I stumbled upon the, PBS/Masterpiece production of Les Misérables a few weeks ago. I jumped at the chance to watch it hoping it would not be another musical adaptation… a-hem. And blessedly, it was not.
This version that PBS has produced is well, almost too good to put into words. After the first episode, I didn’t just cry… I sobbed; SOBBED I tell you! It was so moving that I went out that week and procured a copy of the book by, Victor Hugo to read. PBS, I… just… well… er, um… sigh. I really cannot find the words to tell you how much I have enjoyed your adaptation of this novel. For the rest of my readers (As if PBS will ever see this post but oh well, I will still write it because it’s really for all of you who do.)
I highly recommend watching this series. Go to PBS and catch up on the past three episodes if you have not already watched them or even if you have and wish to watch them again, and then keep watching every Sunday night until it is finished (I don’t know how many episodes there will end up being as part of the series.).
Why do I love this mini-series so much? I think it perfectly captures the true spirit of repentance, how God’s love should shown to others by us when the Bishop, and the mother superior show kindness to Jean Valjean.
The main character, Jean Valjean is sentenced to 20 years in a prison hulk (A massive ship filled with condemned men.) for attempting to steal a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s children. TWENTY YEARS!!! He is finally released after having completed serving his time. Of course, being a prisoner he is treated poorly, and taken advantage of by just about everyone he meets until he seeks a place to sleep at the home of a kindly bishop. I am so glad that PBS did not alter this part of the story line. Many classic literature theses deal with the relationship between God and man. It is a major theme in many books prior to WWI. It is still a part of literature today but not AS much as it has been in the past. The bishop perfectly shows, Jean Valjean the love of Christ. Jean Valjean- having just been released from prison, is still grappling with his freedom and what it means to be a former convict in a very typically judgemental society, metaphorically bites the hand of the bishop after he has given him food and rest. He steals the bishop’s silverware. It ends up being a humorous scene between the bishop and his young housemaid when it is discovered that the cutlery has gone missing. When, Jean Valjean is caught with the silver and brought back to the bishop’s house by the police so that the bishop may identity, Jean Valjean as the thief and send him back to prison for the rest of his life, the bishop does NOT sell out, Jean Valjean to the authorities. He gives him the candle sticks so that he can pawn them as well to help fund his new life. Wow. It’s reminds me of those stories of old ladies who get mugged but end up giving their muggers more money. Do people need to go to jail and have their lives ruined over every little thing? How would a person turn out if they were given a chance to prove themselves capable of change because they were shown kindness? Few people are able to display good character traits if they are never exposed to them in the first place. You can read people scripture all day but if you are crushing them while you do it they will not learn how to love God. People can go to church everyday and still end up in hell. This is why it is so important for each person who calls themselves a Christian to show the people around them the love of God. Not the hammer of God… the love of God. Which brings us to, Javert.
Javert has a major cataract in his eye and its name is, Jean Valjean. Javert cannot get over, Jean Valjean. Upon, Jean Valjean’s release from prison, Javert predicted Jean Valjean would be back in the prison hulk within a year and if that happened, he would die in prison.
When, Jean Valjean leaves the bishop’s house for a second time, he comes across a small boy who stupidly is singing and tossing a coin up in the air and catching it as he walks down the road. Not the best and brightest thing to do, young man. You never know when a hardened criminal type might be lurking behind a tree… and he was… and he took that boy’s 40 sous.
Javert cannot allow, Jean Valjean to escape what, Javert insists is justice. Despite the good things, Jean Valjean has done as penance for his previous life as a failed thief and convict; Javert only ever sees him as a despicable convict. Javert cannot even feel mercy toward, Fantine when she is gang raped as a prostitute desperately trying to earn money to feed her child. Javert does not understand mercy nor does he know the meaning of true justice. He only knows black and white and his own perverted sense of ‘justice’. Too much power & little to no mercy have made him a hard and dangerous man.
Jean Valjean; failed thief, convict, thief again, successful business man, convict again, escaped convict, guardian of Fantine’s child- Cosset, fugitive and gardener. He has found mercy again at a convent. The mother superior certainly could have turned him in to the search party banging on the convent doors. A search party lead by, Javert. Javert, driven by pride. He cannot be made to look weak of foolish. Although no one but he recognized, Jean Valjean and he could have pretended not to know the true identity of the successful business man and mayor of a particular small French town in which he found himself to be the new sheriff, Javert exposes, Jean Valjean and begins an avalanche of doom upon so many lives.
What would it have hurt, other than his useless pride, if Javert had just kept what he knew to himself? Nothing. jean Valjean had turned his life around. He prayed everyday. he started a business making rosaries and other religious items and employed whomever wanted to work. He was a blessing to the town in he lived. All of that was ruined for a petty vendetta. How much have we been robbed of because of our useless pride? How many lives have we negatively impacted because of pride? Do we really need to stand up for ourselves against every little offense or insult? No. If we follow the example set forth for us by, Christ we can see how to respond to offense and insult. We can see how if Christ had let His pride get in the way (After all He IS the King of Kings!) He would never have given Himself up on the cross. Oh the humility of allowing Oneself to be set upon by the very creatures You created!
Les Misérables is on again on Sunday night (tomorrow). It has taken me a week to put this post together. You might want to binge watch the previous episodes to catch up. It is worth it. Nothing else on t.v. tomorrow night will edify you as this show will.