Jacob Crandall November 21, 2011 Comp II Les Miserables: A Summary Imagine a world where your legal system is so unjust, you would be sent to prison for 20 years for stealing an single apple. This is the world of Jean Valjean in the adaption of Victor Hugo’s classic play, Les Miserables. This story is set during the early 18th century in France, and the story is full of sociological issues, some of which are still prevalent in our society today. The first major sociological issue that I noticed was extensive punishment for such a small crime.
This is a world where the poor, forced into thievery to survive, are on the same level as murderers. The idea of just punishment is unimportant and causes the law enforcement and courts to appear just as criminal as the people they are convicting. This is not an issue we deal with on the same level as was prevalent during the 18th century, but there are still some instances where our legal system fails and someone is wrongly convicted, forced to serve time that he/she did not deserve.
This is an issue that any society will deal with as long as they have a legal system seeking justice. This is due to the fact that men are and cannot be perfect, and when one man judges other men, mistakes will inevitably be made. Another issue that I observed was discrimination. In this movie, I did not notice the same racial discrimination that we can see in today’s society, however, discrimination was still very much alive. The major focus of discrimination during the 18th century was directed towards the poor and their respective occupations.
The common workplace for the majority of poor citizens was factories where they would be paid barely enough to purchase food for the day. It was literally impossible for someone in that position to change classes or even find a better occupation then they one they currently had. Prostitutes were also treated poorly, even for their unaccepted form of occupation. There was a scene in the movie where a group of men were beating a prostitute, and when they guard came by, he did not stop the violence, but instead, joined in.
The last issue I noticed was the July 1832 Revolution that was occurring during the story. This event occurred mostly in the background of the movie, but was still an important sociological issue. It showed the reasons why men would be willing to turn against their own country. The Revolution, as they referred to themselves, were comprised mostly of the lower class, men and women who were underpaid and discriminated against. Their efforts showed the extent that desperate men/women would take if they were serious about wanting change.
On the other side of the conflict, the military marched into town and ruthlessly shot their own countrymen without a moment of hesitation. In conclusion, many of the sociological issues seen in Les Miserables are different then what we see in our society today, but that does not mean that we cannot fall back into that mindset. It is important to constantly fight against today’s sociological issues just as the men and women of the July 1832 Revolution fought against theirs.