Friday, December 28, 2012

Mercy Triumphs Over Justice: Jean Valjean vs. Javert

As foils in Les Misérables, Jean Valjean and Javert can be seen to represent mercy and justice. Additionally,  Jean Valjean represents a life redeemed from crime and innocence before God, while Javert represents the Law and guiltlessness in the eyes of the Law. 

Jean Valjean was a convict who served for nineteen years as a galley slave. In the galleys he became a hard, angry man. But after his release he met Monsieur Bienvenu, the bishop of Digne, who initiated a change of heart in Jean Valjean and he devoted his time to improving the welfare of those around him.

Javert was never on the wrong side of the law, yet he too was a hard man although he always performed his duties impeccably. He understood right vs. wrong and justice void of mercy.

Javert  was determined to bring Jean Valjean to justice after he escaped from his second imprisonment.

When both men found themselves at the barricades during the revolt of 1832, they were brought into contrast.

The revolutionaries decided that they would kill Javert (a spy) and when the time came, Jean Valjean asked for permission to do the deed. Finally, the man who had been hunting him for years was in his hands, and he had the power to end his prepetual flight from Javert.

And he did. But not in the way one would expect, and he didn't even know it himself.  Alone in the street together, Valjean freed Javert and gave him his address so that Javert could arrest him later.

Javert left and Jean Valjean escaped the barricades with young Marius. After finally making his way out of the sewer with the almost dead Marius on his back, he encountered Javert. Expecting to be arrested, he begged Javert to let him take Marius home. Javert called the coach up and after depositing Marius, who Javert believed to be dead (otherwise he deserved prison too), Jean Valjean asked for a few moments at home before being taken away for life.

Outside the house, Javert said, to the surprise of Jean Valjean, "I'll wait for you here." Based on Javert's character, he would have followed his prisoner into the houseif he even allowed a quick visit home.

Upon entering the house, Jean Valjean looked out the window, and discovered the street was empty.

What's this? Javert letting an escaped prisoner free when he had him in his clutches?

Javert couldn't believe it himself. He was torn between his feelings of owing his life to Jean Valjean and the law that had ruled his life up til that point. "A novelty, a revolution, a catastrophe had just taken place in the depths of his being; and he had something upon which to examine himself." (Volume II, Book IV, chp. I)

Javert then sees Jean Valjean as "A benevolent malefactor, merciful, gentle, helpful, clement, a convict, returning good for evil, giving back pardon for hatred, preferring pity to vengeance, preferring to ruin himself rather than to ruin his enemy, saving him who had smitten him, kneeling on the heights of virtue, more nearly akin to an angel than to a man." And he cannot make this fit with his worldview. (Volume II, Book IV, chp. I)

He realized that the law was fallible, that a convict could be good man, and was surprised at the act of mercy he himself just committed. He is trapped in his reasoning: "He said to himself that it was true that there were exceptional cases, that authority might be put out of countenance, that the rule might be inadequate in the presence of a fact, that everything could not be framed within the text of the code, that the unforeseen compelled obedience, that the virtue of a convict might set a snare for the virtue of the functionary, that destiny did indulge in such ambushes, and he reflected with despair that he himself had not even been fortified against a surprise.
He was forced to acknowledge that goodness did exist. This convict had been good. And he himself, unprecedented circumstance, had just been good also. So he was becoming depraved."

Javert had done a good deed by letting the man who saved his life go free. Yet, in so doing, he broke the law himself.

"He had certainly always entertained the intention of restoring Jean Valjean to the law of which Jean Valjean was the captive, and of which he, Javert, was the slave. Not for a single instant while he held him in his grasp had he confessed to himself that he entertained the idea of releasing him. It was, in some sort, without his consciousness, that his hand had relaxed and had let him go free. "

And so Javert discovers the existence of God. "He asked himself: "What has that convict done, that desperate fellow, whom I have pursued even to persecution, and who has had me under his foot, and who could have avenged himself, and who owed it both to his rancor and to his safety, in leaving me my life, in showing mercy upon me? His duty? No. Something more. And I in showing mercy upon him in my turn—what have I done? My duty? No. Something more. So there is something beyond duty?".....he had centred nearly all his religion in the police. Being,—and here we employ words without the least irony and in their most serious acceptation, being, as we have said, a spy as other men are priests. He had a superior, M. Gisquet; up to that day he had never dreamed of that other superior, God."

After making a final decision to leave Jean Valjean free, he turned in his police report, making no mention of Marius and Valjean, and then jumped into the Seine and drowned.

Javert discovered that the law was not infallible. A person can be good even if they are on the wrong side of the government's law.  He catches a glimpse of God's higher power but he fails to reach out to Him and receive life.

"Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Romans 3:19b-22a

Jean Valjean, although guilty before God and man, found redemption and began serving God and following His laws. Hugo doesn't stress this, and he may not have known it himself, but the only way to be free from guilt and considered as righteous is through believing in Jesus Christ. He is righteous and His righteousness is conferred on us, as long as we believe and accept his gift to us. It doesn't matter what crimes we have committed. "Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses." Acts 13:39

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering." Romans 8:1-3

Javert tried to be righteous by the law, but he realized that the law was incomplete and he broke the law he lived by: Justice without Mercy. He saw that there was something greater than the Law: God himself. God's law is different than laws created by men, everyone has broken it; yet in His mercy, He extends pardon to all, they just need to accept it.

~ "Mercy triumphs over judgement!" James 2:13~

Les Miserables: The Gutenberg Project: Les Miserables


Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas! ~Lore and Literature Style~

Here is a selection of Christmas greetings in several interesting languages, group loosely by family or similarities.

Heughliche Winachten un 'n moi Nijaar ~Low Saxon~ Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Compare to German: Fröhliche Weihnachten

Glæd Geol ~Old English ~Merry Christmas
Glædelig jul ~Danish~ Merry Christmas
Gleðileg jól ~Icelandic~ Merry Christmas
Gleðilig jól ~Faroese~ Merry Christmas

 A Blythe Yule an a Guid Hogmanay/Merry Christmas an a Guid Hogmanay ~Scots English~Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Nollaig shona duit ~ Irish~ Merry Christmas to you
Nollaig Chridheil dhuibh ~Scottish Gaelic~ Merry Christmas
Nadolig llawen ~Welsh~ Merry Christmas
Nadelik Lowen ~Cornish~ Merry Christmas
Nedeleg laouen ~Breton~ Merry Christmas

Alassë a Hristomerendë ~Quenya (Elvish)~ Joyous Feast of Christ
Mereth Veren e-Doled Eruion ~Sindarin (Elvish)~ Joyous Feast of the Coming of the Son of God.
Quenya and Sindarin are both elvish langauges created by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Hobbit. A long-expected movie.

It's here! It is finally here! Saturday afternoon I saw The Hobbit with some friends.

Over all, I like it very much.

*Spoiler Alert. Don't continue reading if you haven't seen the movie yet.* 

There were a few things I did not like, like the troll sneezing all over Bilbo. Yuck.

Radagast was hardly what I pictured, plus he's not even in the book, The Hobbit. He is in the book, The Lord of the Rings, and he doesn't have a sleigh pulled by rabbits as far as I know. Bird poop on the side of his face: gross and not needed. The part where he out runs the wolves with his rabbit sleigh is just kinda silly.

The film portrayal of The Goblin King left me disappointed, the things he said, and the voice he used were so very un-goblinlike. It didn't fit with his grotesque appearance. The voice would be better matched to a greedy business tycoon in a suit.  

The beginning was neat because it ties right into The Lord of the Rings, the film. The Hobbit (film) opens with Bilbo and Frodo on the morning of Bilbo's big party. We see Frodo run off to meet Gandalf on his way into town, and we know what will follow in The Lord of Rings: "You're late." "A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means too." Remember? If we stopped The Hobbit there, and put on The Lord of the Rings, well, it would flow seamlessly.

I really am glad they kept so many of the opening lines and dialogue from the book.

The song about the dishes, as much as I could catch, was right from the book.

His button's popped off when he escaped from the cave! Yay!

Gandalf said to Bilbo (loose paraphrase): "Courage is not killing people, but deciding who to let live."
Sure enough, along comes the Gollum scene. Although they changed Bilbo's escape from the cave a little, they emphasized the point that Bilbo lets Gollum live when he could have killed him. They made it very clear. Bilbo sees the pain and lostness in Gollum's eyes when he was about to slay him and makes the decision not to kill Gollum. This scene then fits in very well with this dialogue from The Lord of the Rings (film):
 Frodo, "It's a pity Bilbo didn't kill him while he had the chance." 
Gandalf replies, "Pity? It was pity that staid Bilbo's hand. There are many that die who deserve life, and many who live that deserve death. Can you give it to them Frodo? Do not be to eager to deal out death and judgment."

While this dialogue is not in the books, these scenes work well in the movies and add a powerful lesson in the midst of scenes of heroes slaying enemies (where fighting is glorified). Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the battle scenes, I'm glad though, that this point is made so that we all remember that strength and courage is not defined by the number of heads one has chopped off.

Another Lord of the Rings tie-in: Gandalf said to Bilbo, "Your home is behind you, the world ahead." These lines are almost straight from Pippin's Song. "Home is behind, the world ahead." In the book, Pippin does not sing for Denethor, but many of the other songs the hobbits sing were written by Bilbo. So, this is a strange sort of book/movie mixed-up tie-in. It's like Bilbo later wrote Pippin's Song after his adventure, but you wouldn't know that unless you read the books.

"I'm going on an adventure!"
I also love the moment when Bilbo is running down the path and a hobbit asks him were he is going. "I'm going on an adventure!" he cries with the contract flapping in his raised hand.

Twice, Thorin used a large piece of tree trunk (small log) as a shield. My brother pointed out that could be how he got his name: Thorin Oakenshield. Interesting, it's not in the books, but it's interesting that they made the movie detailed enough that even his name has a back story.

A surmise about the next installment: that big rock the eagles drop them off at looks like a bear. I think that must be the Carrock of Beorn. Which implies they skipped the night at the eagle eyries (not a big deal) and just had them dropped off at the Carrock immediately.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Richard III and Scar

If Richard III was an animated film character, he would be Scar.

Now, I don't know what the real Richard III was like. Here, I'm just talking about Richard III from Shakespeare's play by the same name.

Scar is a character in the Disney animated feature, The Lion King.

List of similarities:
1. Want the throne.
2. Want the death of their nephews and arrange for their deaths to take place. Richard succeeds; Scar fails.
3. Crafty, silver tongued. Scar weaves a web of lies around Simba. Richard III convinces a woman who whose husband's death he caused to marry him. And that is just one specific example for each...
4. Richard III was a hunchback and walked with a limp. Scar is a runt, he's scrawny and can't even grow a full mane while his brother the king is large, strong, beautiful, and brawny. Scar says, "Well as far as brains go, I've got the lion's share, but when it comes to brute strength, I'm afraid I'm at the shallow end of the gene pool."
5. Both are defeated in the end after a battle.

Simba and Uncle Scar

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Dwarf and a Gaul

Well, I'm not the first to notice that Bombur, as portrayed in the soon to be released film, The Hobbit, looks like Obelix from the Asterix comics.

But, this blog is all about comparison, so I feel I've got to include it!

Now, the book, The Hobbit, does not go into much detail about Bombur's appearance, except to say that he is the fattest of the thirteen dwarves. One assumes he has a beard because he is a dwarf.
The film removes his beard and gives him a ginormous mustache and sideburns that are braided together. Basically he has hair everywhere BUT his chin.

Obelix is Asterix's sidekick in the French comic book series about the days of the Roman conquest of Gaul. He fell into a cauldron of magic potion as a baby and is endued with superhuman strength because of it. He runs a menhir delivery service and quarries stone in order to make menhirs. I believe he is the sole proprietor and employee, unless he includes Dogmatix. He loves to eat, his favorite food being wild boar which he and Asterix hunt in the forest. He also enjoys beating up Romans and fighting in general. Not the brightest match in the box, but still a loyal friend to Asterix.

Asterix, Obelix, & Dogmatix

Here is a list of similarities between the characters:
1. Both have large rounded noses
2. Similar vacant yet contented expressions
3. Both have the same double chin
4. Body shape
5. Red hair
6. Have mustaches
7. Hairstyles that incorporate braids
8. Round ears that stick out of their hair  

Links to the official sites:
The Hobbit