Lesson: Les Miserables 5--The Greatest Love: Self-Sacrifice

Story by Victor Hugo

 Valjean spent the next nine years after the death of Fontine taking care of Cosette, and she fell in love with Marius, one of the rebel students.  The night before the battle, Valjean prayed for Marius.  Unable to convince Marius to go with Cosette, he asked the Lord to let Marius live and let him die instead.
 In the battle everyone except Valjean and Marius died, and Valjean saved Marius.  After Javert let them go, he brought Marius back to Cosette.  A few months later, Marius recovered and Valjean left them because he was afraid that his criminal past would cause them problems.  Right before Valjean died, Marius discovered that Valjean was the man who saved him and Cosette and Marius went to his bedside.  At that time, Valjean told Cosette her real background and the story of Fontine who died for her...

Why was Valjean willing to trade his life for Marius'?
- because he felt that Marius can bring Cosette more happiness as her lover than he could as a father...

Did Valjean have an obligation to do that?
- no, the promise he made to Fontine was to take care of Cosette, not Cosette's potential husband

Why, then, would Valjean do that?
- he thought he was old, and Marius had his whole life in front of him, and so it would have been a good trade if it were possible
- he wanted to give Cosette as much happiness as he possibly could

Valjean demonstrated the principle of self-sacrifice many times in his life AFTER the encounter with the bishop.  Why?
- he learned it from the bishop who sacrificed his precious belongings and lied to save Valjean

What are some principles of self-sacrifice that you could see in Valjean's example?
- he didn't ask for recognition
- he put Cosette's interests (having Marius) before his own (live longer)
- he wanted Cosette to be happy
- he kept a promise despite great costs
- he left the people he loved for their safety and happiness

Jesus made the greatest self-sacrifice when he died on the cross for all of us.  Are there some smaller self-sacrifices that you can make in your life?
- talk to a classmate who has no other friends
- share your lunch with a poor student
- help a slower student with his homework
- donate some of your Christmas gifts for poor kids

This lesson was developed by George Huang.  Got a question or want to publish this lesson?  E-mail me.

Last updated: 6/24/2000