Les Miserables, Directed By Billie August

1013 words - 4 pages

The epic movie Les Misérables, directed by Billie August, tells the tale of life and exploits of a man named Jean Valjean. Valjean was convicted of stealing food at young age, but after being released from prison and rising through the ranks to become the mayor of Vigo, he finds himself being constantly pursued by one of his ex-prison guards. This man, Javert, is determined to have Valjean locked up once again. During this intense struggle, it becomes easy to see that different people from this time period decide to follow the law in different ways. Throughout this film, Jean Valjean repeatedly chooses to abide by the spirit of the law, while his sworn enemy, Javert, mercilessly enforces the letter of the law.
The spirit of the law and the letter of the law represent two different ways people choose to abide by the law. The spirit of the law means interpreting the law in a way that upholds both the intent of the law and the social contract with the people around you. On the other hand, the letter of the law means following the actual written law to the “T” with no exceptions. For example, by law you must come to a complete stop at any stop sign in California. If you are following the spirit of the law, you understand that the intent of the law is to get you to slow down at the intersection, so you come to a rolling stop, which allows you to slow down while still remaining safe. At the same time, if you are a police officer witnessing this act and you abide by the letter of the law, you will give a ticket to this person because they didn’t fully stop like the law requires. A major difference between the spirit and letter of the law is what needs to be done in order to carry out each interpretation. When dealing with the letter of the law, all that it requires is the physical action of carrying out what the law says without any real individual thought. However, when dealing with the spirit of the law, it is up to the individual to personally decide what the law’s intention is and the most efficient way to maintain this goal without causing any inconvenience to the person and the people around him or her. These two different mindsets are similar in the sense that both are concerned with keeping people safe and making sure that society runs smoothly, even though the letter of the law tends to accomplish this goal in a much more strict and no-nonsense manner.
In Les Misérables, Javert, the new police officer of Vigo, is the epitome of someone who chooses to live by the letter of the law. He spends most of his time dealing out harsh punishments to citizens without stopping to question whether or not his actions are right because he believes he is justified by the laws. Javert is extremely austere and always follows protocol no matter what the circumstance. Within the first five minutes of his arrival in Vigo, he has...

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