The Character Analysis Of Javert In Les Miserables

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An adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel, Tom Hooper’s 2012 musical film Les Misérables is set in nineteenth century France, showcasing the journey of the protagonist Jean Valjean, a prisoner who breaks parole after being released from prison, as he creates a new life for himself while being chased down by the police inspector Javert from 1815 to the June Rebellion in 1832. After serving in prison for nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread and attempting to escape prison, Valjean is released and arrives in the small town of Digne where he is unable to find shelter since he was an ex-convict. Welcomed by the bishop of Digne who provides Valjean with food and a place to rest, Valjean–being very desperate– attempts to run away with the bishop’s silver where he is soon caught. Forgiven by the bishop’s kindness, Valjean feels remorse for what he committed and decides to break his parole to start a new life. Masking his identity of Jean Valjean, he begins his new life under the name of Madeleine and eight years later, he becomes the mayor of the town of Montreuil after inventing a manufacturing process that brings the town prosperity. Upon the arrival of former prison guard Javert as the new chief of police, Madeleine is suspected after rescuing a man from a heavy cart. Meanwhile, Fantine, one of Madeleine’s workers is fired by a factory supervisor after learning that she was a widow who was in immense debt to the Thenardiers–greedy innkeepers– who have agreed to take care of her daughter, Cosette. In efforts to provide sustenance for her daughter, Fantine sells her hair, her teeth, and becomes a prostitute who is almost arrested by Javert when she attacks an abusive. Madeleine, learning about her life, rescues her and takes her to the hospital as she was very ill. The story takes a turn as Mandeline confesses his true identity upon hearing that Javert has accused a man for being Jean Valjean, and returns to the hospital. Fantine dies in Valjean’s hands and he promises to take good care of Cosette. Subsequently Javert appears at the hospital to arrest Valjean who manages to escape to find Cosette and pay Fantine’s debts to the Thenardiers, from where they flee from Javert’s sight to hide in a convent through the help of the man Valjean rescues from the heavy cart.

Nine years later, Valjean is a humanist in Paris, taking care of the well-being of the poor in Paris. The death of General Lamarque–a government official who was one of the few who cared for the poor–leads way for the creation of the Friends of the ABC, a group of young revolutionists who plot against the monarchy. Meanwhile Marius Pontmercy, a member of the Friends of the ABC, sees Cosette and they both fall in love. Through the help of Eponine–one of the Thenardier’s daughters– Marius is able to find Cosette’s whereabouts and by the time they confess their love for one another, Valjean reveals that him and Cosette are fleeing to England to escape the political turmoil in France. Cosette leaves a letter for Marius which is found and hidden by Eponine because of her afflicting love for him. Thereafter, the revolt begins in Paris and barricades are built throughout where Javert is captured after being revealed to be a policeman in the disguise of an ally. In the attack, Eponine is shot where she delivers Cosette’s letter to Marius. Valjean, aware of Cosette and Marius’ love for one another, joins the revolution to protect Marius where he encounters Javert and releases him out of mercy, who later commits suicide out of confusion. In the storming of the students’ barricade, everyone is shot and Marius, being unconscious, is taken away by Valjean to hide in the sewers where they encounter Thenardier who steals Marius’s ring. Marius and Cosette are reunited for their marriage right as Valjean is ready to leave after revealing his past to Marius. Through the ring the Thenardiers obtained, Marius learns that Valjean risked his life to save him after the revolt and that Valjean was in the convent where the couple and Valjean reunite. The movie ends when Valjean gives Cosette his final letters of confession and dies in peace and his spirit joins the spirits of those who have died, Fantine, the others from the revolt, etc. in the afterlife where the Revolution continues.

The protagonist of the film is Jean Valjean, a man who was convicted for stealing a loaf of bread to save his sister’s child and was sent to prison for five years. However, his stay in prison had extended to nineteen years after subsequent attempts to escape from prison. At the beginning Valjean is portrayed as a desperate man who was in search of a home and a job, but was however rejected by society because he was an ex-convict. With the help of the Bishop of Digne, Valjean reevaluates his actions and experiences a spiritual epiphany where he is encouraged to start a new life. Valjean’s journey is a unique one as he goes from being an impoverished, desperate prisoner to encountering a spiritual epiphany, then to becoming a somewhat affluent man, to a fugitive and a father, and he even saves the life of his enemy, and eventually dies in peace. Throughout the film, Valjean encounters many struggles and dilemmas which at times, puts his life in danger, but as can be seen throughout the film, Valjean is a man who distinguishes events as being either right or wrong, making him a great protagonist who resides in making the right decision.

The antagonist in the film is inspector Javert, a man who is committed to fulfilling his duties as being part of the police department. Javert is the antagonist because he is constantly opposing Valjean and causing troubles for him in order to achieve his goal of recapturing Valjean. Javert is depicted more by his pursuit of justice and his obsession with enforcing the laws and morals created by society rather than being a villain. Javert, in a way, represents justice and laws in the society because even though he has the ability to question the laws, Javert never takes the time to think about what the law is saying and whether it is morally right or not, he rather bluntly enforces what they declare. Javert is necessarily not an evil person, it is the education and the circumstances in which he grew up that have shaped him to be that person he is. This is a good representation of John Locke’s theory of the Tabula rasa and how people are born with a blank slate and they become who they are through their education and experiences with the people around them. At the end, Javert commits suicide because he is not able to digest the idea that he may be living a dishonorable life which does not fit society’s norms.

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There are two major conflicts which occur in the film, however, the main conflict that is seen throughout the film occurs between Valjean and Javert. Although Valjean has served his time in prison for his actions, Javert views life in the perspective of the government and law and finds answers to everything from it. Moreover, he believes that no one should be freed from the crimes they commit, no matter how small the deed, causing him to constantly be in search for Valjean. This causes Valjean’s life to be in jeopardy since he is not able to live his life being in the fear that he will be caught by javert and be put in prison again for disregarding his parole, resulting in him being undercover and constantly moving around from place to place whenever Javert is nearby. A new conflict arises when Valjean takes upon the responsibility of taking care of Cosette–Fantine’s daughter– and being her father, since he believes that he was the cause of Fantine’s death. It becomes harder for Valjean to take care of Cosette, especially with Javert searching for them. As he spends more and more time with Cosette, Valjean comes to realize that he is a convict and that he deserves punishment for what he had committed. An inner struggle occurs within Valjean as he feels ashamed of his actions and is unwilling to converse with Cosette about his past every time she asks him about it. Valjean has immense guilt for what he has done but the only thing that stops him from going face to face with Javert was protecting Cosette and the fatherly relationship he had shared with her for many years. The priliminary conflcit is resolved with Javert’s death as he commits suicide by jumping into a river, resulting in no one to cause Valjean problems legally. The other conflict is resolved at the end when Valjean admits his actions and talks about his past with Marius and Cosette before his death.

The musical film Les Misérables, based on Victor Hugo’s novel, gets its backstory from the aftermath of the French Revolution, with the plot starting from 1815. The film, for the most part, accurately portrays the historical events and characters from the past such as the June rebellion and General Jean Maximilien Lamarque. In a way, the main cause for the June rebellion was the result of the events leading up to the July Revolution. This revolution took place in France in 1830 when King Charles decided to issue “a set of edicts (the July Ordinances) that imposed rigid censorship on the press, dissolved the legislative assembly, and reduced the electorate in preparation for new elections” (Spielvogel 638). The immediate result for King Charle’s actions was an immediate rebellion– the July Revolution– which led to a loss of power for the monarchy. During this time, Louis-Philippe stepped in to take the throne, establishing a Orleanist monarchy. An important character mentioned in the film was General Jean Maximilien Lamarque, who was a “military hero” during the time who became a popular “opposition leader during the years of the Bourbon restoration” (Carter). The general’s death in 1832 caused much hysteria and fear over the well-being of the citizens being in danger. This is seen in the film as the characters are all very concerned about their future after hearing about the general’s death, which led to the formation of “The Friends of the ABC,” a fictional association of the republican students featured in the film. This association, representing all the opposition groups from 1832, had set up “Barricades surrounding the rue Saint-Martin and rue Saint-Denis” in the film as a way of exhibiting their anti-monarchist notions (Lundin). The entire battle during the June Rebellion was over in less than “24 hours after if began” and “800 protestors were killed or injured” during the course of the battle (Carter). In the movie, many of the main characters die while defending the barricade, highlighting the importance of the battle and the rebellion itself. Overall, the events from the film for the most part, accurately portray the events from the past.

Ideological and social constructs of the nineteenth century play a huge role in the movie itself such as the hardships of everyday life, cholera, and the emergence of the distinction between liberalism and conservatism. For the normal citizen, life became very hard during the nineteenth century, and especially for single mothers portrayed by Fantine in the film. The harsh life was exemplified through Fantine, a single parent who had to take care of her daughter from wedlock. In order to send money for her daughter, Fantine was forced to sell everything she had and her hair and teeth as well after losing her job in the factory. At the end, she was so desperate for money that she was forced to become a prostitute, falling to the lower end of society just to fulfill her duties as a mother, and to save her daughter. Another important hidden factor that contributes to the overall main plot of the film was cholera. Cholera was an infectious bacterial disease contracted by contaminated water supplies. In the spring of 1832, Paris was devastated by a cholera epidemic, killing many people, one of who was General Lamarque. The general’s death caused by the epidemic was a triggering moment for the events to come–the June Rebellion. Another important aspect portrayed in the film was the distinction between the conservative government and the liberal citizens. In the nineteenth century, conservatism becomes to evolve as a slightly more prominent political ideology since there was now an opposing ideology–Liberalism. From the nineteenth century up until the twentieth century, it was an era of conservative ideology, regardless of the mini-revolutions occurring, such as the July Revolution and the June Rebellion. In the film, it can very easily be seen how the government possessed very conservative ideas much like the Ancien Regime, but the citizens had however, possessed very liberal thoughts and were looking for freedom and liberty. Another important fact presented in the film was that the citizens strongly wanted and believed in the importance of a Republican government opposed to the monarchical government they had, once again demonstrating the distinction between conservative and liberal ideas. The structure of the government was a key reason to why the Friends of the ABC was created and why leaders like General Lemarque emerged. These ideologies were a principal component of the film itself along with the cholera which prompted the rebellion as well.

The film Les Misérables most definitely improves the viewer’s understanding of historical events since it shines light onto a rebellion in French history which is not necessarily deemed “important” in a common man’s perspective. The film itself focuses the most on the June Rebellion. Ultimately speaking, the June Rebellion did not do anything and nor did it accomplish much. It did not threaten or intimidate the government and it is very unremarkable compared to other revolutions which occurred during that century like the July Revolution and the Revolution of 1848 both of which were somewhat successful. The June Rebellion seems as a part of history which was mostly forgotten. However, with Victor Hugo’s novel and Tom Hooper’s musical adaptation, the June Rebellion has become more well known to the common person. This rebellion was highly romanticised since it was almost fully planned and executed by young students. The character of Gavroche in the film plays a key role in the overall message of the film since although he was very young, he had still taken part of the rebellion for the good of the citizens of France, regardless of his age. The film presents a very powerful and compelling message that is way too important enough for people to forget. As Gavorche says in the film, “Little people know when little people fight, we may look easy pickings, but we’ve got some bite.”

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