It starts of talking about a convict, Jean Valjean, who just got discharged from prison. He goes around looking for a place to stay but every place turns him done. He comes across Bishop Myriel's home. The Bishop allows Jean to stay there and treats Jean with respect. In return, Jean steals the Bishops silverware. when they Bishop is in the garden The police drag Jean back with the silverware but the Bishops said he gave them to Jean as a gift. Jean wants to change his ways and can do so with then Bishops help.
The book then talks about a young girl named Fantine. She is an orphan and at the age of 15 she came to Paris to seek her fortune. The man she is in love with leaves to go back home leaving her pregnant with his child. Two years later Fantine has sold most of her belongings to help feed and care for her daughter, Cosette. When Fantine returns to her town, her daughter plays with two children who belong to Madame Thenardier. The Thenardiers agree to keep Cosette for a monthly fee. The Thenardiers soon abuse and neglect Cosette, even to the point of using her as .
a slave. Fantine never knows her child's true condition. .
When Fantine finds her town she notices a lot of changes. Valjean does so much for the town, including the building of two new factories and additions to the hospital, that he is offered several different promotions. Fantine gets a job ad writes letters to her daughter. When her boss finds out she has a child, Fantine gets fired for lack of morals. She then gets another job with little pay and soon turns to prostitution. She is about to be arrested by Javert, a cop, Jean helps her out and promises to get her daughter back to her.
Javert tries to resign as the head cop knowing that Jean Madeleine, as he's now called, was a convict. Madeleine refuses Javert's resignation after someone was arrested with the name Jean Valjean. Madeleine has to choose between going to Arras to speak up for the man that's claiming to be Jean Valjean.