Javert’s “Hero’s Journey” | Character Analysis Pt. 2

Guten morgen, leute! It’s a new day and I’m trying something a little different than what I usually do. Just a few days ago, I did a Javert Character Analysis and I realized that there’s so much to be explored with his character. So, today, I’m doing something that will mix two really important parts of my life together: LES MIZ and storytelling. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a writer. And thus, storytelling is super important to me. And it just so happens that one of the key components of storytelling is this thing called “The Hero’s Journey”. “The Hero’s Journey” is a template which Joseph Campbell, an American scholar came up with. And he (rightfully) claims that every story follows this “Hero’s Journey”. Yep. Every, single story. Even yours! That’s right! Even your life follows “The Hero’s Journey” in one way or another!

Of course, as things go, some hero’s journeys can be more… difficult to place than others. But every story holds these key elements, even if they’re not quite in order. In relation to LES MISÉRABLES, Jean Valjean’s hero’s journey is pretty straightforward. All of the elements are there and easy to see. But with Javert, I think that the lines are blurred a little more. I thoroughly believe that Javert may be the most complex character in LES MIZ. So, we’re going to apply “The Hero’s Journey” to Javert! I’m still far from fully understanding Javert as a character but I think that writing this might help me to better understand him! But what exactly is “The Hero’s Journey” and what are the steps? Glad you asked! “The Hero’s Journey” consists of this:

· The Ordinary World

· The Call to Adventure

· Refusal of the Call

· Meeting the Mentor

· Crossing the Threshold [into the Special World]

· Tests, Allies, and Enemies

· Ordeal, Death, and Rebirth

· Transformation

· Atonement

· Return

Before we begin, I think that it is important to note that while these steps are present in every hero’s journey, depending on the hero, the steps may occur out of order! Ready? Los geht’s!

THE ORDINARY WORLD

For Javert, the ordinary world consists of his daily life as a policeman. Nothing especially interesting ever happens. He’s just doing his job, taking it day by day. But it’s in this ordinary world that Javert gets a taste of what humanity is and forms his ideas of it. What happens in the ordinary world shapes Javert and gets him ready for the adventure/journey that he’s about to embark on.

(Now, jump down to “The Call to Adventure” section if you’re looking to follow the journey in order!)

So, Javert’s landed himself back in the ordinary world. He’s just going about, doing his job as usual. He’s more than likely enough heard of Valjean breaking his parole and is probably looking for him though not actively.

Then, when the cart falls on Fauchelevent and Jean Valjean saves him (though everyone, including Javert knows him as Monsieur Madeline, the mayor of the town). And Javert, seeing “Monsieur Madeline” save Fauchelevent, remembers Jean Valjean and thinks that he might’ve found the man who broke his parole. He reports his suspicion but he quickly finds out that they’ve already found the man named Jean Valjean.

Javert goes to turn himself in to “Monsieur Madeline”, believing that he should be stripped of his office for “falsely” accusing him of being the convict. This, however, as we know sets Valjean / “Madeline” into a moral dilemma.

Depending on the version, Javert is or isn’t at the trial for the man supposed to be Valjean. But all the same, Valjean shows up at the trial, proclaims himself as the true Valjean and if Javert’s not at the trial, word of this reaches him.

(Okay, now, we’re leaving the ordinary world for good [or at least for a while]! Let’s jump back down to “The Call to Adventure”!)

THE CALL TO ADVENTURE

Everything seems well in the ordinary world and Javert’s just going on with life. And then, he comes face-to-face with Jean Valjean to set him on parole. Yet, something about Valjean’s different than the rest and sticks out to Valjean. And so he warns him with the words “Do not forget me, 24601”.

(If you’re following the journey in order, jump down to “The Refusal of the Call” section!)

And… we’re back. Valjean’s just turned himself in and now Javert is dead-set about getting him back into prison. It’s his job, after all. And I can only imagine that Javert was even more enraged by the fact that Valjean hadn’t told him straight to his face when Javert was confessing what he believed to be his own wrongdoing.

When he reaches the hospital where Fantine is being kept, Fantine is dead and Valjean’s made a promise to find her daughter, Cosette. Javert, though, has received his call to adventure and is not about to refuse it again. When Valjean flees from Javert, the adventure has begun.

Hop down to the “Meeting the Mentor” section now!

THE REFUSAL OF THE CALL

While this is not a flat-out refusal of the call to adventure, Javert kind of just lets the issue with Valjean sit. He might’ve even thought that he’d never see Valjean again. And so he goes back into his ordinary world.

(If you’re following along in order, jump back up to “The Ordinary World” section!)

MEETING THE MENTOR

While Javert doesn’t really have a true mentor, his beliefs are, in so many ways, his mentor. When Valjean escapes him after the inn as well, Javert starts singing “Stars” and in a way, this is where Javert meets his “mentor”. You could say that the stars become his mentor in a way. He swears to the stars that he will find Valjean—that he will never rest until he does. Or, you could see it as his beliefs being his mentor. His beliefs that Valjean is just the same as every criminal he’s ever come across in his career and will not change also in a way “teach” and “tell” him what he must do.

CROSSING THE THRESHOLD (INTO THE SPECIAL WORLD)

So, after all of this, Javert’s well on his way on his journey. But he’s been in this weird kind of middle ground between the ordinary world and the special world. Well, after his swearing by the stars to find Valjean, he’s crossed the threshold. His encounter with the “mentor” sets him right over the threshold into the special world.

TESTS, ALLIES, AND ENEMIES

Because we’re following the musical in this post, there’s a bit of a hole here. We’re jumping right into 1832 now! In 1832, Javert shows up after Valjean’s been recognized by the Thenardiers in “The Robbery” which occurs right after “Paris / Look Down”.

Javert shows up and here, he meets the Thenardiers again and even briefly speaks to Valjean. Valjean, of course, flees, and Javert’s left with the Thenardiers. There, the Thenardiers tell Javert that the man that just fled was Jean Valjean himself. This is kind of weird situation because the Thenardiers are criminals so they’re automatically Javert’s enemies (because he’s a policeman) but they’re helping him so in that moment, they’re his allies as well.

With the June Rebellion beginning, we see Javert in “One Day More”, stating his plan to “nip it [the revolt] in the bud”. Here begins the test. Javert successfully tricks the students into believing that he’s helping them and that he’s with the cause.

ORDEAL, DEATH, AND REBIRTH

However, when he returns, Gavroche recognizes him and the students leave Javert to be dealt with later, clearly intending to do with him as soon as possible. However, Valjean shows up at the barricades, hoping to save Marius. But he recognizes Javert and lets him go, telling the students that he intends to kill him.

When Valjean lets Javert go, that is the moment in which Javert essentially “dies” (not literally, of course).

Javert, however, vows to come back for Valjean with the words “You’ll still answer to Javert”.

And, true to his word, Javert’s standing there when Valjean’s trying to save Marius Pontmercy’s life. Valjean begs Javert for just another hour so that he can get Marius to safety. Javert, here, is “reborn”, finally seeing Valjean as a changed man. And this delivers the actual death blow to Javert.

TRANSFORMATION

The transformation occurs in the blink of an eye and is something that one might miss under normal circumstances. So, where is the transformation? The transformation occurs when Javert lets Valjean go. He lets go of what his “mentors” have taught and told him. He’s lost everything that he believed in. And that’s his transformation. It’s not a transformation that I’ve seen very often. But it’s one of the things that definitely makes Javert unique.

ATONEMENT

Javert lets Valjean and Marius go. And while this is the transformation, it’s also a part of the atonement. But the real atonement is found in Javert’s singing about his realization of his transformation. The real atonement is realizing that he was wrong.

RETURN [TO THE ORDINARY WORLD]

And now, his purpose shattered, he’s thrust back into the ordinary world. His journey’s come full-circle and now, he’s back where he was. He’s not the policeman on the wild hunt to find the ex-convict, Jean Valjean. No. He’s just a policeman. And he doesn’t even know if he should even be a policeman anymore. He doesn’t know anything, really. Or at least, that’s how he feels. He feels that his whole life has been a lie—his beliefs, his purpose, his work—everything.

This return to the ordinary world is usually a pretty gradual thing in the journey. But with Javert, he’s pushed out of the special world, back into the ordinary world in a matter of moments. And it all just comes crashing down on him. That’s what pushes him down into the suicide. Perhaps, just perhaps, if he’d slowly, gradually been reintroduced into the ordinary world, and if the transformation and atonement phases hadn’t happened also in minutes, Javert might’ve not felt the need for suicide.

(And, what d’ya know? As I finish writing this section, Pandora decides to play “Javert’s Soliloquy / Suicide”…)

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So, that’s “The Hero’s Journey” in accordance with Javert’s life! I wish I had a little more time to edit because I’m pretty sure some of this was pretty weird and hard to understand but… hopefully it was an interesting post!

What do you think of “The Hero’s Journey”? Should I do more of these? Tschüss!

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43 thoughts on “Javert’s “Hero’s Journey” | Character Analysis Pt. 2

  1. Interesting in a way. It took me time until I saw the complexity of him. I wasn’t at first that interested in knowing Javert so I didn’t take the time to get to know him as a character. He is still one of my most complex characters in the world of musicals

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    1. Definitely. It takes a little bit of intrigue to make one want to learn about Javert (and any character, really!). Javert is a character I’ve always been pretty interested in learning about but I’m still only just starting to figure him out

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      1. He is definitely a character I hardly know. There are characters I have spent more time getting to know than others. I don’t tend to want to know much about villains or antagonists, but in the case of Javert, it is more interesting

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      2. I think one special thing about Les Mis is that you eventually get all of the characters even the ones you don’t like. They just were all written so well and so belong in this story. I feel like Javert is kind of represents the black and whites of humanity (he isn’t exactly the best of society, but not even close to being the worst of society). He kind is the blurred lines in between

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      3. I completely agree! That’s definitely a good way of looking at it! I feel like Javert is a guy that just has gotten carried away with things, being too hard headed to see the truth until it presented itself to him in the extreme.

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      4. Definitely. I found writing this post quite a bit enlightening. I’d never really thought about Javert’s “Hero’s Journey”, but it’s actually probably my favorite that I’ve come across due to how complex it is! Viewing the Transformation, Atonement, and Return phases of the journey in this way was actually kind of a first for me

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      5. It is interesting in a way because Javert is not the main character of the musical, Valjean is. What I love about the conflict between Valjean and Javert is you automatically know there is big conflict between them in the very first scene. In the first scene, you already their strong dislike towards each other, which is a strong point to this musical

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      6. Yep! Javert, although not the main character, I feel like is quite a bit more complex than Valjean. When you really break his character down, it turns out that he’s a lot simpler than he appears to be. With Javert, it’s the opposite. The conflict between them is definitely one of the best that I’ve seen between a protagonist and an antagonist!

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      7. I kept on feeling Javert is a bit simpler than Jean Valjean. It is hard to get to know the antagonist in a way because I become more focused on the main character’s journey and getting to know Valjean that it can be easy to forget just how big Javert’s journey is. Even though the conflict between Javert and Valjean is a plot in the show, but I feel like their journeys are in many ways two plots

        Other characters I have figured out, which know they still have other aspects of them that are still undiscovered.

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      8. My High School English Language Arts class has really influenced the way I approach characters, I think. It was in that class that I was first taught to map out a character’s journey like this. And well, unraveling the character’s journey really is telling of how complex a character is, I think. With Jean Valjean, his journey is pretty straightforward if you use Joseph Campbell’s template. But Javert is a little more jumbled and hard to place at certain parts of the template

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      9. I tend to have a hard time telling if a musical character is complex especially at the beginning. Sometimes you have to explore the show more in order to realize if a character is complex. I also think it is a matter of opinion on whether or not a musical character is complex

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      10. Yeah. Some people might find certain characters very complex while others not so much. There is, I think, a certain complexity to every character but some of those characters just don’t stand out nearly as much in the field of complexity

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      11. The complex are the ones that most likely to develop over time. The complex ones tend to feel more real and have more of an inner struggle. Most of the Les Mis characters are complex. From experience, all complex musicals are home to complex characters. Even though I am more drawn to complex characters, there are some simple characters that I love

        The simple ones will not be able to.

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      12. Complex characters are those characters that you can really feel for, I think. They’re the ones who make you laugh and cry and make you feel as if you know them. While simpler characters can make you laugh and cry on occasion, I feel like the overall immersion is different

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      13. There is one simple character who is very special to me and that is Annie and that is a musical I sort of forgot I even loved and then the love came back and I remembered. There is not much to her, but still memorable.

        The longest complex character that has been meaningful to me so far has been Elphaba. I don’t fully remember the first experience with the show. I don’t think I realized right away the show was a complex. I think I noticed that in high school and by that point, I already knew of how much I relate to her.

        The Les Mis characters sometimes feel more complex than the Wicked characters themselves. Sometimes I feel like I know the Les Mis characters much better than the Wicked characters with the exception of Elphaba. Than again, there are more characters that I love in Les Mis compared to Wicked where I only love three

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      14. There are so many characters that I have just become so attached to over time, both complex and simple. Les Miz definitely has some of the most complex characters I’ve ever seen but Wicked, I think was my introduction to complex characters in musicals

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      15. Wicked for sure. Elphaba and Glinda were the first characters I saw as complex. I truly started to notice complexity in Fiyero just last year when I was able to delve deeper into the love triangle and that was when I started questioning him

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      16. Yeah. Fiyero is a character I haven’t quite cracked yet. He’s a character that I’m a little iffy about when it comes to if I understand him or not. The thing with Fiyero is that for so much of the musical, Fiyero puts on this façade that really only falls at the end

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      17. I never noticed that. Its just I kept on questioning him. I was like Fiyero, did you have a crush on Elphaba without realizing it or did you know, but just told no one. That is the main part I haven’t cracked at the love triangle. I have been so focused on the friendship throughout all the years and I only just starting to want to delve deeper into the love triangle. I already had an appreciation for it, but I knew I had to delve deeper into it once I realized “I’m Not That Girl” was deeper, which gave Wicked a new complexity and another thing that gave it a new complexity was “No Good Deed” due to finally getting something out it and noticing its wonderful energy and picking up on its anger and frustration that presents. The complex musicals are more likely to have emotional shifts over time and your opinion is likely to change when it comes to certain songs

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      18. The fact that the German version of Wicked was the first I was introduced to and thus is very close to my heart, the whole Fiyero problem gets worse. In the two versions, different things about Fiyero stick out. In the English version, he’s a fun-loving, maybe a little “brainless” character who really wants nothing to do with serious matters–at least not until the lion cub incident. In the German version, it’s still the same way, but I feel like in the German version, Fiyero really isn’t so much “brainless” as opposed to just feeling that he doesn’t belong at Shiz and doesn’t want to be there, preferring to just do something that he wants to do and enjoy life. While they’re still very similar, I feel like in the German version, Fiyero is a little less confused when it comes to his feelings for Elphie

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      19. I don’t think I will be able to figure out. But Fiyero is the only way to add more complexity to the love triangle. I know Elphaba the best of all three, than Glinda (though to be honest still struggle with getting to know) and than there’s Fiyero. With Fiyero, the scene leading up to “I’m Not That Girl”, I was paying attention to how Fiyero was acting around Elphaba and I picked up on a clue that showed that maybe he does but just doesn’t realize and than he couldn’t stop thinking of the lion cub incident and presented Elphaba with flowers and that’s when I really started to think “I wonder”. But there is no way of exactly knowing. I don’t know if Wicked can develop any further than what it currently is, but thats how I feel after each time I have seen it.

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      20. Definitely. In the German version, I get a kind of Boq-ish vibe from Fiyero. Kind of like he doesn’t want to hurt Glinda’s feelings so he sticks around until he just can’t take it anymore. It’s very slight but I definitely got that vibe. Maybe it was the actor, but also the lyrics are just a tad bit… different. But nonetheless, I think that Fiyero might be slightly confused about his feelings for Elphaba throughout the musical, up until “As Long as You’re Mine”

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      21. Or he could be just a friend of Elphaba’s, but when he hears the rude comments made by citizens about her, he knows its time to break up with her and find her. What if he didn’t even have a crush, but due to being friends already, he could be intereseted in starting a relationship with her. It drives me nuts trying to figure this out

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      22. 100% agree. This love triangle kinda hurts my head (in a good way) after thinking about it! But all the same, I love trying to crack the code. Problem is, I don’t think that there’s one correct answer

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      23. This love triangle is more complex and complicated than its ever been. Good thing for that realization about “I’m Not That Girl” because it made the love triangle stronger and made my emotional connection grow along with vulnerability.

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      24. I have been around this love triangle longer than the one in Les Mis, but still haven’t cracked it yet. In Wicked, only fully have cracked Elphaba and keep on overlooking Glinda’s side of the love triangle and then there’s complicated Fiyero. It is harder to crack this Wicked love triangle than the one in Les Mis. Les Mis doesn’t have any plot twists in it and not confused about any of the characters and why they end up in the situations they have found themselves in

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      25. Yep. Man… this love triangle is kinda a Pandora’s box–or maybe a Hydra. You start to decipher one part of the love triangle and then the rest becomes more and more complicated and confusing than before!

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      26. Its only Fiyero that makes it like that. It still is unique and I am still a bit surprised when Fiyero starts dating Elphaba. I know it happens, but still unexpected. I need to treat “I’m Not That Girl” when Elphaba sings it like I don’t know whats going to happen or the song will lose the emotion that it has truly become. Its journey from being sad to heartbreaking truly shows how far the negative emotions have become

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      27. I was paying attention to how she was acting around him. She still finds him annoying, but she learns she loves him. I need to treat “I’m Not That Girl” like I don’t know whats going to happen. At that point, she just found out she loves him and she has no clue she will be with him in the end. I need to feel the emotion in the way she is feeling at that moment.

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      28. Yep. I guess that even to this day, until I see the change in Fiyero after the lion cub incident, I just can’t bring myself to quite like him. Not really quite sure why, really. But I love how they transition from being pretty annoyed by each other, to being friends, and then to finally loving each other

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      29. I do love Fiyero and to this day, don’t know why. I just do for some reason. At first Elphaba thinks he’s super rude and than that day in class when she cast that spell, it didn’t affect him. It was that scene with the lion cub where she found out and even then she cannot bring herself to tell she has a crush on him, but she just found out. She still loves him in act II, but in “I’m Not That Girl”, she truly believes she isn’t good enough for him because she is green and that is where part of its insight comes from. I bet she was surprised when she learned that he broke up with Glinda and now wants to start a relationship

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      30. Yep! I like Fiyero as a character but I’m pretty sure he and I would not get along if we met each other. But I’ve always liked Elphie and Fiyero together, especially in Act II. It just feels… right in a way. But I feel like I can never fully enjoy “As Long as You’re Mine” because I feel so bad for Glinda

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      31. Yeah. I don’t know… I just feel really bad for Glinda all of the time. I guess that I just feel like her pain is so heavy, weighing down on the scene. But “As Long as You’re Mine” is definitely beautiful.

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      32. Than again, I am more focused on Elphaba throughout the entire show. I feel like I personally know Elphaba. Its just that “I’m Not That Girl” was so short that it is hard to feel the unrequited love that Glinda now has for Fiyero

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      33. I felt Glinda’s pain last year, but I still was exploring Elphaba more. I am always overlooking the serious side of Wicked due to feeling like a middle schooler whenever I watch it, but it has the emotional maturity of a college student

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