Unmasking the Bourgeoise

Fiction Transcends Hugo's Life

A Love Story




Real Life

 "Every man who writes, writes a book; this book is himself. Whether he knows it or not, whether he wishes it or not, it is true. From every body of work, whatever it may be, wretched or illustrious, there emerges a persona, that of the writer. It is his punishment, if he is petty; it is his reward, if he is great".

--Victor Hugo (Shroder, )


The Romantics possessed great passion. This was shown through their writing and reflected their ideology. Victor Hugo was no exception. In life, Victor Hugo was a poet, a politician, a philosopher, and a writer who touched the hearts of millions. He understood the importance of words, and realized the immortality in taking up a pen. His arena was literature and his weapon of choice were words and prose.

Like all good writers, Hugo wrote about the things he was familiar with, the things he knew about, his life lay the foundation for Les Miserables, and his experiences are scattered throughout his book and can be recognized if one knows what to look for. There is convincing evidence that lead some to suspect that Hugo wrote Les Miserables with the intention of paralleling his own life. He wrote the story with examples of events that he experienced and overcame. The entire novel, Robb argues, is focused mainly on two exact dates. The first is the 5-6 of June, 1832, in which Victor Hugo witnessed first-hand the insurrection of the Passage du Saumon. This is the metaphorical and literal barricade at which all strands and most of the characters converge together in a similar fate (Robb, 384).

Grahm Robb displays three examples of how Les Miserables is the product of Hugo's life experiences. First, one of the most important dates of Les Miserables is February 16, 1833, the date of Marius and Cosette's wedding. This is also the same date that Hugo slept with his mistress, Juliette Drouet, for the first time. Second, Jean Valjean is missing and presumed dead on October 16, 1823. This is the same day that Hugo received the last letter from his brother Eugene from an insane asylum he was sentenced to and where shortly after he died. Third, Jean Valjean was asked to give away Cosette in marriage on September 7, 1832. On the same date in 1843 Hugo realized that his daughter Leopoldine was dead (Robb, 384). These facts show that Hugo incorporated his life, and thus his ideas, into the story of Les Miserables.