A convict from a poor provincial family, whose long and torturous transformation amounts to the most significant narrative arc of the novel. The 19 years spent by Valjean in the galleys transform him from a… (read full character analysis)
Regularly referred to as Bishop of D--, Bienvenu, the novel begins as a story about the Bishop, who is the embodiment of goodness in the book—even as the narrator suggests that ultimate goodness is not… (read full character analysis)
Left by her mother at the Thenardier household, Cosette has a bitter, wretched childhood, one that is transformed when Jean Valjean takes her away. Cosette is portrayed as an innocent, deeply good person, whose main… (read full character analysis)
Cosette’s mother, a young, sweet girl from the provinces who is naïve and innocent. She falls into a love affair with Tholomyes and is ultimately betrayed by him and left with a child. This one… (read full character analysis)
Thenardier’s eldest daughter, a spoiled, self-satisfied little girl at the inn in Montfermeil, but later a desperate waif who obeys her criminal father even though it appears that in other circumstances she could have been… (read full character analysis)
A police inspector who originally met Jean Valjean in the galleys, and who reemerges again and again throughout the novel, constantly threatening to expose Valjean’s identity and cause his downfall. Javert believes in authority and… (read full character analysis)
A jovial, somewhat ridiculous old man who lives on the Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire. Politically reactionary, a ladies’ man, and prone to outbreaks of temper, Gillenormand is portrayed as a rather absurd character, prone to making… (read full character analysis)
The grandson of Gillenormand, who is brought up in his household. Marius is perhaps the character that changes the most throughout the novel, shifting from a youth who parrots his grandfather’s reactionary views to… (read full character analysis)
One of Gillenormand’s servant-maids, who bears two of his children. Magnon gives her monthly payments to support them. When these two children die, she takes on two of the Thenardier boys to replace them in… (read full character analysis)
Thenardier’s wife is similarly ill-intentioned, although she does seem to harbor some uncertainty about all her husband’s criminal activity. She still obeys him in every way, however.
Thenardier’s younger daughter.
A businessman in M.-sur-M., whom Valjean saves after he falls beneath the weight of his horse-cart. Fauchelevent then repays the favor by taking Valjean and Cosette into the convent, where he later works, and by giving Valjean his own name.
Gillenormand’s daughter, a middle-aged woman who never married and who lives with him. She is pious but also scheming, attempting to get her nephew Theodule to replace Marius as the family’s heir. She is mainly characterized as a melancholy woman whose life has largely passed her by.
Gillenormand’s male servant at the Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire.
Son of the Thenardiers, who becomes a street urchin who wanders around Paris, eats what he can find, and sleeps where he can. Gavroche is a trouble-maker but ultimately kindhearted. For Hugo, he epitomizes the essential goodness of men as it can be seen even within social desperation.
A bandit who gives the Bishop of D--- an opportunity to reveal his lack of fear for robbers and murderers, and instead caution against internal sin.
The Bishop of D---’s sister, a respectable-looking spinster who is nothing but good, and obeys her brother’s sometimes odd-seeming wishes.
The servant of the Bishop of D---, who is less thrilled about the Bishop’s desires to go without all but the barest necessities, though she too admires him.
A former member of the Convention with whom the Bishop has a troubling political conversation before G--- dies.
A small Savoyard boy from whom Valjean steals money—the last crime he commits.
A cheerful, witty, and handsome young man from the provinces, whose time in Paris is merely an adventure. Though he impregnates Fantine, he never again thinks of her and later becomes a wealthy provincial lawyer, thereby symbolizing the distinct expectations and trajectories for men and women.
A friend of Tholomyes.
A friend of Tholomyes.
A friend of Tholomyes.
A girl who spends a summer with Tholomyes and his gang, along with Fantine.
A friend of Dahlia.
A friend of Dahlia.
A town gossip at M.-sur-M. who travels to Montfermeil and whose information about Cosette leads to Fantine’s dismissal.
A dandy who makes fun of Fantine when she’s working as a prostitute.
A nun who looks after Mayor Madeleine. She is known for having never told a lie.
Accused of stealing apples from an orchard, Champmathieu is also identified falsely as Jean Valjean.
A convict who had been with Valjean in the galleys, and falsely identifies Champmathieu.
Another convict who had been with Valjean in the galleys, and falsely identifies Champmathieu.
An ex-convict who tries several times, unsuccessfully, to find out where Valjean hid his treasure in the Montfermeil forest.
A resident of the Petit-Picpus convent, whose past love affairs serve as a source of intrigue for the girls in the boarding school there.
Mademoiselle de Blemeur (Mother Innocente)
The prioress of the Petit-Picpus convent, known for being jovial and kindhearted.
Housekeeper at the Gorbeau hovel.
Marius’s distant cousin, a handsome but haughty lieutenant.
A young student who’s a member of the Friends of the ABC society. He is from a wealthy family, a handsome young man more concerned with political liberty than love affairs.
Enjolras’s friend and another member of the Friends of the ABC; intellectual and clever.
Another member of the Friends of the ABC; a romantic.
Another member of the Friends of the ABC; a self-educated worker.
Another member of the Friends of the ABC; somewhat lazy and capricious.
Another member of the Friends of the ABC; witty and jovial, but politically committed.
Laigle de Meaux (Bossuet)
Another member of the Friends of the ABC; intelligent but always getting himself into scrapes.
A friend of Bossuet and Grantaire.
Another member of the Friends of the ABC; the only skeptic in the group, though he adores Enjolras.
An old man whose sole love is botanical research, and who was responsible for Marius’s renewed love of his father. He slowly falls into misery before being swept up in the riots of 1832.
Claquesous, or Le Cabuc
A Parisian criminal who only emerges at night. He is part of the crowd at the barricade, shoots an innocent man, and thereafter is shot by Enjolras.
A Parisian criminal, and a kind of dandy.
A Parisian criminal, thin and thoughtless.
A Parisian criminal, massive and idle.
Another Parisian criminal.
Panchaud (Printanier, Bigrenaille)
A famous Parisian criminal.
The servant-maid of Valjean and Cosette in Paris.
The widow Hucheloup
Proprietress of the Corinthe tavern, the last defense of the insurgents.
Servant-girl at the Corinthe tavern.
A government supporter and army commander killed at the barricade.
A convict who falsely identifies Champmathieu as Jean Valjean, eventually causing Valjean to reveal his identity.