Jean Valjean, guilty of a minor theft of food, is pursued and hounded for years by a relentless lawman, Javert.
- After several years, the priest's brother dies and leaves the glass bead factory to Valjean. By this time the latter is a well respected man and has been elected mayor of the town. Fantine, a factory girl, having been absent from her duties for eight days, returns to work. She is nervous about a note she has received from Thenardier, a country innkeeper, demanding payment for the keep of her baby. Fantine is shown into the office of "Mr. Madeline" and discharged on account of her absence. Rather than reveal the secret of her child, she prefers discharge to exposure. Meanwhile, Javert, the prison guard, has been promoted to the post of Police Inspector of Montreuil. In reporting to the mayor, "Mr. Madeleine," he is struck by that man's resemblance to the prisoner who escaped from him, and makes a mental note of it. Fantine has drifted into poverty, and in order to raise funds for her baby's keep, is obliged to sell her beautiful hair. Shorn of her hair she becomes an object of derision among her associates. This leads to a quarrel among the women of the poor quarter and Fantine's arrest by Javert, the man of duty. The mayor, "Mr. Madeleine." happens to enter the police station after her arrest. He learns from the note taken away from Fantine when she was searched, the reason of her absence from the factory and her subsequent heroic self-denial in submitting to discharge rather than give away the secret of her child. He is deeply moved and now orders her to be released. This action Javert considers an affront to the majesty of the law, personified in him. He becomes all the more determined to unmask the mayor by establishing his identity as Jean Valjean. Fantine confides to "Mr. Madeleine" the story of her misfortune, and he, seeing that she is suffering with a fatal malady, has her placed in the hospital belonging to the bead factory where every possible care is shown her. An accident, that of an old man pinned beneath a wagon, reveals to Javert the great strength of "Mr. Madeleine." as the mayor lifts the wagon and releases the man. This Javert connects with the feat of the convict who lifted the stone in the prison yard, years ago. It convinces Javert that the mayor is Valjean. and he makes a report to the authorities. Fauchelevent, the man hurt under the wagon, becomes a cripple and is helped to a position as gardener in a convent near Paris by the mayor. Just at this time Javert reads a news account of a criminal caught recently in Paris whom the police believe to be Jean Valjean, After reading this, Javert feels that he has done "Madeleine" a wrong in supposing him to be Valjean. He resigns his position giving "Mr. Madeline" his reasons. A new torrent comes into "Mr. Madeleine's life as he thinks of another man being sent back to prison for his own deed. He pictures an innocent man being condemned, and is severely conscience stricken. Rather than allow an innocent man to suffer, the mayor decides to reveal his identity and goes before the court to confess, prepared to take the consequences. In proof of his assertion he shows the court the prison brand upon his arm, "T. F." (Travaux Forces), meaning "hard labor." Valjean has a few last hours of freedom, hastens to the bedside of the dying Fantine. She begs him to protect her daughter, Cosette, who is still in the care of the Thenardiers. He promises to raise her as his own, and, as Fantine dies, he is led away by Javert who does not comprehend the pity of the scene, but sees only his stem duty before him. Valjean easily makes his escape from the police station, where he has been locked up by Javert, awaiting transportation. -- Moving Picture World synopsis