Les Miserables -Javert

I haven’t posted anything in a while. At least not like this. I’m not entirely sure where or how this will be going, but I do know, I want it to be substantial.

Okay, yeah, Les Mis: The Movie came out like….. was it 2012? I didn’t get to see in on the bigscreen like I wanted, and I def wasn’t gonna stream it because tv shows to catch up on. Actually, no that’s a lie because I’ve streamed enough movies during that 4? year period. Haven’t I?

Beside the point.

What is my point?

Javert. My favourite character among a cast of endearing characters. As much as I’ve youtube’d enough Les mis performances and anniversary specials and movie clips, none has really stood out to me like Javert.

This is a man who knows right from wrong and is willing to uphold the pillars of the law to make sure the right thing is always done.

And yet, he’s faced with Jean Valjean, a man who committed a crime of necessity,  and is also a good man, a man who’s done right by a woman he fired, by ensuring her child’s provision and safety.  A man who saved another from under a cart. A man who’s done right by his adopted daughter by saving the boy she loved. A man who’s done right, by promising to give himself up to the law, to ensure that the boy he saved is given the proper medical care, after removing him from the barricades. A man who – here’s the kicker – released from custody, the very man who was after him for years. 

It’s not like Norrington from Pirates of the Caribbean  who knew his duty, but who adapted his strategy when facing Captain Jack Sparrow, because this man was branded and punished for being a pirate, despite saving the lives of 100 people from slavers – thus making said pirate the worst pirate. Jack did wrong, but he was still a good person at heart. So,Chaotic Good.

Where am I going with this? Well, Norrington seemed to understand the multifaceted character of people, and adjusted to suit. Javert on the other hand, had little understanding. It’s his fatal flaw. As God-fearing and law abiding as he is, his two dimensional view of good and evil tore at him, and tortured him when faced with Valjean. His love of God and his love of law and order in society – that’s not wrong. It was why I like him. And it broke my heart to see him throw himself to his death. 

But here’s the thing

Javert has been described as a legalist, in that his “moral foundation … is built strictly on legalism”

It’s true enough that Javert did pray, and swear to God (by the stars), and have enough biblical knowledge to have a pretty emotional song (I quite like it). But I wonder. Javert is legalist. And the musical turned movie summarized his character but the basic structure is the same as in the novel. So, across the board, this is him. He’s legalist –

So devoted is he to this choice that, Hugo writes, “[h]e would have arrested his own father if he escaped from prison and turned in his own mother for breaking parole. And he would have done it with that sort of interior satisfaction that springs from virtue.”

So,  I have to wonder, or conclude, or assume, that the God of the church in ~1877 may not be said to be Javert’s god. It was the law. It was his two dimensional view of right and wrong. His devotion to it dragged him around France persistently after a man who dodged him for ~10 years. It seemed right to do so. Prisoner 24601 Jean Valjean refused to go for Parole . This man who escaped the law and the punishment that Justice claimed he deserved, needed to be apprehended. At any cost.

When faced with the idea that everything he knew and had accepted before was wrong, Javert couldn’t handle it. How could God allow this? How could Javert, who  was righteous, and good, and dutiful, and law abiding, not be able to bring this chaotic, turbulent man to justice? And why is God showing Valjean as a good man, he did wrong, stealing from honest, hardworking people who put in the effort to earn a livelihood? Was it God? Or was it the devil in disguise sent to torture him?

AND one heartwrenching, stressful song later, He’s there, floating in the Seine.

I’m talking about Javert, and what I think about him. I like his tunnel-visioned need to see that justice was served to the people who needed it, however they deserved it. I like that he was dutiful to his people and his country. I like his intentions.

I like his name.

But I like him too, mainly because he’s very relatable to people like me, who try to do good. Who try to live the way God commanded. Who live closely to a set of morals, not only because it’s right, but also, because, it just helps society. It provides a sense of order, preventing chaos and trouble. It’s not perfect, but it helps.

But his flaws make him my favourite. This is a man, who unknowingly created a god out of his sense of duty to the laws of France. What the law said was right. Whatever the law deemed necessary for punishment for whatever crime needed to be exacted. It caused him to act the way he did, because the people deserved more than being taken advantage of by people who he saw as unwilling to make the effort to provide for themselves.

(I’m aware that these statements can be said by people about Christianity)

Aren’t we guilty of that though? We try to do the best we can, to be the Christians we’re supposed to be (ugh, Thenardiers echoed here), but we may unknowingly create gods from something else, even as we claim to want to serve God. I’m not innocent here, surely.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. We can’t hate on Javert, it’s really pointless. He was a broken man, left with nothing but despair. It broke my heart to see him jump though. I mean I know it was coming, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack on repeat for months and months. It was only so because, God.

I am not strong. I am weak. I actually am, it’s a running joke with my brother. But spiritually, I just  can’t some days. I won’t. Despair is a running theme, and self-hatred, among other self-harming things.

But I can’t bring myself to physically harm myself. Not- no. Never. I feel that despair, but I feel peace riding underneath, reminding me of something in a situation to overcome. I’m reminded of something, anything, that one thing that I need to be thankful for. And, God, I’m so grateful in those times.

And Javert didn’t have that.