Jean Valjean

December 22, 2012 at 4:18 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

Whether you have read the book or not, most people are familiar with this image:

les-miserables-2012-comparison-poster

The story has been a Broadway sensation for ages, the book itself has been a classic for even longer.  And with Hugh Jackman acting the lead role of Jean Valjean in the movie production being released on Christmas Day, more people than ever are going to have the story of Les Miserables running through their heads.

That’s why earlier this year I committed to spending 2012 reading the classic tome along with Kate’s Library.  It was amazing, and for the rest of my life I’ll remember 2012 as the year that I met Jean Valjean.

les-miserables2

Ok, I know, I know, that fellow on the left there is not a depiction of Jean Valjean, it’s a picture of Victor Hugo; but despite my encounters with other works by Hugo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), bringing up Hugo will forever remind me of Valjean, not Quasimodo.

Valjean has a beautiful, though depressing story.  A convict running from the law, early in the novel he is changed for life by a man called the Bishop, learns the importance of love and learning and becomes a new man.  As his life progresses, he becomes someone altogether different and even assumes a new name.  With a new name and some money, he finds himself in charge of a town and in a position to help a poor prostitute named Fantine who is dying and has left her only child to be raised by some hooligans elsewhere.  Valjean, now a saint and model citizen, promises to care for the child and goes to retrieve her.

That’s when Valjean and Cosette (the large-eyed little child in the musical posters and book covers) join forces and run away together as father and daughter.

So many adventures, so many trials, life in a nunnery, life hiding out, life raising a child, a love story between Cosette and Marius… but Jean Valjean lives a great life under much mystery, oppression, and misery, and still somehow he finds joy in his little Cosette.  Valjean is a prime example of a life changed, and a life found despite what the world and the government tries to throw at you.

The paragraph above is much too simple of a description of Hugo’s Valjean.  There is a reason Hugo’s novel is 1260 pages long, and not a moment of it is to be missed.  Les Miserables is a story of compassion, love, redemption, and a quest for freedom.  Both the novel and the musical focus on these themes in a powerful way, though they differ in how they address them, typical of a novel to a musical.  In the end, both forms of the story are about Valjean and the idea that if he can learn to love and be charitable after all he has suffered, who is there that cannot learn these things too?  Who could possibly have suffered more?

If you have not read Les Miserables, I urge you to do so, it could change your life.  If you have not seen the musical, watch the movie trailer and then tell me it won’t be epic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuEFm84s4oI

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2 Comments

  1. Les Miserables Blog Hop « Anakalian Whims said,

    […] final post on Jean Valjean, the musical, and the 2012 […]

  2. St. Denis « Anakalian Whims said,

    […] Skip to my next Les Miserables post. […]

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