Les Mis (A Character Sketch)

So, I’ve been thinking about minor characters in films, books, TV shows, etc. Bit players, we might call them. The kind of characters who move the action along, and who stick with you, even if they don’t get as much air-time as the leads.

One of my favourite “bit” players is Javert, from Les Misérables. Not least of all because he reminds me of myself, at age 15 or so (yes, really, imagine a chubby girl with a Bible in her schoolbag, telling people that to get forgiveness, they have to REPENT, and that literally means to turn away from their sin, not keep doing it, what are we, Catholic?).

I mean, I know what we say about the paving stones on the road to Hell, but c’mon. How is being well-intentioned ever a bad thing? And Javert is, for all his immaturity and lack of foresight and trouble with flexible thinking, a person with almost completely good intentions. He’s trying to uphold the law. He’s trying to do the right thing, even when the price is high or he gets hurt for it. He rats *himself* out, for God sake (literally, for God’s sake, to please Him, in Javert’s eyes). Sanctimonious he may be; but Javert is also the straightest of straight arrows, in a time and place (reality?) where almost everyone is crooked and playing an angle. You have to respect that, or at least, I do.

I love the song, “Stars”. Particularly the line, “And if they fall as Lucifer fell, the flame, the sword…”. That was a year of my life, when I was just a kid. Every day spent worrying that I was going to fall, that I was too prideful or lustful or just generally wicked, and any minute now, I was going to cross some line and ruin my own salvation and burn for eternity.

(That burning for eternity thing keeps cropping up, in my life, but we don’t need to talk about it now.)

Moving back to Javert. I think what it is that moves me about him, is how principled he is. When it turns out he’s wrong, and that Jean Valjean isn’t the devil incarnate, and he’s essentially wasted his entire adult life trying to capture a dangerous criminal who’s, well, not, he literally cannot live with it. So he sticks to his guns, and *doesn’t* live with it. I can admire that kind of dogged, grim-death-style hold on what you think is right. And for me, the story gets a little less complex, a little less colourful, when we lose Javert. If it were up to me, I’d love to keep him around, but… then he wouldn’t be the completely righteous, rigid-thinking, devout, holy, moral and principled and idiotic cop that we know and love. And, I suppose, it’s more important that we love and appreciate him for who he is, than it is that we get to keep him.

Anyone else have any thoughts on this?


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