The Grand Spirits of The Miserable: Javert and Valjean

The world is composed of light and dark. It is of evil and good, concrete and abstract, black and white, planes and curves, stark and subtle.

Like the faces of the coin, these opposing forces can never fully merge into the other, yet as separate entities, they make up a singular material which cannot do without one of the two missing.

This is Les Miserables, a never ending search for freedom which can only be the fruit of acceptance.

This is Les Miserables.

The obsessed law man and the saintly criminal.

The good who is not so good and the bad who is not all that bad.

The hunter versus the hunted.

Prey versus predator.

Two grand and similar spirits that cannot exist as one, bound by the constraints of misinterpreted honor and the chains of the past.

Javert, born in jail, saw himself as an ostracized adolescent with but two paths open to him. He could choose either to be a policeman or a criminal. He chose to be on the right side of the law. Valjean, a peasant, spent time in jail as a young man and came out of it hating society. He believed himself to be apart from it, and chose to live in hatred and crime. Fortunately, the action of a kindly old bishop prevented him from wasting the rest of his life. Valjean switched to tread the path of life on a more morally upright road. He became mayor, protector of society.

When certain events occured in Montreuil, both of them took similar actions. Javert, thinking he had unfairly denounced the mayor, revealed his actions to the latter and fully anticipated being removed from his position as police inspector and assigned to a lowly job. Valjert is also plagued by his conscience. He could not let an innocent man take the blame for his sins. Like Javert, he expected to lose everything. At the end of this particular episode Javert retains his position and Valjean lives in seclusion in a convent as gardener.
Both men become prisoners of the other at one time or another in the novel. Valjean becomes Javert’s prisoner in Paris. Then Javert becomes Valjean’s prisoner at the barricade in Rue de la Chanvrerie but is freed. Then when Javert catches Valjean by the sewers, he frees him in return.

In my point of view one of the most emotional and intellectual parts of the novel is Javert’s suicide. It is the ultimate freedom from a life in which, although he has been continually capturing and chasing and imprisoning, he has been the one ultimate slave. He chose to end his life because the fact has dawned upon him that the life he chose to live, although righteous in the eyes of others, was not entirely correct. He has become a harsh and cruel man. He has seen the error of his ways when he viewed it as too late. Valjean’s own death is almost suicidal too in that he just allowed himself to waste away.

In death, there is no denying that these two great and moving characters are the same. One’s body ends up under a laundress’ boat and the other, in an unmarked grave.
These two great characters, such strong and powerful figures of men, will forever be recalled whenever one thinks of Les Miserables, for they were truly one with the miserable.
They were freemen in bondage, both seeking blindly in life for that something they cannot even dare to perceive. They were looking for a missing necessity which they do not even know they lacked.

And in death they claimed what was rightfully theirs at the start.


They will never be slaves again.

Never again will they be les miserables.

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