The Dangerous Classes

Dangerous Classes In Literature


"…that indigent 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

  •  Victor 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.
  • Eugène 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.