Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Les Miz Part 4: A little bit more on Javert

So I realized that I hadn't talked a lot about Javert as a Character, mostly about how he looked.
Which seems a little superficial, doncha think?

So back in Part 2 I said:
Javert is a deep Character, and Russell Crowe didn't even begin to show that depth. He was a villain, nothing more.
First things first, let's get this straight:

Javert is not a villain.

Though Javert may be the antagonist, that does not necessarily mean he is a villain.
He's actually a pretty decent guy, with (almost all of) his morals straight. He just has an extremely strong sense of justice, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Bad guys get punished, good guys get rewarded.
Those who follow the path of the righteous shall have their reward. 
And if they fall as Lucifer fell, the flame! the sword!
(That's from the song Stars from the musical, by the way.)

What makes him not likable is his absolutism and his lack of mercy.
He cannot even consider that people can and do change through the course of a lifetime, and that the law might possibly - just possibly - make a mistake.
Javert likes the simplicity of categorizing people as either "good" or "evil," and does not accept that a good person can become evil or an evil person can become good, or even that a person can be partially good and partially bad.
From this stems the lack of mercy. No emotions need be involved - a person labeled as good by the unfailing law is rewarded, and a person labeled as bad is punished. Forgiveness doesn't even fall into the equation. The concept does not even exist in his mind.

Which is why when Valjean, time and time again, has Javert at his mercy, and, time and time again, lets him go free without harm, Javert's perfectly organized world is shattered. He has never seen anything like it.
He's been begged for mercy before, many times, but never has he been given it. Let free.
His simple world isn't so simple anymore when mercy is put into the picture.
And somehow, a small part of him in the end wants to participate in this world of forgiveness, which is why, in the end, he lets Valjean go.

But the rest of him is utterly shocked that he accepted the mercy into his life, into his world. His whole being rebels against a world like that. It's not the nice, tidy, absolute world of Javert's plan.
And he can't live in a world like that.

So in the end, we pity him. We don't see him as a villain; we don't triumph over his demise; we don't say, "He met his rightful end." He was just trying to do his best for a God he saw as the Great Judge, and when he realized God was Forgiveness, he couldn't handle it. His world flipped.

We can actually draw some nice parallels between Javert and Valjean. When Valjean stole the silver from Monsieur Myriel, Valjean was prepared for the priest's condemnation. Instead, he received forgiveness. It flipped Valjean's world, too. But he was so overwhelmed by it that he decided to follow in Myriel's path, and become Monsieur Madeline. (Side note: I love Myriel. He reminds me of St. John Marie Vienney, my favorite saint.) When Valjean saw the opportunity to continue to give that mercy that had so changed him, he took it, and forgave Javert for continually dogging him. He decided to propagate the forgiveness, and hoped Javert would be as profoundly touched as he had been.

Which Javert was. But in a completely different way.


Here is Les Miz Part 1: Introduction
Here is Les Miz Part 2: Javert
Here is Les Miz Part 3: Marius

I know that this Les Miz series of posts was long, but if you managed to get through it, I'd like to know your opinion on it. Have you read the Book? Seen the Musical? or the Movie? 
Favorite characters, scenes, songs? 
Any philosophical thoughts you may have regarding anything Les Miz
Let me know in the comments!

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