Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Character Thursday: Javert

Another death allows me to take this character into analysis and present him as one of the Character Thursdays. The Javert I am talking about, if there any other Javert somewhere out there, is the one in Hugo's Les Miserables. He is one of the few characters that appears since the first volume of the long story.

I will make this clear first: I have never hated him, never, and never will. It's true that I really wish he would just leave Jean alone and mind his own business. But then Jean is his business. Javert is an iron bar of the prison itself, that cannot be torn apart by the filthy hands of the prisoners, that answers to neither rage nor tears. He just stands there, upholding the law.

Russell Crowe as Inspector Javert
But we all now that iron can melt.

Javert is a police officer, and a very respectable one. Among his qualities are intelligence, determination, courage, and justice. Those are good qualities in human being. But he lacks one thing – mercy. His duty makes him just as heartless as the law.

I still remember what happens in M. Madeleine's office back in the first volume. Javert comes in and admits that he has made a 'mistake' by thinking that M. Madeleine is Jean Valjean, an ex-convict (which is actually correct). He then asks to be dismissed. Thus we can see how justice takes hold of his heart. He commits a wrong, and by the law he should be punished; he doesn't run from it, in fact, he asks for it.

Jean doesn't grant Javert his desire. He asks Javert to retain his duty. Here's what the officer says:

“I have often been severe in the course of my life towards others. That is just. I have done well. Now, if I were not severe towards myself, all the justice that I have done would become injustice. Ought I to spare myself more than others? No!... Mr. Mayor, I do not desire that you should treat me kindly; your kindness roused sufficient bad blood in me when it was directed to others. I want none of it for myself. The kindness which consists in upholding a woman of the town against a citizen, the police agent against the mayor, the man who is down against the man who is up in the world, is what I call false kindness. That is the sort of kindness which disorganizes society. Good God! it is very easy to be kind; the difficulty lies in being just.”

Javert has my respect. He remains the same man during the first four volumes, unshakeable, devoted, and dutiful policeman that holds the law above all else. He hunts Jean with all his might, but fortunately, fails to capture him. He turns his face from any kindness and mercy that the ex-convict does, including saving a child from domestic slavery and dropping bread to those in need of food. But something is going to open his eyes.

In the fifth volume, Javert is captured by Enjolras and his friends. There with the barricades, he meets again his old acquaintance, Jean Valjean. Both of them exchange nothing more than a glance. Later on, Enjolras and his friends decide to kill the police officer, and Jean offers himself to do it. Javert has every reason to believe that he is going to die, but we know Jean. He releases Javert, even gives him his address.

Javert's heart melts. Later on, Javert helps Jean to save Marius. Better than that, he lets Jean 'escape'. He doesn't drag him to the jail again.

“Of course,” you may say. “Javert owes Jean his life. It's just natural that he lets him go.” The problem is, we're talking about Javert. He doesn't restrain from even punishing himself. It would take more than the simple logic of paying one's debt for him to understand it all. He experiences exactly the same thing that Jean experienced that occupies almost one book in the first volume: the battle of conscience.

“A terrible situation! to be touched. To be granite and to doubt! to be the statue of Chastisement cast in one piece in the mould of the law, and suddenly to become aware of the fact that one cherishes beneath one’s breast of bronze something absurd and disobedient which almost resembles a heart! To come to the pass of returning good for good, although one has said to oneself up to that day that that good is evil! to be the watch-dog, and to lick the intruder’s hand! to be ice and melt! To be the pincers and to turn into a hand! to suddenly feel one’s fingers opening! to relax one’s grip,—what a terrible thing!
What! an honest servitor of the law could suddenly find himself caught between two crimes— the
crime of allowing a man to escape and the crime of arresting him! everything was not settled in the orders given by the State to the functionary! There might be blind alleys in duty! What,— all this was real! was it true that an ex-ruffian, weighed down with convictions, could rise erect and end by being in the right? Was this credible? were there cases in which the law should retire before transfigured crime, and stammer its excuses?—Yes, that was the state of the case! and Javert saw it! and Javert had touched it! and not only could he not deny it, but he had taken part in it. These were realities.
He himself, Javert, the spy of order, incorruptibility in the service of the police, the bull-dog providence of society, vanquished and hurled to earth; and, erect, at the summit of all that ruin, a man with a green cap on his head and a halo round his brow; this was the astounding confusion to which he had come; this was the fearful vision which he bore within his soul.”

The light is too much for Javert. His mind cannot endure it. Javert chooses to kill himself rather than to live up to the new kind of law that he has just met in Jean.

Did I cry when I read it? No, I was enraged. I'm sick of reading people die bitterly. I was mad that Jean and Javert don't live as friends since that day on; I was mad that Javert dies, because he's not a bad guy at all. He just couldn't understand that above the law of the state, there is the law of God, which revolves around love.

Character Thursday
Adalah book blog hop di mana setiap blog memposting tokoh pilihan dalam buku yang sedang atau telah dibaca selama seminggu terakhir (judul atau genre buku bebas).
- Kalian bisa menjelaskan mengapa kalian suka/benci tokoh itu, sekilas kepribadian si tokoh, atau peranannya dalam keseluruhan kisah.
- Jangan lupa mencantumkan juga cover buku yang tokohnya kalian ambil.
- Kalau buku itu sudah difilmkan, kalian juga bisa mencantumkan foto si tokoh dalam film, atau foto aktor/aktris yang kalian anggap cocok dengan kepribadian si tokoh.
Syarat Mengikuti :
1. Follow blog Fanda Classiclit sebagai host, bisa lewat Google Friend Connect (GFC) atau sign up via e-mail (ada di sidebar paling kanan). Dengan follow blog ini, kalian akan selalu tahu setiap kali blog ini mengadakan Character Thursday Blog Hop.
2. Letakkan button Character Thursday Blog Hop di posting kalian atau di sidebar blog, supaya follower kalian juga bisa menemukan blog hop ini. Kodenya bisa diambil di kotak di button.
3. Buat posting dengan menyertakan copy-paste “Character Thursday” dan “Syarat Mengikuti” ke dalam postingmu.
3. Isikan link (URL) posting kalian ke Linky di bawah ini. Cantumkan nama dengan format: Nama blogger @ nama blog, misalnya: Fanda @ Fanda Classiclit.
4. Jangan lupa kunjungi blog-blog peserta lain, dan temukan tokoh-tokoh pilihan mereka. Dengan begini, wawasan kita akan bertambah juga dengan buku-buku baru yang menarik


  1. I can say that Javert was the role model for policeman. Dedicated yet still have conscience to judge the rights from the wrongs. It's a good idea indeed to feature him in Character Thursday here

    1. Thanks.

      I'd like to say that he has good virtues, but he is too rigid, just like the law itself. He needs more balance, I think.

      But the way he is portrayed in Les Mis is very nice. He is an intrigue character. It's so smart for Hugo to make such character as we find in Les Mis.