One Fan’s Theories About Les Misérables


So, That Guy here. Lately, I’ve had a lot of Les Misérables going through my head. Songs. Thoughts. Ideas. Characters. Concepts. Plots. All of it. I’ve come up with a few theories that, in my opinion, make a lot of sense, especially based on what we know about the film and life. Read on if you wish to know the thoughts of a mad-man, on the thoughts of a number of entertainment genii.

Let’s start with the beginning shall we? Valjean’s crime.

We get told a number of times that his crime was to steal some bread for his sister and her child, who were starving. Sounds like a noble cause, especially when you take into account he ended up serving 19 years as a slave for it, plus running another 17 after that…

But to me, it doesn’t add up. People have a habit of glorifying themselves in these situations, and 19 years is a long time to convince yourself you were doing the right thing.

No, I think Valjean stole something more than just some bread, if he didn’t do a much more violent and dangerous crime, such as murder. Javert does call him dangerous a fair few times, remember. So, assume that he’s guilty of something like murder, and now, who’s over-reacting? No-one. He’s a criminal and it is Javert’s duty to find him, capture him and maybe even execute him, especially when he’s been on the run so long. Rehabilitated or not, Valjean is a criminal and fully deserves the punishment Javert wants to dish out.

Okay, so enough about Valjean. Now, for Javert.

He loved the thrill of the chase. Look at the evidence. He single-handedly confronts Valjean EVERY SINGLE TIME they come across one another. Why? He had the command of the best forces in Paris behind him, as he so rightly states, and yet he goes for him with a sword. Not even a gun! Just a sword!

And yet, he also lets him slip by him a few times. He could have dived after him after Fantine’s death, and he could have shot him just after the sewers, but both times, he lets him get away. Javert loves the thrill of the chase and refuses to give it up. He’s been doing it so long he doesn’t know what else to do. So what does he do when he realizes it? Kills himself. A bit of an over-reaction really.

Okay, now, for both of them…

They were famous. Javert, we know, was feared because of his place in the police, whilst Valjean was probably the longest-running parole-breaker of all time. What makes me think that?

“Well of course he now denies it,
You expect that of a con,
But he couldn’t run forever,
No, not even Jean Valjean

What does that tell us? Valjean was a famous convict, who became a symbol of hope for slaves and convicts across France, if not even further. He was the man that showed that the law could be mocked, indeed, had been made a mockery of. He showed that they weren’t as great and powerful as they wanted the people to think, and so, there was an added need to get him and put him down, just so that the people knew they couldn’t fuck with the government.

And don’t say it doesn’t happen, because it does. The rioters that Dean wrote about last year, were made examples of, because it showed that the police weren’t as powerful as they should be believed to be. Just a tie-in with reality there for you.

Now, back to Valjean himself, and linking in the point of his from before…

He never intended to give himself up. Now, that sounds obvious, right? Wrong. Just before the final battle, Valjean tells Javert that he will find him at such-and-such a place after the battle takes place, if he survives. Javert then gives his medal to the kid who died and waits at what appears to be the only sewer exit in Paris, so that he can ambush the con. Javert lets him go (loves the chase!) and then kills himself.

Did Valjean find out about Javert’s suicide. Well, we see all sorts of things that WE’VE seen, that the other characters don’t know, so we can’t assume that because we know it, they do, and because we don’t see it happen, we have to assume Valjean didn’t know. So, he’s expecting Javert to come and get him, especially now he’s no longer running.

But does he stop running? No! Now, admittedly, we don’t know the time-frame in these few scenes, but we do know the order and that Valjean chose to go ahead and run to the convent so he could die. He wasn’t going to go back to slavery – it was death or freedom and in the end, he’d chosen both.

And my final theory, because everything that will follow this, is just observations I have made.

The Bishop, the one from right near the start, is, in fact, God.

Bear with me. Holy Man, helps the convict redeem himself, tests his will and gives him unconditional freedom, and then, 17 years later, happens to be standing in the convent where Valjean is, AFTER he’s died. They share a look, so we know the Bishop is as dead as Fantine and Valjean. But he’s religious and the good guys are always symbolic. Thus, the bishop is God.

Okay – now for my observations.

1) The barricade features two coffins and a sign which says “mort”, French for death, foreshadowing the upcoming deaths of almost all those who defend it. The word mort is seen just before Eponine dies, for crying out loud – next to her body, just behind her.

2) The music in the songs is used in multiple places, with themes being played over various sections. For example:

  • Lovely Ladies has a particularly recognizable tune, and is used not only in the prostitute song, but also as the woman cleans the blood from the streets. This is a use of irony, or something like that, as those very women could have saved the lives of the men whose blood they clean, but chose to protect themselves from harm. Not very lovely ladies to me. Since it was originally used with the hookers who were particularly un-lovely, you could argue it’s origin is for ironic purposes.
  • The Thernadier theme, as I like to call it, played when they try to extort money from people – Valjean in the Inn and the town square, as well as from Marius in the celebration at the end.
  • The basic tune and rhythm for Javert’s suicide was taken from Valjean’s monologue, as we decides to start his life afresh – even some of the lines are the same. The had the same options and chose the opposite ones.
  • One Day More has parts of it repeated in various places, I think as transition, but potentially as a concept theme, but I haven’t quite worked out what yet.

3) There are no villians, depending on how you look at the story.

  • Valjean WAS a villain, but has turned good,
  • Javert is just doing what he is duty-bound to do – policing the people of France,
  • The Thernadiers are just trying to survive in a world of greed and corruption,
  • The Rebels are trying to save their land which they so desperately love,
  • The government is trying to rule a country that is still reeling from their last revolution.

Everyone’s a victim in some way, and, if I had to choose a villain, it’d be either the bitch from the factory who takes the note, or Valjean, depending on what his real crime was.

Now, that’s a fair few ideas and realizations, but they’re all probably wrong, but in the off-chance they’re not, well… Just watch the film with these in mind. And if you have any, or if I have any more, we should comment on the post, AND, if you have an opinion on any of these, again, go ahead and comment. You never know. We might prove one of these to be correct, if not more.

That Guy

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One thought on “One Fan’s Theories About Les Misérables

  1. His crime is described in the book:
    “One Sunday evening, Maubert Isabeau, the baker on the Church Square at Faverolles, was preparing to go to bed, when he heard a violent blow on the grated front of his shop. He arrived in time to see an arm passed through a hole made by a blow from a fist, through the grating and the glass. The arm seized a loaf of bread and carried it off. Isabeau ran out in haste; the robber ed at the full speed of his legs. Isabeau ran a er him and stopped him. The thief had flung away the loaf, but his arm was still bleeding. It was Jean Valjean. […] Jean Valjean was pronounced guilty. The terms of the code were explicit. There occur formidable hours in our civilization; there are moments when the penal laws decree a shipwreck. What an ominous minute is that in which society draws back and consummates the irreparable abandonment of a sentient being! Jean Valjean was condemned to ve years in the galleys.”

    Later it is described how he tried to escape four times which harshend his sentence:
    “Towards the end of this fourth year Jean Valjean’s turn to escape arrived. His comrades assisted him, as is the custom in that sad place. He escaped. He wandered for two days in the elds at liberty, if being at liberty is to be hunted, to turn the head every instant, to quake at the slightest noise, to be afraid of everything,—of a smoking roof, of a passing man, of a barking dog, of a galloping horse, of a striking clock, of the day because one can see, of the night because one cannot see, of the highway, of the path, of a bush, of sleep. On the evening of the second day he was captured. He had neither eaten nor slept for thirty-six hours. e maritime tribunal condemned him, for this crime, to a prolonga- tion of his term for three years, which made eight years. In the sixth year his turn to escape occurred again; he availed himself of it, but could not accomplish his ight fully. He was missing at roll-call. e cannon were red, and at night the patrol found him hidden under the keel of a vessel in process of construction; he resisted the galley guards who seized him. Escape and rebellion. His case, provided for by a special code, was punished by an addition of five years, two of them in the double chain. Thirteen years. In the tenth year his turn came round again; he again pro ted by it; he succeeded no better. Three years for this fresh attempt. Sixteen years. Finally, I think it was during his thirteenth year, he made a last attempt, and only succeeded in getting retaken at the end of four hours of absence. ree years for those four hours. Nineteen years. In October, 1815, he was released; he had entered there in 1796, for having broken a pane of glass and taken a loaf of bread.”

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