Why Is ‘Les Miserables’ So Popular in the Nation With the Most Brutal Criminal Justice System in the World?

Frederic March as JeanValjean in 1935’s Les Miserables

Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables was published in 1862. The French historical novel about a system of law designed to break men, not protect society, has been hugely popular ever since.

A 1935 movie version was the first of many adaptations for both television and the big screen, and even the Broadway musical stage.

Here is the text that opens the 1935 movie:

So long as there exists in this world that we call civilized, a system whereby men and women, even after they have paid the penalty of the law and expiated their offenses in full, are hounded and persecuted wherever they go — this story will not have been told in vain.

Is this story’s staying power due to the fact that we as a society just fail to grasp its message and it will keep coming back until we do?

How can Les Miserables be so hugely successful in our nation, which maintains the most brutal criminal justice system in the world?

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