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?
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.