Les Miserables is a story filled with emotion and characters that are very real. They deal with every day emotions that cause them to make choices. These choices have effects on the characters paths in life. As they make decisions and live with their choices they are often left at the feet of a higher law. They are judged on the basis of mercy and justice on a regular basis. In this essay we are going to explore what justice and mercy are as it applies to people’s choices and actions during life in the story and why mercy is often considered the higher law because of its appeal to love.
Justice is unchanging and impartial. It is neither fair nor unfair. It applies to all people equally and demands payment. It defines that there is a consequence for every action. This means if you do something wrong there is a punishment. However if you do something of worth there should be a reward. Justice is the framework of Les Miserable’s and the characters in the story. It really defines their paths in life. Each time one of them makes a poor decision they are often required to pay the cost for that choice by not being allowed to go where they want to go, or do what they want to do. For example, Jean Valjean one of the main characters in this Novel once made the choice to steal a loaf of bread in order to feed his sister and her children. He was caught and cast into the galleys for nineteen years. (pg. 26) However unfair a man being put into prison and charged to hard labor for 19 years for stealing a simple loaf of bread that would benefit his family may appear the law at that time required a certain punishment for a certain crime. Jean Valjean had broken the law and thus justice required payment. Valjean fulfilled this payment by serving in the galleys. Justice had showed itself in his life. He had paid for his crime and was set free.
Mercy on the other hand is where somebody else pays for your action, thus setting you free, while satisfying all the demands of justice. It is a method of escape to those who have committed a crime or done something wrong. It is also completely fair and is perfectly acceptable. It is the great equalizer and the provider for opportunity. It provides the opportunity of a second chance for wrong doers. It is often the only acceptable and appropriate way to escape from wrongdoing and return unscathed to a better path in life, characters in Les Miserables often benefit from this virtue. For example on the occasion that Jean Valjean held Javert captive and was set the task of executing him. He was perfectly justified in this act of war, as they were enemies. To add fuel to the fire Jean Valjean also had personal distain towards Javert for all the years that Javert had pursued him as a convict. However Valjean forgave Javert and in a sense loved him. He allowed him to go free. He rose above his own desires and allowed a man who was just doing his job to go free, regardless of the consequences. (pg. 495)
Justice as true and...