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« Fourth miserable thought: The face of God | Main | Sixth Miserable Thought: Eponine on her own »


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As one of the few among my friends who actually enjoyed Crowe's performance (apart from the solos, which I think could've used maybe just a teensy bit more pizzazz), I love this.

One question, though, and SPOILER ALERT for anyone who hasn't seen it so stop reading now:

In light of this analysis, though, what do you make of him pinning that medal on Gavroche at the barricade? Sure, he was a kid but he still broke the law. It's a sign, perhaps, that his sense of self is shifting (it's been a couple weeks, but I think Crowe's eyes even register some mild surprise at the gesture, or maybe I just like to think that because I think Crowe the actor's been taken out for a disproportionate snarkfest) since his big final number is on its way, but I found it the most curious thing for that character to do. Moving, yes, but curious.

Lance Mannion

scottmichael, I didn't know what to make of the gesture either, but your reading of it as a sign that Javert's sense of self is shifting seems right to me now. It makes sense that Javert would see his own young self in Gavroche. But in trying to better his lot Gavroche hasn't gone it alone and cut himself off from companionship and sympathy. He's failed where Javert succeeded but he died with friends around him he was trying to help and who were trying to help him. If that's what Javert is saluting by pinning the medal on him, then it's an admission that his, Javert's way, is if not the wrong way, not the only way up and out.


Yes, this is very much in the vein of what I've been planning to write about Javert … Good stuff. "Stars" is a fantastic song because it captures Javert's mindset so well, which is the worldview of a staunch social conservative, law-and-order edition. He's unusual compared to most movement conservatives in that he has honor. He views himself as a good guy, unimpeachable, but causes pain, making him one of the most fascinating characters in every version of Les Miserables. He believes that the good prosper, thus, if you do not prosper, you must not be good; your misfortune is your own fault, and there is great morality in punishing those who break the law. Javert is a zealot, but he's not a sadist, unlike those right-wing bloggers who truly despise the poor. Keep in mind, too, that in the early chapters of the book Javert shows enormous respect for nuns and priests; he respects all authority, all "civilizing" institutions, even if he exalts the law above all. Javert believes in justice, and the correction value of punishment, whereas the Bishop of Digne believes in compassion and mercy. Both Valjean and Javert are shown an act of kindness they do not really deserve, and it shatters their worldviews; Valjean changes for the better, whereas Javert cannot really adjust. In his way, his response is honest; he doesn't retrench in self-justification like a climate change denier or Birther or self-deluding racist or Medicare-collecting teabagger. He's much more admirable than Thenardier (whose one admirable quality is being a survivor). I think their relative power matters, too; Valjean has been trod upon, is instinctual and somewhat brutish, but a man of standing shows him kindness, and sees in him something Valjean did not see himself. He has lived a life of reaction, but he discovers the world is not as cruel as unfair as he thought. In contrast, Javert has some power, and previously had an ironclad view of himself – and now his noble self-image is shattered. He must consider his very conscious (and what he had thought to be righteous) actions. He's fascinating, and pitiable. One of the best lines in the musical comes when Valjean sings to him, "You've done your duty – nothing more."


I took the gesture as Javert's acknowledgement that Gavroche had told the truth when Javert was telling lies. Maybe that's too simplistic, but my only other thought was that it was a bit of Russell Crowe's overthought acting process, so I went with the honesty explanation.

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