Professor Robin Moorhead
23 October 2012
In the late eighteenth century, the severity of social injustice directed toward women affected many lives. In the film Les Misérables Fantine is a character that represents how women were treated before and during the French Revolution. Her working conditions were dreadful and her earnings were pitiful at the factory job, where other women faced this similar plight. Fantine continued work there until she found herself in a quarrel when another worker found a letter of Fantine’s which contained incriminating evidence about her having an illegitimate daughter. When her supervisor, Madam Victurnien learned of this news, Fantine was quickly reprimanded for having lied and then fired (Les Misérables).
The partial synopsis of Fantine’s story demonstrates the reality that women faced disparity and unfairness on any grounds. It was not uncommon for this type of treatment to befall many women, especially the situations of working class women. Women in the late 1700’s were frowned upon or often became outcasts if they had children before or even outside of marriage. Many women did not have an education, nor were they allowed to control property. As a result, many turned to prostitution as a means for income (Landes, 2010). Fantine facing similar obstacles turned to prostitution in the film and in a significant scene faces verbal and physical abuse by drunken men. The most humiliating part of her ordeal is that two police officers observe her torment but hesitate to offer any assistance. Unjustly, it is Fantine who is reprimanded and taken into custody (Les Misérables).
The stark difference between men and women during this time was a matter of political and civil rights. Men felt a sense of entitlement over women because women were deemed unqualified for public affairs due to their flawed rationality (Hayhoe, Vol.38: 3-7). However there were advocates such as Marquis de...