Women: Conformity v.s. Resistance

Hugo and Tristan: Fighting for the Working Class
Women Writers
Sand vs. Tristan
--Rebels I
--Rebels II
--George Sand
--Flora Tristan

Works Consulted














Fighters For The Working Class

Flora Tristan (Cross)
Victor Hugo (Tieghem)

At first glance it would seem that Victor Hugo's Les Miserables has nothing in common with the writings of Flora Tristan. In fact, the romantic idealistic style of his writing could even be compared to that of George Sand, Flora Tristan's rival. But whereas Sand and Hugo shared novel writing, Tristan and Hugo shared a passion to raise the working class.


Both Hugo and Tristan felt that the workers deserved better treatment than they were receiving in the 19th century. Both felt that poverty was to blame for driving workers to thievery and women to prostitution. Both felt that something had to be done to help the poor people who were in unfortunate circumstances.

Hugo used the character of Monsieur Madeleine, in Les Miserables to be the hero to the people. He was a fair boss who had risen himself from a worker to become the owner of a factory and eventually the mayor of the town. He cared for his workers and in return, they loved and respected him.

If Tristan had survived to the publishing of Les Miserables in 1862 she would have surely criticized Hugo, despite his support for the common people. While Tristan's writings encouraged the working men to rise up and demand civil rights for themselves, Hugo's Les Miserables made the workers seem weak or childlike, susceptible to the whim of their boss/father figure. Although Monsieur Madeleine represented what Tristan would have considered the appropriate attitude that a boss should have towards his workers, Tristan would most likely have criticized Hugo's romantic and idealistic nature in creating this character. To her, it would

have seemed like false hope that #1: a common man could save himself from poverty and start an industry and #2: that this new bourgeois man would ever help the common men he had left behind. In Tristan's l'Union Ourvriere (The Workers Union) she wrote that those writers who had tried to aid the workers "have failed to awaken the government to the dangers facing society

from some seven or eight million workers exasperated by suffering and despair, many of whom are being forced to choose between suicide or theft!" (Beik, 104) She went on to tell the workers to stop waiting for someone to save them (such as the character Hugo would later create) and to create unions to save themselves. "Abandon your isolation: unite with each other! Union makes for strength. You have numbers on your side, and numbers are everything." (Beik, 105)