Lesson: Les Miserables 3--Law, Mercy, and Forgiveness

Story by Victor Hugo

 Ten years later, Javert was the new police chief at city where Valjean had become mayor.  One day he arrested Fontine after someone falsely accused her of an attack.  Valjean came and took her out of jail and put her in a hospital.  By then Fontine was dying and she asked Valjean to take care of Cosette.  Javert found out who Valjean really was and wanted to arrest him, but Valjean begged him for a few days for him to rescue Cosette and then he would go to jail with Javert.  Javert won't allow him to do that and so Valjean had to knock him down and escape.
 Eight years later, Javert was a spy trying to find out what the students were up to, but he was recognized by little boy.  He was caught and given to Valjean to kill.  Valjean let him go free.  After the battle, Valjean rescued Marius and was caught by Javert.  Valjean once again asked for some time to help Marius.  Javert agreed because he owed Valjean his life.  After Valjean left, Javert confessed that he had broken the law himself and cannot stand that fact, and he committed suicide.

Javert was a police chief.  Do you think he was doing a good job?

Valjean had become a pretty good person after he broke parole.  Should Javert just leave him alone?  Why wouldn't Javert do that?
- Javert could only look at law, and the law says to punish the criminal.  The law doesn't give provisions for mercy.

Twice Valjean asked Javert for some time for him to finish his job of helping people (Fontine and Marius).  Why wouldn't Javert allow that?  Was that Javert's job to be nice to people?
- Javert was too focused on his job of upholding law.

When Javert was let go by Valjean, he said he still would pursue him no matter what.  Why?
- While Valjean may have mercy on Javert, it is a personal matter between Javert and Valjean.  Javert was still thinking about doing his job as police.

Why did Javert let Valjean go the last time when he was helping Marius?
- Javert felt that he had to repay his debt this way
- Javert felt merciful for once

Why did Javert commit suicide?
- He realized that he could not fulfill his ideals of upholding the law.  His whole life was spent on keeping the law and now he had to break one, and he couldn't stand that fact.

What does this tell us about the law and living a perfect life according to the law?  If we try to live such a life, would life really be good?  Would there be mercy?  Would everyone end up being in jail sooner or later?

God is perfectly righteous.  Could God end up like Javert?  Would any of us ever make it to heaven if God is like Javert?

This lesson was developed by George Huang.  Got a question or want to publish this lesson?  E-mail me.

Last updated: 6/24/2000