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Les Miserables Essay

1117 words - 4 pages

Putting Others Before One's Self In Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, one of the themes is how people placed in critical situations act upon their instincts. In the story, Jean Valjean is an ex-convict, looking to turn his life around after breaking his probation and running from the law. He becomes the mayor of M_ sur M_ and there encounters his enemy, Javert. Javert, a police inspector, is looking for Jean Valjean. Throughout the book, Javert and Jean Valjean meet several times. Another character, Marius is a young republican seeking the love and marriage of Cosette, who happens to be Jean Valjean's adopted daughter. He is a bold and courageous young man. The main theme in Les Miserables is that in threatening or desperate situations people (such as Jean Valjean, Javert and Marius) rely on their instincts in making the right choice, and putting others before themselves. Jean Valjean's basic instinct is to help others, before he helps himself. Since he promises the bishop that he will do good with the silver. He tries to fulfill his promise everyday of his life. When he hears father Fauchelevent moaning for help, because he is trapped underneath a wagon, Jean Valjean (in his early fifties) springs into action, "Then , without saying a word, he fell on his knees, and even before the crowd had time to utter a cry, he was under the cart"¦ The devotion of one man had given strength and courage to all." (190). In an atmosphere such as this, Jean Valjean's actions are heroic. He didn't stop to think of his own health, or of his own well being. Jean Valjean is concentrated on Fauchelevent; he reacted on his own judgement, knowing that he had to help. Later during the time that Marius is at the barricade, he is shot and badly wounded. Jean Valjean knows how much Cosette loves Marius, so Jean Valjean runs to Marius and rescues him. Hugo writes, "Jean Valjean, in the thick cloud of the combat, did not appear to see Marius; the fact is that he did not take his eyes from him. When a shot struck down Marius, Jean Valjean bounded with the agility of a tiger, dropped upon him as upon a prey, and carried him away," (389). Once again Jean Valjean risks his own life to save Marius for Cosette. He did not even hesitate and went through the line of fire to save Marius. Javert too, does what he feels is right. Javert lives by the law and has molded his life style in such a way. He feels that he has incorrectly accused Monsieur Madeleine (one of Jean Valjean's false names) as the convict Jean Valjean who served in his galleys twenty years before. He tells Monsieur Madeleine, ""¦"˜I ought to be dismissed"¦Monsieur Mayor, I cannot agree to that. I have unjustly suspected you.'" (196-197). Javert does what the law says, so when he has done wrong, he feels that the law should punish him because that is his life style. When Javert finally catches Jean Valjean, he decides to let him go. Hugo really never explains why,...

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