Jean Valjean, the protagonist of Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables, has fascinated casual readers and critics alike for almost one hundred and fifty years. Valjean's story is heart wrenching yet suspenseful, entertaining yet educational. When critics look at Valjean, however, by force of habit they ask, "What is Hugo trying to say through his characterization of Valjean?" Considering the many readings critics have proposed to explain Valjean's significance, Hugo's decision to relate Valjean to the hundred headed hydra seems appropriate. Critics arrive at these different readings of Valjean as a result of the varied lenses through which they choose to view him.
Les Miserables, Hugo, interactionism, labeling theory
VanBuskirk, Joy, "Social Construction in Les Miserables: A Look at Jean Valjean's Identity Formation in the Context of Symbolic Interactionism's Labeling Theory" (2005). English Seminar Capstone Research Papers. 8.
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