Jean Valjean is imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread.
He serves nineteen years before he is paroled.
They are nineteen years of forced labour, of chain gangs and miserable conditions.
Finding it impossible to get work as a paroled convict, Jean Valjean spends the night in the charity of a Bishop.
He repays this hospitality by stealing the Bishop's silver table service.
Valjean is arrested, the Bishop explains that he had given them as a gift, and gives him more.
It is this act of kindness, forgiveness, which changes the man Valjean, and he determines to use the silver to reinvent himself, to become an honest man, to do good on Earth for a God who has given him a rebirth.
In Paris the virtuous and beautiful Fantine is seduced, a short lived relationship which results in the daughter Cosette.
Fantine, knowing that she cannot find work and care for her child leaves Cosette with some kindly seeming innkeepers, the Waterloo veteran Thernadier and his wife.
Cosette grows up enslaved to a mean family, whilst the evil Thernadiers extort all the money from Fantine that they can.
Fantine first sells her hair, her front teeth and then her body to pay for the fictitious medicines that Cosette is supposedly consuming.
Valjean, who is the mayor of the town and the owner of the factory in which Fantine lives and works, rescues Fantine from the underworld, but too late.
Fantine dies, Valjean promises to care for the child Cosette.
At the same time another man, known as Valjean, stands trial.
Conscience dictates Valjean must intervene and reveal himself.
He runs from the law and rescues Cosette in his flight.
Jean Valjean finds Cosette, fetching water from a well in the woods outside of her town.
He carries the water, pays the Thernadiers for Cosette's release, and buys her the doll she has dreamed of.
In Paris the pair find refuge in a convent, in whose school Cosette grows up and in whose garden Jean works.
Cosette and the man she calls father spend their spring and summer days walking in the Gardens of the Luxembourg, a palais which was once home to the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, and was symbolic of republican France.
But this France, this Paris, is a starving France, once more in servitude to a royal family; urchins, crime and sickness take the air with them.
Cosette, as she comes of age, sees with adult eyes two things.
A chain gang, which inexplicably moves Jean Valjean to tears, and is full of men she feels the suffering of.
A beautiful boy, Marius, who talks the beautiful words of Liberty, Brotherhood and Equality.
She falls in love, but has no example of romantic love to understand it by.
Words turn into deed, and behind the funeral carriage of General Lemarc Parisians rise.
Marius' student group, join other Parisians, tear up the pavements, overturn carriages, and rip apart furniture to make barricades, temporary fortresses with buildings on two sides.
This is the disastrous revolution of 1830 which Delacroix depicted.
Jean Valjean, leaves the National Guard, to watch over Marius, and to save Cosette a broken heart, to save a young man's life, carries Marius through the overflowing, noxious and thick sewers of Paris.
Marius' student friends, the ABC society, are killed in the struggle.
Cosette and Marius marry, but Valjean, to save Cosette the disgrace of being the child of a convict, hides away.
Marius later learns of his rescue from the barricade, and as Valjean dies, he is pardoned, exonerated and happy.
The Bishop's silver, has spared Cosette, the unfortunate Fantine, for love and for Joy.