The Inspector Javert Medley [Sequence Index]

Isn’t moral conviction dreamy?

I may not have drawn little hearts in my middle school notebooks labelled “Leah + Inspector Javert” but I’ve loved him far too much since the first time I saw Les Miserables.  (And, this year, I immediately dibsed his part when organizing a Les Mis flashmob).  But some of the things I’ve loved most about the adamant Inspector are the things I’ve had to set aside in order to be a Christian.  So, to mark the occasion of the movie’s release, I wrote three meditations on the strengths-that-turn-out-to-be-weaknesses of Inspector Javert and me.

  1. Javert: No Quarter Asked or Given – “Valjean and Javert are both offered unexpected grace, and Javert chokes on it… He refuses to become visibly imperfect in the service of a higher perfection.”
  2. Give Me (and Javert) a Firm Place to Stand – “[T]he Javert of the book and the musical isn’t a heathen; he’s a heretic.  (Probably a Pelagian).”
  3. Javert and Valjean at Prayer – “Javert is a grotesque echo of something beautiful and truly desirable   He lives in the moral uncanny valley.”

 

Coda: After a New Yorker writer went after Valjean for being so virtuous as to be boring, I came to his defense (“But Aren’t Saints Dreadfully Dull?”) – “It’s a poor sort of virtue that can triumph only when the temptation feels titanic.  Valjean’s nobility inspires us because it is ultimately expressed in the quotidian and the domestic.”

 

Final Reprise: I ended up writing a piece for First Things on Javert, Valejean, and our criminal justice system’s contradictory impulses toward justice and mercy (the State can’t do either of these very well).  Also at that link, a vignette about one line in Les Mis really informing my prayer life.

 

Also, I must apologize to everyone for leaving Hark a Vagrant’s Javert comics out of this whole discussion.  Allow me to rectify this now; my favorite of the five is below.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as a statistician for a school in Washington D.C. by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

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  • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com Crude

    It’s like some frenchy bread-obsessed Judge Dredd.

  • Rachel K

    I think my favorite Hark a Vagrant Javert comic is the Rent/Les Miz crossover.

    • leahlibresco

      I love that one, too.

  • http://claritaspastor.wordpress.com/ Claritas Pastor

    I love that you love Javert. This is so awesome. Thanks for the blog posts on him!

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  • http://themerelyreal.wordpress.com Chana Messinger

    My question, based on the reading of your Les Mis posts and a multi-time relisten to Javert’s suicide song, is: What does Javert think of Valjean and what does that tell us?
    (“As I stare into the void
    Of a world that cannot hold
    I’ll escape now from the world
    From the world of Jean Valjean.”)
    Does he hate him, and is that properly Christian (the hating in and of itself and the deeming of Valjean, who we know to have been redeemed, worthy of hate)? Does he merely look down on Valjean’s lawbreaking?

    To me one of the most villanious elements of Javert’s character is not his unstinting beholdenness to the law but rather his seemingly spiteful and zealous pursuit of Valjean in particular, which looked to be motivated by a hate above the hate of any given lawbreaker.

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