Hugo's epic tale of social injustice, politics, heroism and love is a towering work of Western literature. It follows in particular the fortunes of Jean Valjean who out of extreme poverty steals a loaf of bread and then spends many years trying to escape his reputation as a criminal. In later years he rises socially and is a respectable member of society; but he is not allowed to forget his past by the sadistic policeman Javert who is determined to expose him. As Valjean struggles to elude his nemesis, we meet many other unforgettable characters: the tragically victimized Fantine and her daughter Cosette, whom Valjean has sworn to protect; the rascally Thenardier and the quick-witted street urchin Gavroche. Each of them prepares to meet their destinies at the barricades as the July Revolution comes to a dramatic climax.