The Choice of Javert

Please trust me and click on through to watch these clips!  It kills me that they won’t work . . .

I spent my last day of convalescence watching the 10th Anniversary Concert of Les Misérables* and crying uncontrollably through most of it.

I love the entire story—and I mean Victor Hugo’s entire original epic as well, which took me a looooong time to take in, let me tell you— and I love all the characters from Jean Valjean to Eponine, even when I loathe them.  They’re all so . . . human.

But the one person who fascinates me is Javert, police inspector and main bad guy—more or less.  The thing is, he believes he’s the good guy, which is technically true, and that Jean Valjean is the bad guy, which is also technically true.

But Javert cannot—or will not—see beyond the letter of the law. Something in him depends on an absolute, rigid, All-or-Nothing POV:

He clearly doesn’t believe in extenuating circumstances. Valjean, whose motivations hold nothing but extenuating circumstances, infuriates him—but it’s Javert’s motivations that interest me (not to mention that voice):

Ah-ha!  He’s trying to overcome his origins—his bad blood.  And the way he’s found to do this is to draw a line and never cross it.  And refuse others the right to cross, in either direction.

So, naturally, when Valjean saves his life on the barricades and, in return, he himself commits the crime of allowing Valjean to save the life of Marius . . . his entire worldview is blown.

And being Javert . . . he reacts with a sheer rage-fueled refusal to live in a place that does not function in unchangeable absolutes:

It comes as no surprise that Mr. Hugo knew what he was doing, but damn, what a magnificently flawed character!


*I saw Les Mis on Broadway—a very special 18th birthday gift from my parents, who were possibly just a little tired of hearing the soundtrack over and over and over—and some of the same cast reprised (or, I suppose, continued) their roles for this concert.  Magnificent.