Awesome Pterist, thanks for posting.
Valjean and Javert: The Two Christianities of Les Miserables
Thank you Fernando for the encouragement, needing a spiritual hug lately.
Once a thief, forever a thief
What you want you always steal!
You would trade your life for mine.
Yes, Valjean, you want a deal!
Shoot me now for all I care!
If you let me go, beware,
You'll still answer to Javert!
You are wrong, and always have been wrong.
I'm a man, no worse than any man.
You are free, and there are no conditions,
No bargains or petitions.
There's nothing that I blame you for.
You've done your duty, nothing more.
I could not disagree more with the narrow view that Les Miserables explores christian binaries such as Legalism vs Grace. This is the Elite vs the Individual. THE GROUP vs ONE PERSON.
This is a deeply philosophical novel which is nothing less than the individual against the group.
Javert finds his "meaning of life" without troubling his mind about rational considerations of morality. His identity as enforcer places him in a position of absolute "truth".
Valjean has violated the "group" by daring to have individual needs at odds with "society".
Keep in mind the gigantic backdrop of history and the French Revolution.
The Royalty and the elite classes employ the law AGAINST the individual needs of "the people."
The reader of the novel and the movie viewer may well ask: "Why can't the Law see that the individual person cannot allow his family to starve and therefore show mercy?"
Victor Hugo demonstrates time and again that THE STATE (and the blind black and white legal system) is only about the POWER OF THE GROUP (especially the elite at the top.)
Valjean is embittered to the point of powerless theft as his only survival strategy UNTIL the priest recognizes something in him that he has abandoned in himself. HIS VALUE AS A HUMAN.
It is true the priest is operating out of the "christian charity" premise. But, Valjean isn't.
The needs of the few--in his case--outweigh the needs of the many. Stealing bread to survive. Stealing silver from the church.
Once Valjean has this demonstrated to him (the POWER that resides in co-operating with the needs of others for mutual survival) he is empowered to pursue a symbiotic strategy thence forward.
How does Valjean accomplish this? Is it simply showering the world with bouquets of charity? NO! He invests in a captialistic endeavor by means of which individuals laboring with their own strength and skillsets
can earn a living. (Captialism in its pure form is owning what you earn without impositions by the state).
Javert (not knowing who Valnean now is) commends him for his endeavors. Why? Because he is "serving" society--for that is the only way a mind such as his can comprehend.
The power Valjean acquires (through business success) is "paid forward" in indivual acts selective and especial. His bargain is not with god so much as it is with what is human: you invest in goodness and innocence and the empowered
individual grows in power and worth and, in turn, can lift up others in a mutual co-operation.
THE MAIN POINT is man vs the State! In other words.
What is a HERO but an individual who empowers himself against the powers greater than his own?
Thanks for the different view point Terry ;)