What I Love about Jean Valjean

Jean Valjean is the protagonist in Les Mis. He is an ex-convict unfairly sentenced for nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family. He is one of the best protagonists in the world of musicals.

Major Spoilers:

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Josh Davis (Javert) and Nick Cartell (Jean Valjean)

He is a character that goes through a wonderful transformation. When he is released from prison, he is stuck on parole forever. Being in prison has hardened him to become a hateful and angry man. It is his transformation that makes him such a wonderful character in so many ways.

It wasn’t until he meets that bishop that he realizes he needs to change. He feels like society will always hate him. The bishop showed him an incredible act of mercy by inviting him to eat and sleep at his house. But Valjean hardened through prison repays by stealing his silver. But the bishop forgives him and gives him the silver. He has taught Valjean the ways of the Lord.

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It is in this particular moment, Valjean has realized just how much prison has hardened him and realizes that he needs to change his ways. He notices the compassion the bishop has shown him. In order to change his ways, he needs to break parole.

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Nick Cartell (Jean Valjean)

So Valjean has become mayor and starts to show compassion to those of others. He opens up a factory. He helps the less fortunate. So his transformation has truly begun. He was given a second chance at life and starts to live by the ways of the bishop. He indirectly is responsible for the firing of Fantine. He shows compassion to her by promising to raise her child, Cosette, on her deathbed. So Valjean understands the value of compassion at this point. In addition, when an innocent man is accused of being the “real” Valjean, Valjean turns himself in to protect the man.

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Valjean discovers just how broken Cosette is. She has been abused by the Thenardiers. Valjean has become a father in the most unexpected ways. Jean Valjean has never known love and neither has Cosette. So the two form such a special bond. Cosette is the main happiness in Jean Valjean’s life. She helps him with his transformation to becoming a better person. You might think he is sheltering and protecting Cosette too much, but let’s remember he is an ex-convict on the run and knows that Javert is after him.

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Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean)

In act II, Valjean realizing that Cosette loves Marius, he does an amazing act of courage. He realizes that his daughter loves Marius. He picks up on the fact that Marius might die on the barricade so he ends up going to the barricade to protect Marius in order to make sure that he lives. Marius and the students eventually realize the uprising is a lost cause. After “Drink With Me”, Jean Valjean prays to God to make sure Marius lives. So Jean Valjean has learned to love God and it is clear that he has such a strong spirit.

During the final battle, Marius seriously gets injured and he falls unconscious so Valjean carries him through the sewers and eventually rescues him from death. This act of courage shows just how much he loves Cosette. It shows that he is capable of both compassion and courage.

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Nick Cartell (Jean Valjean)

Valjean dies at the end. But he gets to die with Marius, his now son-in-law, and Cosette by his side. He has finally redeemed himself. He has become such a compassionate and saint-like man. He has lived a tough life of being an ex-convict, but he learns to love through Cosette. He has learned a lot of lessons through the bishop and that is why he was able to become a better person.

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Anne Hathaway (Fantine) and Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean)

So his transformation makes him such a well-loved character. To start out as a hateful, harsh, and angry man into a compassionate and saint-like man is so inspiring. He has developed a wonderful love for God. Due to being to prison, he rescues an innocent man from being sentenced to prison. He also rescues a man trapped under a cart. So he does many moments of risking himself for the sake of other people. Cosette has taught him how to love and he would anything for her even if it means losing her forever. That is why he rescues Marius. So his transformation and his actions make me love him so much.

12 thoughts on “What I Love about Jean Valjean

  1. Jean Valjean is definitely one of the best protagonists out there. I love to see his character change mostly because it’s a spiritual one. His character is deeply compassionate and caring and I love that about him but, at the same time, he’s not without his flaws.

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      • Absolutely. I think that that spiritual journey is one of the biggest take-aways from the musical.

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      • So many things represent spirituality from the musical, but without Jean Valjean’s journey the underlying spirituality would be less strong

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      • I agree. The spiritual aspects of the musical are one of the reasons why it’s so high on my list of favorites!

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  2. I really love Jean Valjean as a protagonist too. I think it’s interesting in any story, but musicals especially, when a character goes through a really dramatic change or learning experience, and Jean Valjean is a really good example of that! I like how you talked about how Cosette helps him become a kinder person too; I always thought that their father daughter relationship was so special.

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    • Jean Valjean is one of the best literary and musical protagonists ever. His transformation and journey is so spiritual. Les Mis isn’t too depressing as there is so much to it than it being such a tragic tale.

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  3. This is one of my favorite stories of all times. I nearly wept the first time I watched a live performance of it. There’s a heart and a depth in the characters, especially Jean Valjean, that is rare. Thanks for reminding me of this wonderful story!

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    • There are several layers in Les MIs. If you want to explore more of Les Mis, explore my blog. I am obsessed with Les Mis plus a musical theatre fanatic.

      Les Mis shocked and confused me in many ways. Prior to Les Mis, I interpreted ALL musicals as HAPPY, but capable of sadness at times. Les Mis proved me wrong on that note. It taught me that tragic musicals exist and that I was 100% blind to heartbreak growing up. In high school, I thought I would never love a tragedy because I thought they were pure sad. But Les MIs showed me that tragedies are not pure sad but capable of things like hope, compassion, forgiveness, love, sacrifice, humanity and redemption.

      There are several reasons why I love Les Mis but even that is hard to explain.

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  4. This is my favourite character EVER. In both the brick and the musical, or at all.
    But there was a point where he hated Marius very much and actually wanted him to die. He first is glad learning that Marius is gonna die at the barricades. And then goes out armed and in an uniform and honestly if I didn´t know from the movie what he was gonna do, I would think he was gonna kill Marius!!
    And this was because Jean Valjean had lost his family, had no friends and the only living creature that loved hm (although he helped many *sobbing in a pillow*) was Cosette. She was a daughter, sister, friend, mother and everything for him. So some people may think it´s a little weird for a father to be SOOOOO overprotective, but guys, he may be very good, but he´s not a saint, but a broken old man.
    And I love that there are 4 EXTREMELY hard moments that tested Valjean’s morals – the prison where he became evil, the confession that he’s Jean Valjean in order to save an innocent person, the decision to save Marius&let Cosette go, and the temptation to kill Javert.
    Aaand we readers and viewers know that his thoughts aren’t saintly all the time. But he somehow manages to do the right thing. Which is inspirational. Valjean is the most inspiring character EVER.

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