Re-Reading Les Misérables

Thoughts and commentary on Victor Hugo’s masterpiece.

A Few Thoughts on the Mysterious Monsieur Madeleine

Surely “Pere Madeleine” must have invented a first name, even if no one was on first name basis with him. I don’t think it’s ever mentioned.

He enjoys reading (or at least does so out of habit), while Javert hates books, but reads because he feels like he ought to.

He’s also a crack-shot, but “never killed a harmless animal. He never shot a small bird.” … like a lark, for instance?

Heh… Hugo describes animals as “the visible spectres of our souls.” Not as literally as in His Dark Materials, of course…

Javert does try to help with the cart accident, by sending someone for a jack. (Of course they’ve got one.) Also, the way no one will help until Madeleine lifts the cart, but everyone suddenly rushes in afterward, fits with behavior like diffusion of responsibility.

Valjean has little reason to fear Javert more than any other inspector at this point. Javert’s new, or might as well be. Sure, some of the hints he drops are a bit worrying, but Valjean doesn’t recognize Javert (he was one of many guards passing through Toulon), and has no reason to think Javert might recognize him. It’s not personal. Yet.

Fantine & Javert are both thrown for a loop by Madeleine’s intervention. She deludes herself into thinking Javert had a change of heart & thanks him effusively. He’s frozen in place until she starts to walk out of the police station.

I still love the way Madeleine quotes regulations & pulls rank to get Javert to release Fantine. It comes back to bite him, of course, but it’s still very satisfying.

What, no endnotes on reference to Homer, Milton or Dante? That really points out who’s still well-known!

Valjean’s nightmare still reminds me of the land of the dead in the Earthsea books. More so now. I find myself thinking of Le Guin, and Ged, and Tehanu, being true to oneself, and tearing down the wall that trapped souls in the Dry Lands.