Is Stealing Ever Justified or Excusable?

In Victor Hugo’s story, Les Miserables, Jean Valjean—the main character—steals a loaf of bread.

He doesn’t steal that bread for no reason. Valjean has no money, and he wants to feed his seven nieces and nephews who are very hungry.

To steal the bread, Valjean must first break-into a local bakery. In other words, he commits the crime of “breaking and entering.”

Did Valjean have another way to help his family? Why didn't he ask the baker for a loaf of bread instead of stealing it?

Under the circumstances, was Jean Valjean guilty of breaking and entering the bakery?  Was he guilty of stealing?

Do you think that Valjean's actions were excusable, under these circumstances? Why, or why not?

Is stealing after justified? Explain your answer.

If you think that stealing could be justified or excusable, depending on the situation, who pays the price for the stolen goods? In Jean Valjean's case, he stole from the local baker. How does the baker get compensated for the stolen bread?

Media Credits

This illustration is by Minnie Phan, an artist who, among other things, creates works for children. Copyright, Minnie Phan, all rights reserved. Image used her as fair use for educational purposes and to acquaint others with the wonderful work of Minnie Phan.


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