What do I love about Jean Valjean

I am talking about another principal character in Les Mis.


In Les Mis, Jean Valjean is the protagonist. In my opinion, he is one of the best main characters in musical theatre. He has one of the best character arcs.

Jean Valjean starts out as a broken man. He ended up in prison by stealing a loaf of bread for his sister and nephews. His sentence ended up being five years, but fourteen more for trying to escape. So, just for stealing a loaf for bread, he was in prison for nineteen years. Prison hardened Valjean into this angry and bitter man. He was quite mad at society when he was released- he ended up more angry at them when he realized society was not treating him fairly just because he was an ex-convict.

Well, one of my favorite scenes in Les Mis is the bishop scene. The bishop may be a minor character, but is a truly significant one. The bishop welcomed Valjean into his home, gave him something to eat, and somewhere to sleep. Despite this kind gesture, Valjean still stole silver from the bishop. After being caught and being returned to the bishop, the bishop actually ended up telling the policemen that he gave the silver as a gift (he added the candlesticks to all the silver he stole). The bishop was able to teach Valjean mercy, grace, forgiveness, and love. The bishop forgave Valjean for stealing all of his silver.

Valjean (Hugh Jackman) and Young Cosette (Isabelle Allen)
Valjean and Young Cosette

During “What have I Done”- you begin to understand who Valjean once was and shows what the bishop taught him. He no longer wanted to be the bitter, harsh, and angry man he once was. When the time advances the first time, you realize that Valjean has defiantly changed. In 1823, he has begun to show compassion towards others. He is the owner of a factory and the mayor of the town- so he defiantly has changed.

Well, after he saw that Fantine, once of his former workers, has been sexually harassed and is about to be sent to jail. He ended up preventing Javert from allowing that to happen- Valjean realized that Fantine is now living on the streets and is now seriously ill. He has shown Fantine a lot of compassion in this particular moment: he wants to help her especially because she has a child.

“Who Am I?” is one of those scenes that has Valjean go through a major dilemma. Either he has to give up being a mayor and owner of the factor or turn himself in to prevent an innocent man from going to jail. A man was wrongly accused of being “Valjean”. In the end, Valjean actually turned himself in even though he still has a promise he has to fulfill.

A lot of compassion seen from Valjean is during “Come to Me”, which is the first death in Les Mis. It is Fantine’s death scene, which is a duet found Fantine and Valjean. Fantine is still worried about her daughter. In this number, Valjean agrees and promises to raise Cosette as his own. In the most unexpected of ways, Valjean has to become an adopted father. Valjean stays with Fantine during this entire moment. Little does Valjean know how much of an impact Cosette would have on his life.

I find it interesting that BOTH Valjean and Cosette were still broken when they found each other. After all, Cosette was currently a slave in the inn of the Thenardiers and Valjean was still broken due to this life in prison. They ended up healing each other. Ever since adopting Cosette, she was the first person fell in love with. Cosette got a better life after living the Thenardiers- Valjean was a good father to her even though it would be difficult. Valjean had to raise Cosette while being an ex-convict. While he would overprotect and shelter Cosette, it would be because he is in danger of being caught by Javert.

In act II, there is a reason why he went to the barricade. He wanted what was best for her. After finding out that she was in love with Marius, he did not want him to die. During “Bring Him Home”, it was sung as a prayer to make sure Marius comes out alive. That song truly does show Valjean’s love for God. After Marius does fall unconscious during the Final Battle, Valjean carries him through the sewers to make sure he makes it out alive. This was all done out of love for Cosette.

Bring Him Home (Nick Cartell)- Jean Valjean
Bring Him Home

At the end of Les Mis, he does die: but like most characters is not alone. He does die with both Cosette and Marius (his now son-in-law).

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