1.8.4

Brick!club, Les Miserables 1.8.4 , 1.8.5

Well, weather seems determined to knock me offline this week.  But at least I can get today’s post up on time?

First, though!

1.8.4- Authority Gains its Power

And Fantine gets another handful of snow down her back.

Really, all these shocks to Fantine’s system seem to come from men who don’t even recognize that she HAS a system. If the previous Javert chapters were the ones that made him fascinating, then this is the one that makes him repellent to me–not because he gives Fantine her last little push over the edge, that may have been  inevitable, but because he doesn’t CARE. In their last interaction, as viciously overpowering as he may have been, he was focused on Fantine, he was thinking about her, she wasn’t just a speedbump in his duty. Now she’s not even that, not even a distraction, just an eyesore before the glory of his triumph. She dies,and he doesn’t even pause to notice a life ended, because it was an unworthy life in his eyes. This is the ugliest thing in Javert, for me, that he can unperson someone this way.*

And yet I still don’t hate him. It’s just…sad. He should be better than that. I think part of why Javert works as the antagonist (again, for me) is that he SHOULD be better than this; he’s got so much in him that’s good and fine, but it’s been beaten into this shape. If the real villain in Les Mis is society, than Javert, who IS order and lawful justice but still wrong, is a wonderful expression of it. And taken just as a character, it makes me sad and not just angry, and that’s…scarier, somehow.

Whatever he is, he’s scary enough to give Fantine her final shock.  And it must have been a great one, because she dies and loses her era-appropriate Plot Disease-ity beauty.  But, uh. Then she gets it back. Because Valjean says something to her (I’m assuming “your child will want for nothing” or words to that effect.)

1.8.5- A Fitting Grave

Oh, townsfolk of M-sur-M. You are as fickle as your sidequest-hatching Adventure Town nature would have me expect. Although I am highly amused by the one crotchety old anti-Bonapartiste woman. At least that’s SORT OF like a political opinion. I shall pretend that she was one of the handful that always disliked him, cursing his name and factory as the work of that darn Bonapartiste every time she went by.

I love Hugo’s cheerful lampshading here. “If you’re wondering how Valjean got in/ and other plottish facts/lalala/ then repeat to yourself ‘We don’t need to know’/ just brace for the Feels Attack!”

And, oh, there it is. Am I going to talk about how Fantine gets brushed aside in her death, how even the curé doesn’t think her deserving personal notice, even as part of a bequest ? NOPE NOPE NOPE I am not. I’m not a big one for burials myself, I would be completely content to be vulture food, but there’s no mistaking that FANTINE would have liked a fancier burial, and that this is a way the living of her society show their contempt. She “bore on her brow the mark of the anonymous”, and she never loses it. Does even Valjean ever really see her, and not a sort of living morality test? I don’t know, but it bothers me. It bothers me even more thinking about that woman in Arras who killed her child (apparently) and all the other women of the town who don’t get a Volume  about them, and I’m about to spiral into Have You Ever REALLY LOOKED at Theories of Group Loyalty, Like Whoa,  mode so I’ll move on, but this bothers me

Tomorrow: Cue ABBA and give my Feelings About Group Identity time to fester, we’re finally facing down WATERLOO.

* And one of the many, many reasons I’ll go BUT NO to the Enjolras-is-Javert-of-the-Revolution arguments– Javert sees anyone outside his faith as not human, even when they do nothing against him. Enjolras sees people trying to kill him and everyone with him as brothers; they may be enemies, but they’re never nothing. It’s an important difference.

Brick Club: 1.8.4 "Authority Reasserts Its Rights"

So, the main points of this chapter is that Javert managed to scare Fantine to death. Which is upsetting. I think I like it better in the show and the movie, where she’s already passed on before he comes in with his “Valjean/at last/We see each other plain!”

But, for what it’s worth, this is a powerful moment. Javert, transfigured by his triumph, is absolutely primal, and he aims as well to strip down Valjean to what he sees as the essence of the man – the criminal. He can’t even articulate one sentence properly. I don’t know the original, so I’ll have to leave translation comparisons for someone else, but the idea of the syllables sliding together into a roar is some absolutely brilliant writing.

And Valjean. Jesus, Valjean. Trying so hard to be good, and obviously wanting his freedom (another major theme of the story, I would think – what the need for freedom will drive a man to.), and he asks Javert to give him the chance to save Cosette.

And Javert, oh, Javert, only now seeing the criminal where once he saw M. le Maire, refuses to believe in his compassion, refusing to be taken for a fool. I love Javert, and this chapter makes me incredibly sad for everyone; Fantine, because she will never see her daughter, and died bewildered and afraid, Valjean, because he really must say goodbye to the life he knew in M. sur M. one way or another, and Javert because he’s so wrong, but he wants so badly to do what’s right…ugh, and he doesn’t even see it so.

Goddamnit Javert.

Also, I really like that Hugo doesn’t make Valjean’s words to Fantine explicit. I read once in the novelisation of The Princess Bride, that everybody, even fictional people, needs at least one moment of pure, true privacy. I like a lot that we get that here. I mean, we can infer that he’s promising to take Cosette into his keeping – that’s what the show does – but it’s nice. Especially since something comes over Fantine in that moment, too.

But yeah. I’m excited about tomorrow’s chapter as well, tbqh. “Confrontation” is my favorite song in the musical, and it’s going to be really cool to see where it was pulled from.