LES MIZ: Did Enjolras and his crew deserve what they got?

That would take very long few years to achieve some form of social justice like the end of 2 yo bees working 35 h/day and paid two crumbs of bread.

Dansons la Carmagnole,
Vive le son, vive le son,
Dansons la Carmagnole,
Vive le son du canon!
A bas les aristos!!!

Fuck yeah!!!

Ah, ça ira, ça ira, ça ira,
Les aristocrates à la lanterne,
Ah, ça ira, ça ira, ça ira,
Les aristocrates on les pendra!
Tous aux barricades!!

Yeah, she straddles the line between creepy/obsessed and tragic. To be fair, her upbringing was mostly to blame for that.

Oh yes - she just had to appear on screen and I welled up. To be fair, though, she was a professional Eponine and by far the most accomplished musical performer in the film.

I like Gavroche, who (in spite of his parents) has a good heart. He lightens the story, but is as tragic as the rest.

Javert might be an antagonist but he isn’t a villain. He is doing his job the only way he knows how, and cannot understand that there might be another way, and he kills himself rather than change his viewpoint. And I found that incredibly tragic. The only unredeemed character in the book is Thénardier, the least-touched is Cossette (due to the sacrifice of Valjean). All the rest are Les Misérables - The Miserable Ones, if you like. They are all destroyed by their circumstances, even Enjolas, who is blinded by his idealism but deeply moved by the life of the poor. And he dies because of the apathy of those that he would save - the people did not rise. He didn’t deserve to die (to answer the OP) but none of the lives detailed in Les Misérables deserved what they got.

The “some reason” is that central Paris is (was more so, back then) a maze of little, twisty streets. A few barricades thrown up in a few key locations can block traffic and commerce – and, in those days, communication.

And I can’t vote in the poll, because the novel was based on the historical reality, so their revolution was doomed. Readers of the book knew that, of course, so there’s a tragic pre-destined atmosphere. The reader knows that Marius should stay away from 'em.

Which is why I hate Marius. Blind idiot. Cosette was a tragic figure as a little girl as all, but the grown up version could only have been more bland if she had been made entirely of oatmeal.

It’s Javert, dammit. You’re right about Enjolras’s massive ego, though.

:: works action on shotgun ::

I’m gonna need you to take that back.

You don’t know me well if you think I can think of Gavroche without wanting to weep genuine tears.

“Little people know when little people fight … we may look easy pickings but we’ve got some bite … so never kick a dog because he’s just a pup–fight!–We’ll fight like twenty armies and we won’t give up … so you better run for cover when the pup grows up!”

Poor kid. Deserved much better.

Did the rebels DESERVE to die in the moral sense? Of course not.

But was their failure and doom extremely predictable? Of course. They were a tiny band of well meaning amateurs, not real soldiers. Like many young idealists, they had very little common sense, and imagined that The People would rise up in support of them. It didn’t happen, as any older, wiser person could have told them, and they were sure to be killed as soon as the Army got tired of waiting them out.

I actually wish they’d restored “Ten Little Bullets” to the movie instead, as they did to the stage show for a while. It’s sung to the verse segment of “Look Down”:

Ten little bullets in my hand/Ten little snipers neat and clean/One for the king of this great land/Two for the aristocracy…/Now’s your chance/I’ll say when/Trust Gavroche/Count to… (BANG!!!)

There’s a point the Nostalgia Critic and his cohorts made in their review of the movie musical. (It’s longer than the usual review.) They point out that Cosette is the symbol of both the stage show and the movie musical (with that logo based on Emile Bayard’s famous illustration). But, they say, Cosette (though a pretty likable character) doesn’t DO all that much. As a kid, she looks scared, as an adult, she gets married. Why not have GAVROCHE as the symbol of the show? He’s always active, he’s always on the move, he practically embodies the spirit of Paris. (Or, I myself might add…how about actually using Valjean to represent the show? You know…the guy the show’s actually about?)

In the earliest runs, the song was much longer, David/Goliath and a “flea can bite the bottom of the Pope at Rome.” We have it on our earliest UK CD, I was disappointed that it was shortened.

Mmm…I kind of liked the longer version myself, but the creators always had a little problem with it. In the London version first staged at the Barbican, this version came as the barricade boys settled down for the night (just before “Drink With Me”), after Grantaire laughingly urged the little boy to go to sleep.

The creators eventually decided it was just too cutesy and Artful Dodger-ish; they thought that on the eve of an insurrection where a good chunk of the cast (including Gavroche) was going to die, it seemed out of place to have a song “about how great it is to be short.”

It worked better in the original French version that can be heard on the concept album (song here, lyrics and English translation here). The chorus of the song is taken word-for-word from a song Gavroche sings in the novel, as the soldiers shoot at him.

And now I have the "Everyone has AIDS! AIDS! AIDS!"song running thru my head, so thanks a lot.


Javert may be tragic, but he’s also a villain. One of the big themes of the story is the difference between law and justice. The French state is evil, in the book, because it uses the law to pervert justice. It’s alien to the true, divine, universal law, which is justice and mercy. Javert is the human manifestation of the French state. He’s evil because he thinks it’s right and good to persecute a man for life because he steals bread to feed his family. He thinks it’s good that the masses live in poverty. He has no concept of mercy or justice, and that makes him evil; because he does evil and calls it good.

To put it that way makes me think of the Nuremberg Defense. “I was just following orders.”

But that aside, I agree, that Javert, though the main antagonist, isn’t really a villain. He’s a good and honorable man, with an unwavering devotion to law and order. This devotion blinds him to the nature of his nemesis, Valjean, such that he cannot see Valjean as anything but a criminal who has mocked the law, and who must be brought to justice. Forced to see Valjean for what he truly is, Javert cannot reconcile the contradiction between the fugitive that he has pursued all these years, and the man who has done nothing but good in all that same time; leading Javert to end his own life rather than live with the contradiction that he cannot face.

Well, that and the repeated escape attempts, parole violations, etc. Valjean wasn’t being pursed for just “stealing bread” any more than I’d be sent to jail for “just a missing brake light” after leading the police on a three state high speed chase rather than pulling over.

Five years for what you did, the rest because you tried to run, yes 24601 …

Hugo himself said that the principles by which Javert lived his life were good in themselves, but his exaggeration of them made them almost evil. Which neatly sums up any kind of fanatic.

I myself never considered Javert a villain–not in the sense that he was actively out to hurt others. Take the part where he brushes off Fantine’s pleas for mercy. It may seem callous on first blush, but there’s no reason to doubt his line in the musical, “I have heard such protestations every day for twenty years.” How was HE to know that he was arresting the one prostitute who wasn’t feeding him a line?

That’s where I thought some movie versions (especially the 1998 one) missed the mark–they gave Javert an actively nasty, sadistic streak. Hugo said something along the lines of “Many lawmen have the kind of face that combines authority with meanness. Javert had that, without the meanness.”

What I do believe is that he was meant to reflect the flaws of French society of that time. For example, look at his spying on the barricade boys. It’s easy for us to say, “How could he be working against such idealistic young men who only wanted to help society?” But Javert worked for the government, he saw things as the government did, and in the eyes of the government, these were dangerous rebels. And questioning the viewpoint of the law was the last thing Javert would ever do.

(Come to think of it, it IS the last thing he ever did. :D)

The thing is, the punishment meted out to Valjean was disproportionate to his crime–so much so, I’d say, that the State and its agent Valjean lost any moral authority to mete out punishment. Five years for stealing a loaf of bread is hugely out of scale, as was nearly quadrupling his sentence for an escape attempt, and the terms of his parole were such that he would never be able to support himself as a free man, and so would inevitably be returned to a life of slavery. Valjean was entirely justified in saying “Fuck this shit.”

As I recall from the book, Valjean had multiple escape attempts (and succeeded once before going to Paris) plus the obvious parole violation, resisting arrest and assaulting officers – Javert as well in the musical, I don’t recall if they came to blows in the novel.

His theft of the bread wasn’t merely “stealing bread” but breaking and entry. From the novel (via Project Gutenberg):

Worth mentioning as well that, although he goes on to question the conditions of a world where people are reduced to such hunger, he was in the wrong for his crime and did not even attempt to ask for the bread out of charity or to trade work for it before resorting to theft:

By the way, in the scene at the beginning of the movie when Javert told Valjean to retrieve the flag, was Javert just expecting him to detach the flag from the mast and just bring it back or did he expect him to try to move the whole thing?

(And also, I’ve never seen the stage musical, so when I saw the film, I recognized the Master of the House song, as I seem to remember George Costanza singing it on a Seinfeld episode.)

To move the whole thing. The point of it was to establish that Valjean was ridiculously strong, and that Javert knew it.

That movie, by the way, is so incredibly bad that it’s knocked Star Trek: 90210 and Lord of the Rings: The One with the Scrubbing Ghost Army from the top of my worst-ever list.