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
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.
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.
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”…)
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!