Jean Valjean, a convict imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread, is released from prison after nineteen years; and through the kindness of a bishop, Monsieur Bienvenue, he becomea a changed man, He gradually builds a large factory and leads a prosperous life for himself. He then becomes known as "Father Madeleine" and is appointed mayor by the king. Everyone revers him except for Inspector Javert of the Bureau of Police.
Meanwhile, one of his employees named Fantine is fired by the factory overseer after finding out about her illigitimate baby. Fantine goes from one job to another to support her child, finally becoming a prostitute. She is arrested by Javert, but Valjean orders Javert to released her. However, Fantine, who is in extremely poor health, dies without seeing her child again.
Valjean successfully retrieves her child Cosette from the evil Thenardies whom Fantine has trusted to take care of the child. Valjean and Cosette spend happy years in a convent. However, feeling that Cosette must have an opportunity to experience life, Valjean decides that they should leave the convent.
Cosette blooms into a beautiful woman. Marius, a handsome young man, notices her. They exchange glances and soon discover they are in love with each other.
Valjean's strange life, his struggles to redeem his past, and the importance of love and compassion reflect the entirely of life in nineteenth-century France.