In the classroom, teachers can focus on numerous topics in relationship to Les Misérables. In Part Two of our consideration of Les Misérables, we’ll look at a few of the many areas, themes, and subjects that you can investigate with your class. You’ll want to watch parts or all of the movie and/or read sections of the novel. Introducing students to basic elements of Romanticism and offering them insights into the movement is also necessary. Students will need to know the story and characters of the musical in order to implement the following ideas regarding the investigation of Les Misérables.
One of the major themes in Les Misérables revolves around our desire to be free and how far we will go to attain that freedom. Like Romanticism and Neo-Classicism, this theme involves a battle between new ways of thinking and the old order. We see the theme in the main story which focuses on Jean Valjean and Javert, in the revolution, and in Fantine’s journey. Taking this theme and a scene from Les Misérables have students create their own modern-day version and putting it in a present-day setting, such as in a family’s home, at the workplace, or in a school. What are the characters trying to achieve, what represents freedom to them, why are they driven to do what they do?
How might one of the characters utilize social media? Here are some quick ideas on how to use social media in relationship to the story and characters.
- Twitter: Create 20 Tweets written by one of the characters.
- Pinterest: What might be five different pins that one of the characters would post?
- Facebook: What would their Facebook page look like, what would they like in music, movies, books, etc.?
- Linked-In: Create a Linked-In account for one of the characters. How would they portray themselves in the business world?
In doing a social media exercise, students will not only need to choose a character but at what point in time in relationship to the story are they creating their page, posting their photos, or tweeting.
Creating three blog entries is a great way to investigate characters. The blogs, which would be around 300 words each, would be written by a character or more than one character. As an example, a student might write a blog, one created by Jean Valjean, one by Javert, and one by Thénardier, with each focusing on the same subject or theme in the musical or an specific incident, such as the rebellion, the death of Fantine, or stealing from the church. Students should incorporate two to three photos into each blog. These can help them make or define each blogs point of view.
Other Choices and Exercises
In the classroom, there are many other exercises that teachers can use to encourage the investigation of themes, characters, and topics in and associated with Les Misérables. Is there a hit song by a popular band they might put into a scene. Have students do this, changing the dialogue, making it fir the style of the song, and changing the lyrics to fit the scene. Create a game of Jeopardy associated with the musical, have some of the characters appear on a talk show, or create a reality series based on the story and the characters. There are a lot of choices that will enable students to be creative, investigate themes, and relate the 18th century story to their 21st century lives.