class which begins with the last small tradesman in difficulties
and sinks from wretchedness to wretchedness down into the lowest
depths of society, to those two beings to whom all the material
things of civilization descend, the scavenger who sweeps the
mud and the ragpicker who collects the rags."
- Les Misérables, Marius, Book I
Image taken from 1848 edition
of Les Mystères de Paris
Hugo was sympathetic to the "dangerous classes".
He tried, in Les Misérables, to counter the perception
that all poor were criminals. He maintained that many of those
who were labeled as dangerous, including street prostitutes,
courtisanes, and children were more unfortunate than criminal.
- In the novels of Honoré
de Balzac, such as Comédie humaine, the criminal
world was depicted as closed. Criminality was an important social
aspect, but Balzac's descriptions kept to the older themes and
he described characters stemming from the Ancien Régime.
Sue infiltrated the urban slums
of Paris to collect material for his serial novel, Les Mystères
de Paris. As the novel progressed, Sue became a social reformer,
committing himself to exposing and challenging the social injustices
inflicted upon the lower classes.