrust: he looked over the new-comer from head to foot, and suddenly exclaimed, with a sort of shudder: “Are you the man!” He looked again at the stranger, stepped back, put the lamp on the table, and took down his gun (p 20).” As you can see Jean Valjean was forced away practically at gunpoint. As Jean Valjean walks the streets of the town in search of a place to eat and sleep for the night he runs into a woman who points him in the direction of the bishops house. When he gets to the bishop?s house he knocks on the door and when the bishop opens the door he comes right out and tells the bishop everything about his past. In spite of his history the bishops lets Jean Valjean in for dinner and a place to sleep for the night. So as you can see ex-convicts had a very difficult time fitting back into society due to their history.
It?s been 10 years and Jean Valjean?s adopted daughter, Cosette, has grown to be a beautiful young woman. With this beauty of course comes a man who will want to marry her. This man is Marius. When Marius marries Cosette Jean Valjean reveals his past to Marius. Marius? first reaction is to ban Jean Valjean from Cosette from now until his death. But Marius sees how disappointed Jean Valjean is and says that if he wants to see Cosette he must eat dinner with them every night, and Marius would keep his secret. Jean Valjean had hidden his past for a numerous amount of years and being the honest man he is he revealed it to a person very close to him. But Marius? reaction just iterates that even a person who was an ex-convict 10 years ago is still thought of as a menace.
Hugo, Victor. Les Miserables. Fwcett Premier. 1961