2019 Student Research Conference:
32nd Annual Student Research Conference

Martyrs and Survivors: Representations of the French Prison

Ellen C. Morgan
Dr. Betty McLane-Iles, Faculty Mentor

The representations of prisons in Les Misérables, The Count of Monte Cristo, and A Tale of Two Cities evoke romantic martyrdom. These novels also show the realism of prisoners who struggle to survive during periods of upheaval in French history. Each work is rooted in historical writings and testimonies of contemporary prisoners. These sources make the imprisoned characters’ psychological alienation even more realistic. Victor Hugo created Jean Valjean after seeing the misery inflicted on the poor by the justice system, and took inspiration from the outlaw Vidocq. Alexandre Dumas made Edmond Dantès a reflection of the oppression of the Napoleonic era, which his father experienced personally. Charles Dickens observed the effects of prison on the psyche from a very young age, and used historical accounts of the Revolution when writing about Dr. Manette in the Bastille. All three novels use romanticism and reality to depict the trauma of imprisonment.

Keywords: prisons, romanticism, realism, French Revolution, French Literature, trauma

French Capstone

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 309-3
Location: MC 210
Time: 2:00

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