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Free Study Guide for Les Miserables by Victor Hugo: "Les Mis"

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Book Seventh: The Champmathieu Affair


Madeleine is torn between going to find Cosette and going to Arras to speak up for the man who has been identified as him. He agonizes over the dilemma of revealing himself for the sake of a man whom he doesn’t know or continuing to hide his identity for his own sake as well as for the good of the people he is serving as mayor. The illness of Fantine enables him to decide for Cosette, but the candlesticks on his mantle cause him to change his mind again. In the end he heads for Arras in spite of numerous petty interruptions. Meanwhile, Fantine is near death but rallies a little at the promise of Cosette’s return.

Madeleine arrives in Arras as the trial is underway and has to obtain entry into the court by means of a favor. There he proves to the court that he, and not Champmathieu, is Jean Valjean. He leaves the court to return to Fantine. Javert follows him and intrudes into the sick room.


The Champmatheir Affair is the beginning of a life long battle Valjean will fight every time he has the opportunity to free himself of the ax that dangles above his head. Over and over, he will sacrifice himself and deny himself in the interest of protecting another.

Book Eighth: Counter Stroke

(Sections I-IV)


Valjean returns to Fantine who asks again for Cosette. He tells her that Cosette is with him but that she, Fantine, is not yet well enough to see her. Fantine hallucinates when she hears a child laughing in the courtyard; she believes it is Cosette. Javert enters and speaks cruelly to Fantine as well as to Valjean. The shock of seeing the man who once tried to arrest her is the last straw for Fantine who goes into convulsions and dies. Valjean speak tenderly to her, arranges her head on the pillow, then gives himself up to Javert.

(Section V)


Valjean is placed in the city prison. Within two hours all of M sur m except for three or four loyal friends turn their backs on him, forgetting all the good he has done. He escapes from the prison by breaking a bar out of the window and returns to his room where he leaves instructions regarding the burial of Fantine, money to repay Petit Gervais, and packs up his own meager belongings (being particularly careful to wrap up the candlesticks) and hurries away.


There is a substantial time lag in the life of Valjean after this chapter. Whether he surrenders or is taken, we are not told, but he is captured and imprisoned for about five years. During this time, Thenardier will perform increasingly depraved acts and the treatment of Cosette, with the absence of Fantine’s money, will get as bad as it could get without killing her.

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Les Miserables by Victor Hugo Free BookNotes Summary

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Ruff, Dr. Karen S. C., D. A.. "TheBestNotes on Les Miserables". . 09 May 2017