Les Misérables                                                                                                                                                                      Writing Task Notes







Probably the best known of Victor Hugo’s tales, this is the story of a whole gamut of characters (Jean Valjean the ex-convict who seeks redemption, Javert the devoted policeman who seeks to bring him to justice, Fantine the factory girl forced into prostitution to provide for her daughter, Cosette who is deprived of her childhood by her greedy guardians, Marius the idealistic young student, and the Thénardiers who take advantage of everyone) whose destinies are intertwined and whose actions impact on one another’s lives.


“Les Misérables” deals with a great variety of themes in the guise of a tale of adventure, but at its core it looks at life and the nature of society and relationships.


So, what is it all about? This is the tale of a decent man who spends 19 years in prison as the result of stealing bread, and three failed attempts to escape. Bitter and angry on his release, Valjean meets a Bishop who changes his outlook on life and he spends the remainder of his life trying to help others in various ways. This is also the story of the various people he meets on his journey through life.


It is a story of redemption, love, devotion, duty, principle, selflessness and the very structure of society.


Valjean is the touching anti-hero, Fantine the tragic heroine, and Javert the highly principled but flawed policeman.


Through this tale, Hugo describes various facets of society and human nature. He invites us to reflect on the way we lead our lives, and to consider the way we think of others.





The Writing Task


You should aim to produce 150 – 200 words. To help structure your writing, you should use the following bullet points:

·                     Give a brief outline of the story

·                     Describe the main character(s) in some detail

·                     Discuss the themes

·                     Give your general opinion of the film


When you come to write about “Les Misérables”, you should make full use of the vocabulary lists provided, you should pay attention to the structures and vocabulary in your answers.


In giving an outline of the story it might be a good idea to use the present tense. This is often used in French to describe events in a book or film.


When describing characters, you should be aware of a variety of possible responses to them, and use a selection of adjectives to describe them. Avoid simple lists and you might want to provide a brief account of some events.


The description of your favourite scene could be written in the perfect tense.


Discussing themes and your general response to the film provides the opportunity to develop your own ideas and your own language to communicate these ideas. Remember to express yourself as clearly as possible.




C’est l’histoire de                                            condamner

Il s’agit de                                                       le bagne

Un ancien forçat                                              poursuivre

Un policier                                                      abandonner

Un évêque                                                      élever

Des étudiants                                                  rencontrer





Pourtant                                              j’admire

Cependant                                          j’apprécie

Des fois il paraît ….                            Je n’apprécie pas

Il a un côté …

Comme                                               Je le trouve ….

on découvre …                                   Je la trouve …..

je trouve que

ce que je trouve admirable/détestable chez …, est …

Il / elle est …..                                    

Souvent / parfois                                 un peu ….

Il / elle peut être ….



Amer                                       aimant                                     tourmenté

Fâché                                      sérieux                                    torturé

Perdu                                      spirituel

Accablé                                   résolu

Désespéré                               sincère

Déprimé                                  gentil






Intelligent                                sérieux                                    

Rusé                                       fort d’esprit

Rigide                                     tourmenté

Résolu                                    torturé

Fidèle à ses principes              l’esprit fermé

Fier                                        pas ouvert





L’amour                                  l’autorité

La liberté                                 la rédemption             

La justice                                




Personal reaction:


Passionnant                 laisser indifférent                    certaines séquences

Touchant                     long                                       certains passages

Émouvant                    lent                                        certaines chansons

Triste                           ennuyeux                               d’autres étaient …

                                                                                 plus              moins