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Les Miserables: Redemption By The Divine

1746 words - 7 pages

Throughout history, mankind has always found his calling, reasons, and purpose in the form of a God, a high power singular or a collection of them plural. As a result, an author's own systematic religious beliefs will often influence both the message of their story, and the differentiating morals of their characters. Victor Hugo infers himself to be God-fearing man in Les Miserables, specifically implying it through both Valjean and Javert's beliefs about God around the start of the story, their understanding and interpretation of what would be morally accepted under the laws of God during, and their "return" back to God near the end.
Being parallel opposites in the way they even begin to be portrayed, the prisoner and his jailor both represent a common "beginning" when being introduced to God: Valjean has no reason to believe in God despite his less than stellar circumstances, and Javert has every reason to believe in God as a man enforcing both God's law and jurisprudence. Regardless, Valjean is saved by the bishop, who extensively would acts as God’s prophet, in a way, signifying the influence of the Church, and behind that, God: “But remember this, my brother [...] I have bought your soul for God” (“Valjean Arrested/Valjean Forgiven” 17-24). After his release from prison, Valjean is convinced the world is against him—the bishop convinces him otherwise. Hugo means that for every man, God has a plan for him, and similarly has a purpose for every one of them. It does not matter what crimes have committed, or how far he has fallen from grace: a man can always be redeemed through how he chooses to act and change for God. Even so, though readers may not be aware of the exact religious zeal Javert has until later on in the story, Javert is depicted as being the "righteous" one. Javert argues with Valjean that it doesn’t matter how inconsequential the crime Valjean committed was: “You will starve again/[u]nless you learn the meaning of the law” (“Work Song” 28-42). While there is no true reference to God then, the criminals needing to pay their dues is a constant theme that runs throughout the entire story. Javert refutes every single one of Valjean’s claims at innocence (“Work Song” 35-41) with the belief that he is right and that Valjean is wrong. Readers know from later on in the story that he is Christian, so by applying this idea to the beginning, Javert’s actions can be interpreted as a man working by his own steadfast beliefs, and not by religious calling. Therefore, Valjean’s beginning becomes a man who has no reason to believe in God but is given the opportunity to do so, whereas Javert’s beginning is a man who is already grounded in God, but completely ignores any kind of mercy he should show instead.
While Valjean begins off as someone 'wronged' by God, and Javert needs no such conversion from the start as a grounded Christian from the start, both their choices in the story's duration demonstrate a religious backing that further defines...

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