Jean Valjean is the protagonist of the musical, Les Misérables. He is one of the most complex protagonists in musical theatre who goes on quite a journey from the beginning of the musical to the end.
Jean Valjean is an ex-convict who stole a loaf of bread to feed his family, which put him to prison for 5 years, but for trying to escape 14 more years. So for a minor crime, he was imprisoned for 19 years. He entered prison as a good man, but being in prison hardened him, and he left prison full of hate and anger. Jean Valjean is known for his physical strength.
Once he realized how unfairly society treats him, his soul fills up with even more anger and hates society even more. But he is given kindness by the bishop. Despite being given food and shelter, Valjean still steals from him. But the bishop forgives him and says all the silver was a gift.
So due to the mercy given by the bishop, Valjean realizes that he can change. He starts to treat people with compassion. He opens up a factory and shows compassion to the poor. So Valjean’s transformation begins to show. Valjean’s journey is a spiritual one. Valjean ends up helping Fantine, one of his former factory workers, Fantine, who has unjustly been fired from his factory. She had to turn to prostitution to provide for her daughter. Valjean prevents her from being arrested and sends her to the hospital. Valjean even turns himself in when an innocent man is believed to be “Valjean”. In an act of compassion, Valjean actually agrees to care for Fantine’s daughter, Cosette. So Valjean continues to act by the example set by the bishop.
Cosette is the first person Valjean loved after being released. He feels like a true father to Cosette. Cosette was a broken child before. Valjean knows that caring for Cosette will be dangerous due to being an ex-convict, but he keeps to his word. Yes, he over-protects and shelters her, but I do not blame him in the danger of being sent back to prison. His love for Cosette makes him a kinder and better person. His love for Cosette is shown in different ways. He goes as far as rescuing Marius, who Cosette loves, from the barricades to show his love for his adopted daughter. This act of sacrifice shows that Valjean has some kind of courage. He may not tell Cosette about his past, but he is an incredible father. He saves Marius from being killed at the barricades.
He does shows the importance of forgiving our enemies. In one scene, he forgives Javert. In that scene, he was supposed to kill Javert, but instead lets Javert go and shows Javert forgiveness and mercy. This happened at the barricades.
In the end, even though Valjean dies, he dies with Cosette and Marius, his now son-in-law, by his side. Jean Valjean is an incredible character. He starts out as this harsh, angry, and hateful man and turns into this compassionate, loving, and caring man. Becoming a father to Cosette was such an important to his journey. One word for his journey: redemption. Valjean’s journey is a huge reason why I love Les Misérables.