Valjean is stuck in a rut of believing he will never have a shot at changing his life, based on his past circumstances, until the bishop shows him compassion and forgiveness. He has never encountered this kind of generosity and it changes his life. Instead of being a criminal, Valjean looks for ways to improve the lives and the working conditions of the people around him—through good business sense. He is reliable, hard-working, and diligent, purchasing the workhouse when it went bankrupt and dividing the workforce to keep “the sexes apart” (to reduce immorality, distractions, and corruption). He starts up a food bank in Paris where he gives out coats and clothing to those in need, and gives out meals to the under-privileged people on the streets. His strong business sense allows him to make capable purchases and build up his fortune; he takes a struggling mill and makes it profitable enough that he can save enough money to flee when Javert tracks him down, then signs over ownership to the employees to make sure they are financially secure in his absence. But he is rather poor with his own feelings and those of Cosette; he doesn’t assume she has fallen in love or is seeing Marius behind his back until Javert leaves him a note, and then is angry at the thought that she might have compromised her virtue. But he loves her enough to save Marius’ life, even though it means being caught by his greatest enemy. He also shows Javert compassion by releasing him and saying he is “dead.” He has taken his salvation and redemption to heart, and makes decisions based in what he believes will make him a better, good, and virtuous man.

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Prison has made Valjean a hard man by the start of the story. It has turned him into an angry, resentful, bitter man who steals from the person who shows him kindness, out of a desire to survive in a world that will not accept his yellow passport. But the forgiveness of the bishop transforms Valjean, leading him into integration to 2 — becoming softer, more responsive with his emotions, seeking to take care of others selflessly, and willing to sacrifice his own needs to give Cosette what she wants most, the love of a good man. Though frightened to meet Javert as the mayor, Valjean keeps a cool head, maintains control over the situation, and later asserts his authority to prevent Fantine’s arrest. He retaliates in violence when necessary, to defend himself and others. He also pushes Cosette’s adopted family to see how depraved they are, before he deprives them of the offered sum and all responsibility for Cosette. His 9 wing does not like conflict, or to have those he loves angry at him. It can become too self-debasing, as we see in the novel how his self-loathing causes him to abandon Cosette after her marriage. He does not want to impose on her life, the ultimate in self-forgetting (and in so doing, he injures her).