Les Misérables: A Moment of thought-Is Crime and Dishonesty ever okay?


Picture credits to Andrés Álvarez Iglesias. https://www.flickr.com/photos/doctorserone/8403678547/


Let me challenge you with the question, “Is crime and dishonesty ever okay?” What do you think of first? So many events and people can make you think of this question, and the first thought that came to my mind was Les Misérables and more specifically, the medium that was the movie recently made. The movie takes place in 1832, in Paris, France. I examined some of the songs in Les Misérables  to look for things related to this question, and I was pleasantly surprised with the abundance of data I found. Because of this, I decided to narrow it down to four characters that I would focus on, and an event, and three songs sung talking about the relation to the question “Is crime and dishonesty ever okay?”


I decided on examining four characters that most related to this question: Jean Valjean, Javert, Fantine, and the bishop, along with an event.


What do I mean by an event? I mean a general idea, the June Rebellion, something that happened in the year of 1832. In Les Misérables, there are many people who don’t like what is happening in France at this time. People are starving, people are poor and dying, and the king isn’t doing anything about it. By creating a barricade and rebelling, different types of all people of all different statuses,  are breaking the law, it is a crime.


But the question is: is it okay that they were breaking the law if it was for the good of the people of France? I know I think it was okay, because if the circumstances are that dire, if people are starving, poor and begging on the streets, with no way to earn money, I think it would be okay. Definitely. I know I would rebel in that situation, no matter my status in France, whether I was rich or impoverished.


The first thing I found in a song was in the first song, Prologue. This song is being sung by Jean Valjean, a jailer who was being punished for stealing a loaf of bread. A line sung in the song by Jean Valjean is:  


“I stole a loaf of bread.

My sister’s child was close to death

And we were starving.”


The first part was sung by Jean Valjean, who, as he said, stole a loaf of bread 19 years ago, because he and his family were starving to death, like most people during this time period, near the June Rebellion in 1832. This line shows us the circumstances in which he stole the loaf of bread: He and his family were starving, they were dying, and all he stole was a loaf of bread, and he was sentenced to five years in prison. There was an inspector, a police officer, named Javert during this song as well. Javert thinks that crime and dishonesty is never okay, no matter the circumstances, no matter the backstory. He believes the law should never be broken, never, therefore thinking crime and dishonesty (as it relates to the law) is never okay. He thinks of the world in black and white, things are this way or that way, law abiders and wrong doers. I know that I think that crime and dishonesty is okay here, because of, once again, how dire the situation was, and how it was only one little loaf of bread. Jean Valjean had good intentions.


There is more to say, but I will put that in a part II. Who do you agree more with, Javert or Jean Valjean?


We can see connections with this question today, in our society. In the news, we hear about crime and dishonesty all the time, but I think we need to take some things into consideration beforehand, before we react to seeing crime and dishonesty. Think about Les Mis, if you heard about these stories of these people, you may think one thing, but once you hear backstories, what people had to go through, you may think another.



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