The Real Getter sets goals and takes action until he or she achieve them.

The Life and Works of Victor Hugo

In this article, we will explore the life and works of Victor Hugo, a renowned French novelist known for his iconic literary masterpieces such as “Les Misérables” and “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.” Spanning the years from 1802 to 1885, Victor Hugo’s life was filled with captivating stories and profound philosophical insights that contributed to his greatness as a writer. Through examining his life experiences and the philosophies that shaped his success, we can gain a deeper understanding of the enduring legacy he left behind in the world of literature.

Early Life

Birth and Family Background

Victor Hugo, the renowned French novelist and poet, was born on February 26, 1802, in Besançon, France. He came from a family of modest means, with his father being an army officer and his mother a devout Catholic. The Hugos had a long history of military service, which instilled discipline and a sense of duty in young Victor from an early age.

Childhood and Education

During his childhood, Hugo’s family moved frequently due to his father’s military career. This peripatetic lifestyle exposed Hugo to various regions of France, providing him with a diverse cultural experience that would later influence his writing. Despite the constant relocations, Hugo received a solid education, attending both public and private schools. His love for literature and writing became evident during his early years, and his talent was nurtured by his teachers.

Early Literary Career

First Works and Recognition

Hugo’s literary career began at a young age. In 1822, at the age of twenty, he published his first collection of poetry, titled “Odes et Poésies Diverses” (Odes and Various Poems). This initial work established Hugo as a promising poet, earning him recognition within the literary circles of the time. His early poetry showcased his talent for evoking powerful emotions and his mastery of poetic techniques.

Romanticism and Influences

Victor Hugo was a prominent figure in the Romantic literary movement that flourished in the 19th century. The Romantic ideology glorified individualism, nature, and intense emotions, and Hugo’s works embodied these principles. He drew inspiration from various sources, including medieval legends, folklore, and historical events. The works of Shakespeare and the Romantic poets also had a profound influence on his writing style.

The Odes et Ballades Collection

In 1826, Hugo published another collection of poetry titled “Odes et Ballades” (Odes and Ballads). This collection further cemented his reputation as a talented poet, showcasing his ability to weave intricate narratives and explore complex themes. The poems in this collection captured the essence of the Romantic movement, with their emphasis on passion, longing, and the supernatural.

See also  Living a Happy Life: Tying Success to Goals, not People or Things

Political Involvement

Transition to Political Activism

As Hugo’s literary career progressed, so did his involvement in politics. In the 1830s, he aligned himself with the liberal faction, advocating for various social and political reforms. He used his platform as a writer to raise awareness about the injustices he saw in society and to call for change. Hugo’s political activism would continue throughout his life and become a defining aspect of his legacy.

Exile and Opposition to Napoleon III

Hugo’s staunch opposition to the reign of Napoleon III resulted in his exile from France in 1851. Fleeing to Brussels, Belgium, Hugo continued to write and publish works critical of the authoritarian regime. His exile lasted nearly twenty years, during which time he became an influential voice against oppression and for democracy.

The Napoleonic Era and Hugo’s Impact

Victor Hugo’s political writings and speeches during the Napoleonic era made a significant impact on the French society of the time. His attacks on the monarchy and advocacy for democracy resonated with the public, fueling a desire for social change. Hugo’s unwavering commitment to his ideals earned him admiration and respect as a champion of the people.

Les Misérables

Historical Context

Published in 1862, “Les Misérables” is considered one of Victor Hugo’s most renowned works and a literary masterpiece. The novel is set against the backdrop of the early 19th century, during a time of social unrest and political upheaval in France. It explores the conditions of the poor and marginalized, shedding light on issues of poverty, inequality, and injustice.

Plot Summary

“Les Misérables” follows the lives of several intertwined characters, with the protagonist being Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who seeks redemption and a chance at a new life. Against the backdrop of a turbulent society, the novel portrays themes of love, sacrifice, and the pursuit of justice. Through vivid storytelling and rich character development, Hugo presents a compelling narrative that resonates with readers to this day.

Social Commentary and Themes

Through “Les Misérables,” Victor Hugo delves into a broad range of societal issues. Poverty, class struggle, and the criminal justice system are among the central themes explored. The novel mirrors the social inequalities of the time and exposes the hardships faced by the underprivileged. Hugo’s portrayal of the struggles of the lower classes aimed to create empathy and incite readers to action, highlighting the need for societal reform.

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

Inspiration and Setting

“The Hunchback of Notre-Dame,” published in 1831, draws inspiration from the Gothic architecture of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Victor Hugo’s fascination with the historical significance of the cathedral and its role as a symbol of France’s heritage led him to create a captivating tale set in its shadowy corridors and grandiose architecture.

Plot Overview

The novel centers around the character of Quasimodo, a deformed bell-ringer who becomes infatuated with the beautiful Esmeralda, a young street dancer. Their intertwined fates unfold against the backdrop of a Paris on the brink of social turmoil. Hugo weaves a tale of love and tragedy, exploring themes of prejudice, redemption, and the power of compassion.

See also  Unleashing Freedom: An Examination of Epictetus' 'Only the educated are free.

Significance and Impact

“The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” had a profound impact on both literature and society. The novel shed light on the importance of preserving historical landmarks and cultural heritage, spurring efforts to restore and protect the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Furthermore, it contributed to the Romantic fascination with the Middle Ages, inspiring future generations of writers and artists to delve into Gothic themes.

Other Notable Works

Hans of Iceland

Published in 1823, “Hans of Iceland” was one of Hugo’s earliest novels. It tells the story of a bandit named Hans, based on a historical figure, who terrorizes the people of Iceland. The novel explores themes of vengeance, love, and the struggle between good and evil. Though not as well-known as Hugo’s later works, “Hans of Iceland” exemplifies his early literary style and penchant for gripping narratives.


“Ninety-Three,” published in 1874, stands as one of Victor Hugo’s final works. Set during the French Revolution, the novel portrays the brutality and chaos of war through the perspective of three characters. Hugo uses the backdrop of the revolution to explore the moral complexities of violence and the lengths people will go to defend their ideals. “Ninety-Three” serves as a testament to Hugo’s ability to intertwine historical events with powerful storytelling.

Toilers of the Sea

“Toilers of the Sea,” published in 1866, is a lesser-known work compared to some of Hugo’s other novels. Set on the island of Guernsey, the book follows the protagonist, Gilliatt, as he faces the unforgiving power of the sea in his quest to rescue a shipwrecked woman. The novel delves into themes of isolation, human resilience, and the destructive forces of nature. Despite its initial reception, “Toilers of the Sea” showcases Hugo’s versatile storytelling abilities.


Early Poetry

Victor Hugo’s love for poetry was evident from his early literary career. His poems showcased a deep appreciation for nature, beauty, and melancholy. He explored themes of love, loss, and the passage of time, often drawing inspiration from his personal experiences and emotions. His early poetry established him as a master of lyrical verse, capturing the essence of Romanticism.

Transition to Prose

While Hugo made a name for himself as a poet, he also excelled in prose writing. As he matured as an author, he began to transcend the boundaries of traditional poetic form, exploring narrative storytelling and intricate character development. This transition allowed him to tackle more complex themes and reach a broader audience.

Themes and Style

Throughout his poetry, Victor Hugo often grappled with the themes of love, nature, and the human condition. His verses were characterized by vivid imagery, lyrical language, and an exploration of intense emotions. Hugo’s style evolved over the course of his career, ranging from introspective and melancholic to grand and visionary. His ability to express deep thoughts and evoke powerful emotions through language contributed to his enduring legacy as a poet.

See also  Influential Women in History: Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Philosophies and Beliefs

Romanticism and Individualism

Victor Hugo was a proponent of the Romantic movement, embracing its ideals of individualism and self-expression. He believed in the power of imagination and the freedom of the artist to transcend societal constraints. Hugo’s works often celebrated the uniqueness of the individual and rejected the conformity imposed by society.

Social Justice and Activism

Hugo’s writings were heavily influenced by his strong convictions about social justice and the need for reform. He used his platform as a writer to advocate for the rights of the marginalized and to shed light on the injustices he witnessed. Hugo’s commitment to activism went beyond his words; he actively participated in political movements and supported causes he believed in.

Spiritualism and Supernatural Elements

Spiritualism played a significant role in Hugo’s philosophical beliefs. He was intrigued by the supernatural and explored themes of spirituality and the afterlife in his works. Hugo’s fascination with the mysterious and ethereal added depth to his narratives and allowed him to delve into the realm of the unknown.

Personal Life and Tragedies

Marriage and Family

Victor Hugo’s personal life was marked by moments of joy and tragedy. In 1822, he married Adèle Foucher, with whom he had five children. Despite their initial happiness, their relationship began to deteriorate over time. Hugo’s numerous affairs, coupled with Adèle’s mental health struggles, led to their eventual separation in 1833.

Loss of Loved Ones

Hugo experienced profound grief throughout his life with the loss of loved ones. In 1843, his beloved daughter Léopoldine tragically drowned at the age of 19, causing an overwhelming sorrow that deeply affected him. These personal tragedies served as a catalyst for Hugo’s exploration of themes of loss, grief, and the fleeting nature of life in his works.

Impact on Writing

The personal tragedies Hugo endured had a profound impact on his writing. His exploration of grief, loss, and the fragility of life became recurring themes in his novels and poetry. These deeply personal experiences allowed him to tap into a wellspring of emotions that resonated with readers and helped solidify his reputation as a master storyteller.

Legacy and Influence

Literary Impact

Victor Hugo’s literary legacy is vast and enduring. His works, both novels and poetry, continue to be studied, translated, and celebrated around the world. Hugo’s innovative storytelling techniques, rich character development, and thought-provoking themes have inspired countless authors and artists over the years.

Social and Political Influence

Hugo’s political activism and commitment to social justice remain an integral part of his legacy. His writings and speeches fueled public discourse, challenging the status quo and advocating for change. Hugo’s ideas and beliefs left a lasting impact on French society, inspiring generations of activists and thinkers to fight for equality and justice.

Adaptations and Pop Culture References

Victor Hugo’s works have been adapted into various forms of media, including films, stage productions, and musicals. Perhaps the most famous adaptation is the musical “Les Misérables,” which has captivated audiences worldwide. These adaptations have introduced Hugo’s stories and ideas to new audiences, ensuring the longevity of his influence on popular culture.

In conclusion, Victor Hugo’s life and works are a testament to his passion for art, his commitment to social justice, and his uncanny ability to captivate readers with his words. From his early poetry to his monumental novels, Hugo’s contributions to literature and society will continue to be cherished and celebrated for generations to come.