Victor Hugo, Ayn Rand, And A Need To Save Children That Transcends Bitter Hatred Of Our Enemies

James Rozoff
5 min readNov 18, 2023

“Fire! Help! They’re angels, little angels!. What have those innocent babies done? First I’m shot and now they’re being burned! Who is it that’s doing those things? Help! Save my children! Don’t you hear me? You’d take pity on a dog! There can’t be men on earth who’ll let those poor little children die like that! Oh, if they die like that I’ll kill God!”

A fleeing Royalist, Lantenac, hears the pitiable cries of the mother and it calls him to action. He alone has the key to the building in which the children are. To return will mean that he will be captured by the Republicans and put to death. He sacrifices his life for the lives of the children. Together, Royalist and Republicans work to rescue the young ones. And when the children are safe, Lantenac is arrested.

Gauvain, the leader of the Republicans, is amazed by this act of unselfishness. He recognizes in it a morality that transcends politics. In recognition of this noble action, Gauvain allows Lantenac to escape, even though he knows that to do so will mean his own arrest and execution as a traitor.

This, in brief, is the ending of the novel Ninety-Three by Victor Hugo. The entirety of the book is a buildup to the eventual confrontation between these two mortal enemies. But in the end, they found that more pressing matters had to be dealt with. The battle between the two sides is still to be fought, the conviction of neither man wavers. But each realizes he must be a just and righteous person if he is to be a representative for what he believes to be a just and righteous cause.

I came across the book many years ago, and I was shocked to find that Ayn Rand had written the introduction to this particular edition. I was fortunate to first sample Ayn Rand’s writing through her shortest novel, Anthem. A small taste was quite enough for me. I first encountered Victor Hugo through his longest novel, Les Miserables, which left me wanting more. I regarded Victor Hugo as my literary mentor, Ayn Rand as my literary nemesis. So of course I had to read her thoughts on a writer I thought of as her opposite.

I was surprised to hear her gush about my favorite author. Not only that, the subject of Hugo inspired her so much that I found myself not only enjoying her writing but agreeing with much of what she said. Despite the ideological gulf that divided us, there existed noble ideals we could…