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Eric Crosson

Mrs. Wedgworth

English 1215.2

24 March 2009

Thénardier Is Evil

Thénardier is one hundred percent evil. He has no redeeming qualities to

make up for the fact that he is a thief, extortionist, and a liar. He is a parasite

on the hard working members of society, and regrets nothing he does. He is

incapable of change and does not grow from his experiences, as other

characters in Les Misérables do.

The very first time Monsieur Thénardier is mentioned in Les Misérables,

he is extorting money from somebody. He hasn't even made a physical

appearance yet, and already he is demanding more money from Fantine than

is necessary, or even reasonable. He changes the payment to “not less than

seven franks [a month], and six months paid in advance.” (44) And then on

top of the inflated rate per month to take care of Cosette, he adds an initial

fifteen frank fee for “starting expenses.” When the deal is struck, Thénardier

takes fifty seven out of eighty of Fantine's franks, cruelly forcing her to walk

the remaining distance to her destination because she could no longer afford


A short while later, when Thénardier is in need of money again, he

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travels to Paris and pawns all of Cosette's beautiful clothes for a mere sixty

franks. Fantine had bought her many nice clothes, but Thénardier sold them

all, and instead dressed her in rags. He dressed her poorly, but treated her

even worse: “[he] fed her on the odds and ends, a little better than the dog,

and a little worse than the cat.” (46) And to extricate even more money from

Fantine and Cosette, he increased the rate to twelve franks per month. Then

when Thénardier learns that Cosette is an illegitimate child, he blackmails

Fantine into paying an extra three franks a month, making the total fifteen

franks, over twice what the original price was. He continues demanding this

outrageous price, driving Fantine to cut off her beautiful hair for money and

work herself much harder than she should ever have to. To keep Fantine

sending large amounts of money, Thénardier lies to Cosette, telling her that

Cosette needs a new coat in this terrible winter weather, and that Cosette is

sick and needs money for the doctor.

Although Thénardier loses his inn because he doesn't receive enough

business to cover expenses, that should not condemn him to a life of crime.

Jean Valjean was outcast as a criminal in the beginning of the book but by the

end he is an extremely wealthy man who has a pristine reputation. People

have said in reference to Monsieur the Mayor: “there is a rich man who does

not show pride.” (53) Therefore, Thénardier's evil way of doing business was

his choice, and he is not a victim.

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Later, Thénardier appears as one Monsieur Fabantau Jondrette. He is

extremely poor, and deliberately makes himself and his family look poorer to

obtain more money from alms givers. For example, one day, when 'The

Philanthropist' is on his way to his house, he quickly trashes his abode for

appearance's sake. He destroys his one chair, douses the fire, and, cruelest of

all, he makes his young daughter punch out a pane of glass. The glass cuts the

girl, who begins crying. Madame Thénardier is outraged, and cries out:

“You see now! What stupid things you are doing? Breaking your glass,

she has cut herself!”

“So much the better!” said the man. “I knew she would.” “How! So much

the better?” resumed the woman. “Silence!” replied the father. (209)

Thénardier wanted money so badly he was willing to endanger his own

daughter's safety to acquire a few extra franks. Only a raving lunatic would go

to such extreme measures for such a small reward. He also obviously has no

concern for others at all, because he forces his own child into something as

painful and traumatic as that.

When “The Philanthropist,” who is actually Jean Valjean, arrives at the

“Jondrette's” house, Monsieur Thénardier starts spewing lies in order to make

his life look as pathetic as possible. This, he surmises, will maximize profits

that he leeches off of others. In the span of a few breaths he makes his life

seem hopeless, saying

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“I cannot go out, for lack of a coat. Well, monsieur, ... do you know what

is going to happen to-morrow? Tomorrow is … the last delay that my

landlord will give me; if I do not pay him this evening, my eldest daughter,

myself, my spouse with her fever, my child with her wound, we shall all four

be turned out of doors, and driven off onto the street...” (211)

Thénardier stirs up such pity inside Jean Valjean that Jean Valjean actually goes

back to his house to get more money for Thénardier, because he feels that

what he has in his pockets is not enough to give to Thénardier.. Thénardier is a

professional liar, and is an expert at sucking money out of honest people.

Near the end of the Les Misérables, when Jean Valjean is trapped at the

sewer gate, Thénardier finds Jean Valjean with Marius in their time of need.

Since Thénardier has the only key the their escape, he can charge them

whatever he desires for it. He goes through Jean Valjean's and Marius' pockets,

but, “forgetting his words, go halves, he took the whole” (327). This greed

shows yet again that Thénardier really feels no sympathy for Jean Valjean, or

anybody, because by taking all of his money Thénardier has left Jean Valjean

without any resources at all.

Thénardier has no redeeming qualities. Throughout the whole book, he

never once helped people without demanding something in return. He never

showed mercy, or pity, or gave to charity. Other characters, such as Jean

Valjean and Javert, showed signs of growth and change. Jean Valjean started
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as a destitute criminal and became Monsieur Madeleine, and Javert

transformed from an inspector who saw things in terms of legal and illegal into

a person who recognizes morals and realizes that there are gray areas in life,

not just black and white. However, Thénardier remains corrupt and immoral

from start to finish.

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Works Cited

Hugo, Victor. Les Misérables. New York: The Random House Publishing Group,