Friday, 12 October 2012

Les Miserables, Vol. II: Love and Humility

That's how Jean describes his relationship with Cosette and the nuns. How does he get there?

We remember him as a wealthy and honourable ex-convict who then sacrificed all that he had for the life of another. He gave himself to authority, but then he remembered his promise to Fantine, about her little daughter. Thus he escaped to arrange Fantine's funeral and his wealth. That's how the first volume ends.

In the second volume, things get a little more complicated, let me say the word, boring, at the first book. The whole book talks about Napoleon, and because I was expecting Jean and Cosette, the details became so insufferable. I finally thought that maybe Hugo was a little fan of Napoleon. Was he?

The second book is our rendezvous with Jean. He is once more a prisoner. By a trick combined with generosity, he escapes and makes the authority believe that he is dead, while he has another thing in mind. Jean doesn't forget a promise he made to Fantine, that he would make sure of her daughter's welfare. So once he gets his freedom back, he heads to Montfermeil – Thernadier's place.

Thernadier inflames my heart with fury and rage. The old fox thinks only for his benefit, and null for others. He's like a hyena that feeds on people's corpses – others' misfortune. I can imagine how years in that den must have drained Cosette's spirit. The little child is poorer than a stray kitten. Even lost animals still have time for themselves, while Cosette has nothing. The poor child must
clean the house, serve in the inn, and fetch water in winter, all by herself. I don't know how Jean could show so much patience to the ravenous innkeeper. When he asks money from him to take Cosette, Jean pays without the slightest hesitation. I would have threatened him that unless he gave me Cosette, I would tell Javert about all the cruelty he treats Cosette with.

Everything is good enough now, but then, Javert reappears. He's like a ghost in the story, comes and comes again when he is least expected. Somebody should tell him to stop meddling with Jean's business. But then it's his duty. Jean is a fugitive once more. By grand luck or divine protection, he ends up in a convent, full of humble and simple nuns. There he stays while watching Cosette growing up. Then the second volume ends.

I begin to think that Les Miserables is about how a man learn so many things in his life. It's all about Jean's transformation from a lost and lonely wolf into an virtuous man. The Bishop taught him virtue, Cosette teaches him love, and the nuns teaches him humility, while his life as an ex-convict teaches him endurance. I begin to love the person as someone who is perfectly human, with many mental and spiritual battle inside his heart, but then tries to make best decisions possible. Jean is someone full of contemplation, someone who looks at the best of all things, hard though it may seem.

I'm ready to begin the third volume: Marius. No spoiler, please. I will be patient and read it chapter by chapter.  

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