This is a guest post by Joy Caroline. I recently discovered her love for Les Mis. That is what will be talked about on this particular post. So, here is her post, and I believe a lot of Les Mis fans will agree with a lot of things mentioned.
4 Reasons I Love Les Misérables
First of all, I want to thank Meg for asking me to guest post on her blog! I’m very glad to be here and hope that everyone enjoys hearing about 4 of the many reasons I love Les Misérables.
I very recently discovered Les Misérables, first through Victor Hugo’s classic novel, then through the musical soundtrack and the movie. All were incredible and absolutely exceeded my expectations. Les Mis was actually recommended to me a couple years ago, but I didn’t read it because back then it wasn’t the sort of book I would typically pick up. I really regret that, but I’m grateful I did end up reading it and had my life changed by it.
Today I’ll be talking about some of the most important reasons I love the book, the movie, and the musical so much!
1. The godly themes
Since I’m Christian, I’m always looking for great stories that honor God and uplift moral themes. I will easily abandon any story that doesn’t do those things, so there’s a lot dependent on that. I instantly knew from the first pages of Les Mis that it would be spiritual food for me.
First of all, there’s the Bishop of Digne, right? And we all know that the Bishop very much qualifies as the hero of the story. He is the one who changes Jean Valjean and makes him realize that he is not hopeless, that he can live the life God wants for him. It’s the Bishop who says, “[I] give [your soul] to God!” (Hugo 39)
After that incident with the silver and the Bishop’s forgiveness, Jean Valjean prays for the first time in years and basically becomes the Bishop. There follows all his good deeds: compassion for Fantine; self-humiliation for the acquittal of another; the adoption of Cosette; forgiveness for the Thenardiers; mercy toward Javert; saving Marius from the barricade….
In Marius’ words, “the convict was transformed into a Christ” (Hugo Part 5, Book 9). That can and does become true for all of us.
One of my favorite quotes from Jean comes at his hour of trial in the courtroom: “What I do at this moment, God beholds from on high, and that is sufficient” (Hugo 84). We should each strive to be a Jean Valjean!
2. Jean Valjean and Cosette
Honestly, I don’t understand how anyone could not love the relationship between Jean Valjean and Cosette! I love adoption stories because they really show that you can definitely love someone regardless of whether you’re related by blood. Cosette was the illegitimate daughter of a prostitute, but Valjean took her as his own daughter.
I love what they both bring to the adoptive father/daughter relationship. Cosette is so kind and optimistic, and she brought so much joy into Valjean’s life. And Valjean, of course, loved her unconditionally. One of the most touching parts of the book is when Cosette is married and Jean goes home alone to take out her childhood clothes and weep into them. Also, of course, when he saves Marius from the barricade because he knows his daughter loves Marius. It’s Cosette’s happiness he wants, not his own. And if keeping Cosette around will make her unhappy, Jean doesn’t want that. I love the unselfishness and sacrifice in their relationship.
3. The villains/antagonists are worthy
One of the most annoying things about books, in my opinion, is when the villains/antagonists are weak. I find it quite maddening when the protagonists and heroes are so well developed and have these compelling motivations, but the villains are just villainous because they’re supposed to be! Not so with the antagonists in Les Mis. Though their actions are deplorable, their motivations are valid to themselves.
Take Javert. Obviously we’re not supposed to like Javert very much, since Jean Valjean suffers so much persecution at his hands! But to Javert himself, his motivations make sense. As the Inspector of Police, he was obsessed with the law. He didn’t realize that even though laws are there, that doesn’t make them all right and good laws. In the end, after Valjean spares his life, Javert is in agony over the fact that he literally wasted decades chasing after a good man. Yet in true Javert fashion, he still sees the world in black and white and isn’t plagued by any regret or guilt. He’s confused: does he follow the law and sentence the man who saved his life, or disobey the law and let Valjean go? Ultimately Javert goes with what seems to him his only logical choice: commit suicide.
Even the Thenardiers’ evil motivations make sense to their own finite minds. They don’t want to commit the dishonorable sin of association with an illegitimate child, but they do want money and don’t mind a slave. That accounts for their cruelty to Cosette and their demands of Fantine. Eponine and Azelma inevitably learn cruel behavior from their parents – “children at that age are only copies of the mother” (Hugo 49). But later on Eponine chooses to be kind, and thus brings hope into the novel, even from one of the Thenardiers.
4. The ending
The ending can make or break a book. Honestly, the entire book can have compelling characters and an exciting plot, but if the ending is disappointing I won’t be coming back to that book. For me, endings have to reveal Christ and light just as much as the rest. In fact, the ending may even be most important for that, because in the end if the reader doesn’t walk away with a vision of Christ, what good did the book do?
The ending of Les Mis made me close the book with that vision and light, and more. Valjean’s death is heartrending in every way. Thinking that he shouldn’t be an intruder in Marius’ home and Cosette’s marriage, he stops visiting his daughter at great cost to himself. Depressed and rejected, he takes to his bed and stops eating. As a result he quickly becomes feverish, weak, and severely ill, dying of a broken heart.
Valjean attempts to write a letter to Cosette, telling her to love her good husband and asking Marius to love his child; also explaining the truth about Cosette’s dowry. However, he is too sick to finish and breaks down weeping, believing he will die without seeing Cosette ever again.
At that moment Marius and Cosette arrive; Marius, from the mouth of none other than Thenardier, has discovered the truth about Valjean. They plead with Valjean for forgiveness, which is willingly granted by the father. However, they are too late to save Valjean; his heartbreak made him too ill to have any chance now at getting well. But despite this tragedy, Valjean sees his death as joyful since he has reconciled with Marius and Cosette, and will go to be with God and the Bishop in heaven. The theme of redemption is just so powerful and worthy of our praise.
Among Valjean’s last words include a command of forgiveness for the Thenardiers, the depth and knowledge of God, loving one another, and finally seeing the light of heaven.
Thank you for reading!
Thank you to everyone for reading this post. I very much enjoyed being a guest.