The Last Day of a Condemned Man Summary

The Last Day Of A Condemned Man Summary
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The Last Day of a Condemned Man is a short novel written by Victor Hugo, first published in 1829. It expresses Victor Hugo’s belief that the death penalty should be abolished.

Summary of The Last Day of a Condemned Man

In 19th-century France, a man is condemned to death by the guillotine. At Bicêtre, as the condemned man awaits his execution, he pens down his thoughts, feelings, and fears. His writings trace the transformation of his state of mind in the face of the world outside his prison cell, detailing everything from life in the prison to the appearance of his cell and the personality of the prison chaplain. The man does not reveal his name or the nature of his crime, subtly hinting that he has harmed someone, an anonymous, faceless, insignificant victim.

The novel also contains an example of Hugo’s character Jean Valjean from “Les Misérables.” The condemned man befriends another inmate and recounts his life story. The other inmate reveals that he was sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread to save his brother’s family. This echoes the similar background of Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables.”

At one point, the condemned man attempts to escape by deceiving a superstitious guard. The guard almost agrees to swap clothes but eventually opts for logic, rejecting the proposal.

On the day of his execution, the condemned man sees his three-year-old daughter for the last time. However, he no longer recognizes her, and she tells him that her father is dead.

The novel concludes with the condemned man cursing the crowd eagerly shouting for the spectacle of his beheading, as he futilely pleads for mercy and condemns the people of his time.

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