Indeed, Hathaway’s rendition of “I had a dream,” could arguably be considered the most profound scene of the entire film. On the heels of Hathaway’s well-deserved Oscar win, I can’t help but wonder why audiences so deeply connected with this tragic character?

Perhaps because when we look inside Fantine’s soul, we see a woman, who in spite of her careless mistakes, her impetuous willingness to give her heart away, her unabiding optimism, she chooses to accept responsibility for her actions, even at the cost of her own life.

Finding oneself as an abandoned woman with a baby is hard enough in the 21st century America, but in 19th century France, it spelled disaster for both mother and child. Despite her inability to care for her child, and the social shame brought on by mothering an illegitimate child, Fantine makes the conscientious choice to not only have her child (abortion was illegal in Hugo’s France, but still available) but to also provide for her child through the sweat of her own brow.

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