The Man Who Laughs is a novel by Victor Hugo.
The Man Who Laughs is a novel by Victor Hugo, originally published in April 1869 under the French title L’Homme qui rit. It was adapted into a popular 1928 film, directed by Paul Leni and starring Conrad Veidt, Mary Philbin and Olga Baclanova.
Hugo wrote The Man Who Laughs, or the Laughing Man, over a period of 15 months while he was living in the Channel Islands, having been exiled from his native France because of the controversial political content of his previous novels. The Man Who Laughs is argued to be one of Hugo’s greatest works.
In late 17th-century England, a homeless boy named Gwynplaine rescues an infant girl during a snowstorm, her mother having frozen to death. They meet an itinerant carnival vendor who calls himself Ursus, and his pet wolf, Homo. Gwynplaine’s mouth has been mutilated into a perpetual grin; Ursus is initially horrified, then moved to pity, and he takes them in. 15 years later, Gwynplaine has grown into a strong young man, attractive except for his distorted visage. The girl, now named Dea, is blind, and has grown into a beautiful and innocent young woman. By touching his face, Dea concludes that Gwynplaine is perpetually happy. They fall in love. Ursus and his surrogate children earn a meagre living in the fairs of southern England. Gwynplaine keeps the lower half of his face concealed. In each town, Gwynplaine gives a stage performance in which the crowds are provoked to laughter when Gwynplaine reveals his grotesque face.