Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Character Thursday: Jean Valjean

Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean (Les Miserables musical)
At first I didn't want to choose him at all. He's a complex character, and I always feel that I won't be able to fully describe or express my thoughts and feelings about him. There's no other way to know him except by reading all volumes of Les Miserables. It's a long story about change in a man's life.

Jean Valjean is an ex-convict who tries to find a new life – an honest life – despite being widely misjudged by people. When he went out of jail for the first time, he had great hatred for the world, thinking that the world hates him as well. But Myriel opens his eyes and makes him see that there is still a chance for him to have a good and respectable life just as any other people. Jean then chooses to lead a good life from that moment, although doing such thing is never easy, especially for him.

If there's something that makes me love him so it is that he's a normal human being, just like Javert. There are battles inside his heart, especially when things are not to his advantage. I remember muttering, “Jean, please do what is right,” when he must choose between revealing or not revealing his identity. When he actually does, I'm so proud of him.

Guillaume Depardieu (as Jean Valjean)
His acts of kindness always touches my heart. Even the way he deals with little Cosette warms my bosom. Has he ever taken care of a child before, perhaps his sister's? Perhaps. But it's his promise to Fantine that makes him very tender and kind to Cosette. The way he cares for Marius, whom he doesn't really like, by the way (fathers always see young men as threats to their daughters), makes me think, “Jean, you don't have to do it this far.”

There's something interesting about it, actually. In his mind, Jean thinks that it'd be good for Marius to die. Well, he's going to England with Cosette anyway. But somehow he ends up being there in the barricade, 'just to see how things are going'. The results: he settles things up with Javert, and he saves Marius in order to assure Cosette's future. What a man!

I also love how he follows his conscience, no matter how hard it is for him. Again, the Chmpmathieu incident would be a good example. Also when he has the chance to kill Javert, and he doesn't is touching for me. This man makes me think of Myriel's word:

“To be a saint is the exception; to be an upright man is the rule. Err, fall, sin if you will, but be upright... The least possible sin is the law of man. No sin at all is the dream of the angel. All which is terrestrial is subject to sin. Sin is a gravitation.”

Well, Jean tries his best to be upright.

The bad things about him, the things that annoy me are these: First, he doesn't speak much. I feel like Hugo doesn't give him a chance to express himself fully to people around him. Even the musical gives him more dialogues. It makes me sad to see how people do good things, but others are ignorant of that.

Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean
Second, he has tendency to admit his guilt and conceal his virtues. This is seriously annoying. When he admits that he is Jean Valjean to save Champmathieu, for example, he doesn't bother to explain the Bishop's gift etc. When he confesses to Marius, he doesn't bother to tell him all the good things he has done for Cosette and Marius as well. He might think that people won't believe him anyway. But what I fear is that he might think that all the good things that he has done still cannot pay for his sins.

“I do not know whether the person who gave them to me is pleased with me yonder on high. ”

He is, Jean, after all that you have done, he certainly is.

It's weird how Jean has influenced me. He makes me look at people with less prejudice. He makes me cry every time I watch a new version of Les Miserables, musical or not. He reminds me that we have to try to do our best no matter what other people think or say of us. Best of all, he reminds me that there will always be a second chance for people. It's never too late to change.


  1. Yes, I think he felt that the good deeds he had done would not pay for his sins. A total repentance, i might say...

    1. That's what makes me sad. He has done so many things and still he feels that it's not enough. Wish I could hug him..