Hallo, leute! It’s a different sort of post today. So. I’m doing a Javert analysis. And this should be… interesting. To say the least. I’d say that overall, Javert is probably the most interesting character in LES MIZ. He’s a tough code to crack and even when you think you’ve got him figured out, there’s something more that you just don’t quite understand. As frustrating as this mystery of Javert is, it’s also one of the reasons I like him as a character and an antagonist and why I keep trying to figure him out.
Javert, first and foremost, is not a “bad” guy. In fact, he’s a “good” guy—to an extreme level. Then how does he become the antagonist? Well, that’s quite simple. Jean Valjean’s purpose in LES MIZ is to show that people can change. And Javert just doesn’t understand or believe that. He’s dealt with many “bad”, villainous people throughout his career and apparently, none of them has ever given him reason to believe that they can change. Hence his belief of “Once a thief, always a thief.” But beyond just this experience that he has through his job, he was also born (and possibly brought up) in a jail. That was likely a lot of his reason for becoming a police officer. If indeed he was brought up in jail, he’d have probably been abused by prisoners. If he’d been born in jail and taken away to an orphanage, he’d probably hate his mother for her being a criminal and making him live this hard life.
Hate and not being able to let go of hate is a common theme with antagonists and villainous types in stories. Generally, you have the protagonist who is willing to forgive everyone and anyone—you could even say that sometimes they’re too forgiving. And then, you have the antagonist who just can’t forgive. Valjean and Javert follow that same protagonist-antagonist pattern. Valjean’s forgiving and believes people can change. Javert’s unforgiving and doesn’t believe that change is possible.
And while I’m not saying that Javert was right in any of his thinking this, I will say that Valjean didn’t exactly prove him wrong right from the start. When Valjean was taken in by the bishop, he took the silverware and the candlesticks and fled. I’d say that it’s highly likely that word of this reached Javert’s ears sometime, somewhere, whether that was immediately after the act or sometime whilst Javert was undoubtedly conducting research on Jean Valjean. And essentially, this confirms Javert’s belief that people don’t change. Valjean was a thief. And not long after he was put on parole, he stole from a bishop. And hence, what Javert probably saw as confirmation of his belief: “Once a thief, always a thief.” Of course, Javert continued to think that a person like this could never change. So, that, of course, is his own fault. But, that being said, from the start, Valjean kind of proved Javert’s ideology to be right. However, he continued to hold this belief fast even when Valjean started to prove him wrong.
After “Once a thief, always a thief” Javert says “What you want you always steal. You would trade your life for mine, yes, Valjean, you want a deal.” At this point, the audience might think “Man, this Javert guy really is blind. Can’t he see that Valjean’s changed? Man, cut him some slack!” But… let’s just step into Javert’s boots for a moment, shall we? Sure, Valjean’s changed his ways. He’s started a new life. But… the way Javert sees things, it would make sense for Javert to think that Valjean stole that new life for himself. Javert probably saw Valjean as a person who stole this new life for himself, stole someone’s name, stole his job as mayor, and stole someone’s kid. And yes, it’s easy for someone to think “For one thing, he didn’t steal his job as mayor. He probably got elected. And, he didn’t steal Cosette. Fantine entrusted her into his care.” All of that’s true, yes. But would Javert see it that way? Probably not. The way Javert saw it was probably that Valjean had become elected as mayor under false pretenses and that the people would have never entrusted their city into his care if they’d known that he was a man who’d broken his parole and was still being hunted down. And then, with Cosette, Javert could probably argue a very much similar thing. When Fantine entrusted Cosette into Javert’s care, Fantine didn’t know that Valjean was a man who’d broken parole and still being hunted, and she didn’t know that he was, even as they spoke, being chased by Javert. So… the way Javert saw it, Valjean fit his description of “Once a thief, always a thief, what you want you always steal.”
Now, I’m not saying that Javert is right in his thinking. No. Not at all. But… I can see where he’s coming from. Which is essentially the point of this analysis and the only way in which I think one can really start to understand Javert.
So, through all of this, Javert is not the villain of LES MIZ. But he is the antagonist. And here, comes in something that I think can be said about all antagonistic/villain characters in musicals. Without his songs, Javert would become a villain. Without “Stars” especially, Javert becomes a cold, calloused, unfeeling, evil person. And I think that because we have songs like “Stars” and “Confrontation”, we get this glimpse at Javert’s character and purpose than we would have never seen before.
Another unique thing about Javert’s antagonistic purpose in LES MIZ is that he’s not after Valjean for revenge or any slight to him personally. No. He’s really just doing his job. And well… maybe taking it a bit too far. Even Valjean calls Javert “the faithful servant at his post”. While it could be said that Valjean has slighted Javert’s ideology throughout the story, I don’t think that Javert ever really saw it that way. And if he had, either his suicide would have come quicker or he would have just given up on his chasing of Valjean.
Javert’s suicide is one of the most emotion-filled moments of the musical. He’s made it his life’s work to protect France from criminal activity. He’s made it a goal of his to catch this man who’s broken his parole and bring him back to prison, where he feels he should be. But then, all of a sudden, Javert sees Valjean’s goodness. He sees it in Valjean’s letting him go. He sees it in Valjean saving Marius’s life. One thing I really adore about the book is that Javert actually goes with Valjean to bring Marius home. And if Javert had just waited around, he could have arrested Valjean. But no. He left. He let Valjean go. But why does Javert commit suicide? Well… because he can’t take it anymore. He can’t bear the fact that he’s been wrong his entire life and that he’s wronged this man, Jean Valjean, for so many years. And all of that is enough for him to commit suicide. He looks to the stars, there’s nothing there for him to grasp onto.
While there is still so much about Javert that I don’t quite understand, I think that I’m getting closer. What are your thoughts on Javert? Tschüss!