Two friends once lived, side by side, in a dark, scary, hopeless, and painful place. This place sustained physical life, but you could also expect degradation, abuse, and abject misery on an ongoing basis. Stephen, one of the two, wandered around and saw a lovelier place – he looked through the bars of the fence separating the two places, and on the other side he observed sunshine, bright colors, flourishing plants, laughing people, and safety.
The more he looked at it, the more he liked it. Finally, he
decided to see if he could squeeze through the bars in the fence.
And he was just able to fit through! He felt like, at long last,
he could breathe! As he noticed two butterflies dancing around
each other, he found himself smiling. So he turned around, looking
back toward the misery and darkness on the other side of the fence.
“Clara! Clara! You have GOT to come here! It’s so wonderful!”
Clara, used to Stephen’s company, made her way close to the fence,
and was able to squeeze through the bars as well, but then she
stopped. In her hand was a large suitcase, and the suitcase, in
fact, was so wide that it was not fitting through the bars. So
Clara tried rotating the suitcase, tugging at it every which way,
but only found that it was entirely too big to fit at all.
She made her way back through the bars to rejoin the bag. “Well
Stephen, it looks like that place isn’t for me. I can’t just leave
behind everything I’ve known.” Stephen thought for a few minutes,
and then brightened up. “I think I can explain what’s happening!”
he said, “if you bring that suitcase with you, then this place will
also become dark and miserable. The only way for you to enjoy this
place, with the light and plants and everything nice over here, is
to leave behind the suitcase itself – it carries darkness.”
“No, no,” retorted Clara. “What’s gotten into you? There isn’t
anything wrong with my bag, or what’s inside. This is good stuff.
I’m really not sure why you have a problem with it. In fact, this
land over here isn’t that bad. I think you should come back. I’m
going to get lonely without you.”
“Well,” said Stephen slowly, “I certainly don’t like the idea of
you being lonely. But, uh, I don’t think I’m going to move back
into the oppressive darkness. I’m not sure how you can stand it
there. Over here, it seems you can plant things, eat fruit, roll
around on the grass, and feel love and joy! What wouldn’t you like
about it? You could just try it for a while!”
“What nonsense! The light over there burns my eyes, and it makes my
clothes look dingy. Over here, I can respect myself. I don’t
believe in a better place, this place IS the best place I’ve ever
been to, the best place I’ve known, and I think that you just
aren’t enjoying it anymore because you mind has been corrupted.”
Clara took a deep breathe, pulled her face into a scowl, and
continued, “Here’s proof too that your mind has been corrupted –
you used to be just fine over here, and then one day you decided
that you wanted to quit the friendship, causing me to wallow in
loneliness and misery! If that’s not twisted, I don’t know what is!”
Stephen walked around, enjoying the place, and thinking over what
Clara had said. It certainly did make sense from where she was
standing. Perhaps if she could experience a little bit of this
place, she might come to like it! So he picked several
wildflowers, came over to the fence, and offered them to her. Clara
took them, and sniffed them.
“See,” Stephen said, “I do enjoy your company, and I don’t want you
to have to stay lonely. That’s why I keep inviting you to come and
join me here! Aren’t the flowers nice? There are TONS more where
those came from. You would love it! And you would have lots of
people, and affection – the only thing you would lose is your
suitcase, and honestly it doesn’t seem to be bringing you a whole
lot of happiness right now.”
“NO! HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU?” Clara yelled,
“Just stop it, okay?? I’m sick of this. You’re selfish and
terrible for leaving, and I’m not going to join you. You need to
fix yourself so that you will come back and appreciate how nice it
is here, and I’m keeping my suitcase thank you very much!”
Stephen shook his head sadly. As much as he wanted Clara to have
this new life he enjoyed so much, she didn’t really seem to see it
the same way. He started to wander off, to explore the wonderful
place some more, but he turned back and said, “Good bye for now.
I’ll keep coming back to this place each day, to try to invite you
again, but I know it’s your choice to stay there or to come here.
As for me, I’m going to live in the light. I could come back to the
shame and darkness, but I’m not about that kind of life anymore.”
Translation: The Miserables
Translation: All Humans Born into this Sin-drenched World
The first time I watched Les Miserables, I was confused by the lack of a “main character.” That is, at first Jean Valjean seemed to be the primary focus, but then it switched to the Revolutionaries and the main couple (Marius and Cosette), before it finally concluded with Jean Valjean’s death and welcome into paradise. The connections escaped me.
But recently, I watched it again, and I started to have this theory that the story is really about the journey of just one person – and that the internal workings of that one person is represented by a slew of characters. It’s like a better version of “Pilgrim’s Progress,” I think, because it more accurately pictures what the Christian journey is like. France is your own heart – that’s why spiritual poverty, when it happens, is pictured in all of the supporting characters, and when paradise is reached, it is France at peace.
The journey, the story, goes from slavery to sin to salvation to final peace in heaven. It’s the path of maturity, from spiritual poverty to spiritual riches. But what does that look like? I noticed another set of variables in the story. There is a journey from less transparency (Valjean living under an alias) to more and more transparency, and to feeling haunted/hunted by the law less and less until forgiveness is all we feel. As we learn to be genuine, we internalize the concept that the law’s dominion over us has ended.
At the end of the story is the marriage of the young male character and the young female character – masculine together with feminine – while the beginning is Jean Valjean falling into sin (stealing bread) and slavery because of law without love, while Fantine falls into sin because of love without law (without covenant or commitment).
Suppose that the story is about one person, who has a masculine side and a feminine side (law and love, giving and receiving) progressing through time:
|The Dream||Slavery to Sin||The Rescue||The New Dreamers||Deaths||The Dream Fulfilled|
|(Chronological||development||forward||through||time, until finally ->||Resurrections)|
|PROVIDER||Javier||Jean Valjean||Gavroche||Javier dies with Gavroche||Marcus|
|LOVED||Lovely Ladies||Fantine||Eponine||The Lovely Ladies theme dies after Eponine dies in the revolution||Cosette|
“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone.” – Jesus
The Bishop – represents Christ – The one who sacrifices to ransom Valjean from the law(police) and from the power of sin.
“The Law” – Javert – The internalization of condemnation, the law without love or grace.
The Sinner/Slave – 24601/Jean Valjean – The condemned sinner/the slave who is given grace and provision so that he can become an honest man.
Act I – A Story of Redemption
The story starts with Jean Valjean a slave because of a past crime – he wanted to protect his sister’s son from death, chose to steal, and then experienced the merciless and dehumaning force of the law against him for the next 18 years.
He finally is released, but is rejected everywhere he goes because of being an ex-con. This continues until the bishop, representing God and grace, opens his doors in love to Valjean. Valjean then trespasses against the bishop by stealing from him – and the melody of the law is introduced as the police drag him back to the bishop’s place. The bishop shows grace by sacrificing (silver) to provide for Valjean (“I have bought your soul for God”), protecting him from the law, and making it clear that the gift was for the purpose of making him into an honest man (grace never bids us to continue in sin). He introduces a melody line of grace that is picked up later in the story
Jean Valjean contemplates it very carefully. He confesses that the world has sin (“They are the guilty, every one”), and then confesses that he himself had become sinful (“What have I done? Sweet Jesus, what have I done? Become a thief in the night, Become a dog on the run”).
“The one unequivocal sin that Valjean commits in stealing the bishop’s silver is actually done out of a sense of retribution at the injustice with which he feels the world has treated him:
‘They gave me a number and murdered Valjean
When they chained me and left me for dead
Just for stealing a mouthful of bread …
Take an eye for an eye! Turn your heart into stone!
This is all I have lived for! This is all I have known!’
Valjean’s actions follow the logic of an ‘eye for an eye’ in the sense that Valjean justifies stealing the silver as retribution for the world’s cruel injustice of locking him up “for stealing a mouthful of bread.” It is retributive ‘justice’ measured from the perspective of particularity rather than universality and perversely ‘paid forward’ to an undeserving recipient.” – Morgan Guyton
Jean Valjean, though, chooses to accept grace and “escape from the world of Jean Valjean.” That is, to escape the world of the sinner under condemnation. Then he tears up the law’s handwritings against him (in the movie, he does this next to a cross).
“I’ll escape now from the world
From the world of Jean Valjean
Jean Valjean is nothing now
Another story must begin”
This part of the story is where our Christian journey begins – we are enslaved and while we beg for mercy (“Look down!!”) we think that God doesn’t care (“Sweet Jesus doesn’t care”) until we meet grace for ourselves in response to our sin. Then we choose to accept the lovingly-offered free gift of grace – provision and forgiveness. We are no longer slaves, and we also are reborn – another story must begin! Stage 1 is conversion.
We start to see some themes that will run through the whole story. First of all, physical riches in this story seem to stand for spiritual riches – in the first part here, Valjean goes from complete poverty to riches (all the silver given), which he uses to become a successful factory owner (ongoing income has been provided). Secondly, one main theme is the the dream that was killed; this segment gives us a glimpse of what Valjean’s dream had been – being a provider – yet we also see why that dream had to die eventually – he provided by stealing.
The issue of transparency comes into existence at this point in the story – a rift is created between the old Valjean (the slave to sin) and the new Valjean (servant of God). Full forgiveness from the law is received when grace protects Valjean from the police, and the parole documents are ripped up and thrown away. Similarly, the bishop (representing Christ) sacrifices to ransom Valjean from the law(police) and from the power of sin.
The main question of this stage is this: Does God hear my prayer / does he care? The cry of the heart is “Look down!” (Show mercy)! Now, mercy is given, and grace is shown, and Act I draws to a close as the decision is made: To accept grace when it is shown.
Act II: CLICK HERE to read
The Sinner – Fantine – She is the female version of the main character – her and Jean Valjean are two sides of the same person. Valjean represents action and providing, and his fall was when he went outside of God’s will (stealing) to provide. Fantine represents trust and enjoyment, and her fall was when she trusted and enjoyed a man outside of God’s will (marriage).
The Future – Cosette – Fantine’s future self.
Acts II & III – The Mask & The Sinner
The reason that I combine act II and act III here is that they take place simultaneously. Yet, act II ends with Jean Valjean taking off the mask and declaring his identity, and act III ends slightly after, after Jean Valjean leaves Javert after the confrontation in the hospital.
At the end of the day you’re another day older
And that’s all you can say for the life of the poor
It’s a struggle, it’s a war
And there’s nothing that anyone’s giving
One more day standing about, what is it for?
One day less to be living.
The song, “At the end of the day,” raises questions: How come the end happens near the beginning? And why does the end of the day look so much like miserable poverty? Why are those who are “counting their blessings” also the most harsh, lying, and graceless characters?
Notes on Act II, the Mask:
The main male character has physical riches but these riches are going to waste and are not be used to provide (the dream). He has spiritual riches and grace, but it’s not being shown to anyone. Under his watch, his other half (the main female character) is thrown into the street to starve – no riches. Her dream is also being killed. A serious separation is still happening here – between the provider and those under his jurisdiction (which, as you recall, represents his soul). So, yes, riches are there, but no, he is not benefited from them yet. Why?
The basic problem is that there is a definite lack of transparency. Jean Valjean (the redeemed) lives under the name Madeleine instead, so that the law will not recognize him as Jean Valjean the sinner – he has not yet experienced forgiveness from the law even though God has forgiven him previously. As he talks about how the factory is supposed to be one of “good repute,” he gets distracted by seeing Javert (the law) and then leaves the situation in the hand of the foreman – it is because of his maskiness (concern with alias and repute, avoiding transparency and honesty) that she gets mistreated by HIS jurisdiction.
The whole factory there was a place where sin (the foreman) reigned, and the women did one thing (sleeping with him) while verbally judging and condemning Fantine for sleeping with a man outside of marriage. A very hypocritical (masky) place. Why did the women try to get Fantine fired? In their words, “there’s trouble for all when there’s trouble for one;” this is very reminiscent of the attitude of the pharisees when they chose to crucify Christ because “the death of one man is preferable to the death of the nation.” The bottom line is this: maskiness breeds Pharisaical attitude, and as long as we live in that attitude, we will be avoiding guilt/blame/law by sending the dogs to attack someone else instead. Fantine is left paying a constant ransom to the Inn keepers, when it is killing her.
For this part of the story, Valjean’s main question is “How do I maintain repute and keep Condemnation away from me? The cry of his heart is to be hidden from condemnation. Yet, after another man is condemned instead of him in the court of law he faces the problem eye-to-eye: Will he consent to avoid guilt/blame/law by allowing the dogs to attack someone else instead? He realized that a lack of mercy is the same as a lack of love, and without love, we are without God – “If I stay silent, I am damned.” So at the end of this stage, the closing decision is to finally be transparent and real about who he is and what his past holds.
Act II is the stage when we try to be a better person by pretending that we are not a sinner – wearing a mask. The end of the stage is when we embrace love of others by embracing transparency for ourselves.
Notes on Act III, the Sinner:
After Jean Valjean owns up to his own identity as a sinner, he is freed up to see and to have compassion on Fantine. The story started with Valjean already a slave to sin. This part of the story gives a little more backstory on how we come to be sinners. We have a dream – we pursue that dream in ignorance and outside of the will of God – and then our dream gets squashed beyond all recognition and our hopes are turned to shame. Fantine predicts the death of her character by explaining that “there are storms we cannot weather.” Once sin enters our life, it is “the hell we’re living in” until the old man dies. With Valjean, we can also see the theme that the world takes advantage of us, and then his sin was in lashing out in response. With Fantine, we can see that she wanted to marry the man and be forever by his side, but he sinned by betraying her truth and abandoning her to misery and death, and then she sins by selling her soul in continuation of that pattern (sleeping with men who then leave) to pay off the random of sin.
So, the scene goes down like this: After being discovered and kicked out, Fantine has nothing but transparency. After someone tried to mistreat her, though, she faces condemnation (Javert) directly, but Valjean steps in to show grace instead – mercy and practical help (takes her to hospital). She experiences forgiveness from the law through receiving grace from Valjean. Her dream had been for a man to never leave her side, and that dream lives on in Cosette as Valjean (having transparency now that he admitted aloud that he is 24601) promises to take care of the girl and to pay whatever ransom must be paid to take her back from the Inn keepers. His physical richeswill now be used to provide, and she now has a man she can trust.
Characters who come to Rest In Peace:
The Sinner – Fantine
Why does Fantine die? Well, sin is a seed that grows into death. Just as Valjean will die later, so Fantine finds peace (sleep/death until the later resurrection) now. They are both “the old man” that dies after salvation, while the reborn selves will live on. Cosette is the future self of Fantine, and Fantine finally finds rest when she knows that her baby will be taken care of. While it is true that in Fantine, life has killed the dream in her, the dream she dreamed, it is equally true that the dream is reborn in Cosette and will live on!
The main question of this stage is: “How did this tragedy happen?” And the answer of course is the dream, the dream pursued apart from God, the dream being killed, and finally Fantine needing to die off to make way for a future reborn self to take the stage. “If there’s a God above, He’d let me die instead!” The cry of her heart is for grace, forgiveness, and provision – even deeper than that, she mourns the death of the dream, and wishes that the dream would not be dead forever. The final decision that ends this stage is her decision to trust Valjean + Valjean’s decision to care for Cosette (even though it means rebelling against condemnation (Javert) directly.
I am warning you Javert
I’m a stronger man by far
There is power in me yet
My race is not yet run
Act III is the stage when we learn how we became sinners, and have compassion/desire to help instead of condemnation. This is the part of our lives where we start using our spiritual riches to provide for others (and to provide for ourselves, and our future selves). Transparency allows for connection, relationship, and giving/receiving. Act III is when our heart’s sad song about our own broken dreams finds peace and rest in the hope of future dreams – ones that will not be killed.
CLICK HERE to continue to Act IV
Act IV – Rescuing the Future / Redemption from the House of Sin
Cosette is Fantine reborn. She is the “new creation,” and Fantine’s spirit and dream lives on in Cosette. This part of story opens with Cosette singing about her dream, the Castle in the Clouds, which then is interrupted.
Why is her song interrupted? Because she lives in a loveless house of sin.
We meet the Inn keeper, the Master of the House (in other words, god of this world). He is a vile creature who invites people in, supplies them with sin, and then robs them blind while claiming to be their best friend. If they have more riches later, he is more than ready to make them pay blackmail, unless they want him to pull out his accuser-of-the-brethren card and split their secrets and past sins to anyone who will listen.
My band of soaks, my den of dissolute’s
My dirty jokes, my always pissed as newts
My sons of whores spend their lives in my inn,
Homing pigeons homing in
They fly through my doors,
And they crawl out on all fours
Welcome, Monsieur, sit yourself down
And meet the best innkeeper in town
As for the rest, all of ’em crooks:
Rooking their guests and crooking the books
Seldom do you see
Honest men like me
A gent of good intent
Now, this is the second time in the story when hospitality is shown. The bishop, obviously, represents the hospitality of God – extended with love, offering good sustenance, and even sacrifice in order to redeem and change sinners. The “master of the house” offers Cosette a place to stay without love, without enough to eat, and invites people in not to change them but to let them engage in sin – he is “content” with that. As for sacrifice, while the bishop (and Christ) sacrifice for others, the master of the house boldly declares: “doesn’t cost me to be nice.” Yet of course, there is the barb as well: “But nothing gets you nothing – Everything has got a little price!” He goes on to take everything they’ve got (without ending up any richer himself).
Also, it is interesting to note that AS he robs people blind, he is singing about how he is only honest innkeeper in town, and everyone else lies, steals, and fixes prices. In other words, he gets people to trust him by describing all of his *own* characteristics and then ascribing them to others.
The plotline proceeds with Valjean, having embraces his role as a provider, finding Cosette in the cold woods all alone, and then walking with her back to the Inn, to redeem her from that place. He could have rescued her just by kidnapping her, but instead he takes this stance:
I am here to help Cosette
And I will settle any debt you may think proper
I will pay what I must pay
To take Cosette away.
Naturally, they suddenly pretend to love her, because they don’t want to part with her without getting a very high price. Actually, they claim to have sacrificed out of Christian charity (“It’s no more than we Christians must do!”) yet at the same time have no charity(love) and demand constant payment/ransom (and later blackmail) for what they have “sacrificed.”
In the movie, the Inn Keeper himself keeps referring to Cosette as “Colette” – thus exposing that he does not love her (or indeed, even know her). Isn’t it interesting that the bad guys never really know us? Javert apologized to Valjean for thinking that he was Valjean, after the supposed “Valjean” got caught – Javert did not recognize the fake Valjean as a fake, and he did not recognize the real Valjean as 24601 either.
Comparing this situation with the past pieces of the story, we notice this: Fantine’s innocence was destroyed when she trusted a man who only used and left her. Yet Cosette has a better path – she starts out being trusting as well, and she is sold by the Inn Keeper and his wife, to go off
With a gent
Didn’t tell us where they went
Didn’t leave his home address
You can see how that could have ended badly, had it been any other man. But Cosette’s innocence remains in tact because she is rescued before the point in the story (that Fantine lives through) where truth is taken advantage of.
Anyway, everything works out very nicely. Cosette finds someone to trust to provide and care for – someone to pay the ransom. Valjean finds his role as a provider and rescuer – becoming Christlike. The future is saved (for now) !
Notes on Act IV, Rescue from the House of Sin:
Physical riches are used, and are used well. Instead of being hoarded or going to waste, the riches of Valjean are now being used to sacrifice, to ransom/rescue, and to provide. Representitive of spiritual riches, they are used to rescue Cosette from living under sin. The girl’s dream has been saved before it is shattered, and it lives on – Valjean’s dream of being a provider finally is being realized and lived out.
Because of past transparency, Valjean knows where to find Cosette.the lawoffers no forgiveness, but is close on the heels of Valjean. The ransom is paid for Cosette.
The main question of this chapter is this: Is there love out there? And is there a way to be rescued from the slums of sin? The cry of her heart is to be loved and provided for. The decision that ends this act is Valjean’s decision to pay the Inn keepers as much ransom as they want + Cosette’s decision to trust him and go with him.
Act IV represents the stage of Christianity where we begin to pursue holiness in a meaningful way – rescuing our future selves from “the house of sin” (and unmasking the false advertisements of the devil – seeing the con for what it is), through sacrifice and through passing along the provision that God has given us.
We are able to stop living in spiritual poverty, at long last, which is another result of the riches grace gave to us earlier. We learn to be givers to ourselves (like Valjean), and we receive the benefit of that (as Cosette) and learn again to trust and enjoy love and good gifts that are given. Finally, we stop feeling so worn and dead on the inside, as we provide for ourselves rather than stuffing our needs into the closet.
CLICK HERE to proceed to the Character Guide
This post is not a direct continuation of my blog series on the plotline of Les Miserables.
Rather, it’s just a picture that introduces the characters, in the context of the full plotline:
CLICK HERE to continue to Act ?? – Stars
The song “stars” is Javert’s main number. It is placed at the beginning of the story, in the play. But in the movie, it is sung right after Valjean rescues Cosette. So, I’ll put it here after Act IV for now.
Who Is Javert?
At the very start of the story we learn that he dehumanizes people and becomes obsessive about justice. That is, Jean Valjean tells Javert that his name is Jean Valjean, but Javert will only address him as 24601. Then once Jean Valjean breaks parole by getting rid of that piece of paper and living under a different name (without sin or crime), Javert swears never to rest until Valjean is put in jail again. He see that his obsession with the law is a graceless and unhealthy obsession.
His source of inspiration is the stars – Javert expects people to obey God as much as the stars do – and his idea of God is a graceless fellow who does not like redemption or mercy.
We see this desperate lack of love/grace/mercy/humanity when he is about to throw a dying Fantine into jail – based on a false charge – even though she pleads that her child will die if she goes to jail.
I have heard such protestations
Every day for twenty years
Let’s have no more explanations
Save your breath and save your tears
Honest work, just reward,
That’s the way to please the Lord.
Yet there is more to his story than that. As he said to Valjean:
In his back story, we learn that he was “born with scum like [Valjean] you! I am from the gutter too!” He worked his way up from the bottom, and he isn’t about to accept a handout now. This becomes his moral weakness, since Valjean shows him mercy later, and then he responds by relenting and letting Valjean go to save Marcus. Can he live with mercy and grace?
“Damned if I’ll yield at the end of the chase.
I am the Law and the Law is not mocked!
I’ll spit his pity right back in his face
There is nothing on earth that we share
It is either Valjean or Javert! “
And he kills himself. He is not among the resurrected characters who found rest and accepted death. He swore that he would not rest until Valjean was punished, and now that it’s clear that that will never happen – he kills himself rather than finding rest or grace.
Act V: CLICK HERE to continue to the next act
Gavroche/Enjolras – Revolutionaries – Energetic young men who see oppression and do not stand idly by: they try to protect the future by violent opposition, and seek to avenge the past through bloodshed. The brainchild of Valjean’s sin (vengeance).
Marius – The love of Cosette’s Life – A handsome young man who takes a stand against what’s wrong, yet has a heart full of love (rather than desire to get revenge). The brainchild of Valjean’s good desires to love, provide, and protect; ultimately, he is Valjean reborn.
Act V – War (Dreams of Separation)/ Love (Dreams of Togetherness)
Look down, and show some mercy if you can
Look down, look down, upon your fellow man
At the end of the last act, Valjean rescued Cosette from the Inn Keepers, and so they are both living well. The dilemma of internal poverty has been solved. But when one is not in poverty, one notices and feels for the others who ARE still in poverty. Once again, the cry to “look down” and “have mercy” is sung – but while at the beginning, it was sung about the main character (ie look down on me), now it is sung about all of the beggars of France. This is the problem, and there are two responses to it.
One solution is revenge and separation:
Red – the blood of angry men!
Black – the dark of ages past!
This ties in with (from the song “look down”):
With all the anger in the land
How long before the judgment day?
Before we cut the fat ones down to size?
Before the barricades arise?
The other response is the desire for togetherness:
Red – I feel my soul on fire
Black – My world if she’s not there
Red – The color of desire
Black – The color of despair!
In all, the main problem is a problem of separation: Law without grace. Riches without compassion. Love without commitment. And to this problem, there are two possible solutions – hate the other side, hurt them, and build a barricade of separation (thus continuing the problem) or love the other side, and pursue togetherness.
It’s pretty obvious which solution Enjolras hopes for, and Gavroche with him.
Both Cosette and Eponine are brain children of Fantine – the main woman. She had a dream, and sin killed that dream. The dream lives on in Cosette, and Eponine becomes the embodiment of the dream that died (always wanting, never satisfied). Similarly, Marius and Enjolras/Gavroach are the brain children of Jean Valjean – the main man. He wanted to be a provider, but he sinned in stealing/vengeance at the world for depriving him and his family of food: “”Take an eye for an eye! … I had come to hate this world. This world that always hated me.” The dream of being a provider lives on in Marius, while E/Gavroach become the embodiment of the spirit of hating evil (due to mercy) but then responding to evil with vengeance.
It’s interesting to note that Javier shows respect for Gavroche after his death. Javier believes in law without grace, and so he respected the revolutionaries’ stance of revenge – with no mercy or forgiveness.
Notes on Act V – WAR:
This is the stage when, living in righteousness and fulfillment ourselves, we see evils out there that hurt people and want to take up passionate actions of opposition against those forces. This is the stage of anger over sin. Have you ever been truly angry when you see someone hurt another person? Ultimately, that is a healthy response to the needless pain that we choose to inflict upon each other, but it’s not good to stay there and make them pay (like the revolutionaries), but rather to move on (like Marcus) and learn to love, and provide for others in love, which is the real antidote to sin and pain.
All of the main themes of the story continue. Valjean, Cosette, and Marcus have riches and comfort, and at that moment a revolution is born against the regime of sin and oppression – the revolutionaries’ dream is to use violence/barrades/judgment/separation to get rid of the oppression of the world.
Transparency is being practiced by Gavroche and Enjolras, which enables them to become internally consistent, even should it kill them. Yet, forgiveness is not being shown by them toward their enemies, nor by Javier (the Law) to them. No ransom is mentioned in this section.
However, transparency is not happening everywhere. Valjean is not yet public about who he is, and he will not even tell Cosette. Cosette has also not told Valjean that she loves Marcus. Condemnation(Javert) is still chasing Valjean: Javert is against Valjean and also the revolutionaries. He is willing to lie and trespass to attempt to defeat them, but accepts that death would be the proper consequence when he gets caught.
The main question here is this: This mess of sin and pain-Ideally, what should happen here? The cry of the heart is “Make them pay!” Act V draws to a close as the decision is presented: There is no way for them to win the war, should they continue seeking revenge (killing a few soldiers) if it means their own deaths? The revolutionaries are internally consistent and decide – yes, it’s always worth pursuing revenge, even if forgiveness would mean that more people live.
The Inn-keeper stumbles across Valjean and Cosette and at first tries to con them, but as soon as Valjean is recognized, the Inn-keeper switches to try to squeeze more money out of him for taking Cosette. He already paid her ransom, but the Inn-keeper wants more money (blackmail? “Ransom”?) Meanwhile, Cosette and Marius see each other and fall in love. Then, Javert arrives on the scene. A very interesting intersection of people! And what happens?
The Law is not able to catch Valjean, because Valjean does not stick around to press charges (about the con men).
The Inn-keeper tells Javert about Valjean. He is the accuser of the brethren:
And remember when you’ve nicked him,
It was me who told you so!
(He uses the same tune, to request release, as Fantine did, but Javert actually listens to him. Because there was no one to accuse the Inn-keeper).
Marius and Cosette do not actually get to talk, though, and Marcus is left without a way to contact her, until he sends Eponine to find out where Cosette lives.
However, because Valjean becomes afraid that Javert knows where he lives, he prepares to leave. Cosette writes a letter to Marius, but ultimately they are apart and cannot yet be together.
The dream has been reborn: The girl, wanting him to always be by her side, the man, to provide and protect. Masculine wants to embrace feminine – law wants to embrace grace. This, truly, is the alternative to graceless law. But they cannot be together immediately. Things stand between them:
- The spirit of unsatisfied desire(Eponine) lives on: She has the letter from Cosette and has not yet delivered it to Marius.
- The spirit of vengeance(E/Gavroche) lives on: Therefore there must be a war.
- Jean Valjean is not yet living out transparency, and is running to hide from the law.
Notes on Act V – LOVE:
Both Marius and Cosette are living in spiritual/emotional riches and comfort, but far from being “content” they have a dream: Love and togetherness!
Both are completely genuine and transparent about themselves, their thoughts, feelings, and desires. They are without shame. The law is not after them, and there is no ransom or blackmailto be paid.
The main question of this stage is this: Ideally, what should happen here? The cry of the heart is “Love! Embracing another!” Cosette makes the decision of writing a letter to let Marius know that she loves him, and letting him also know of the obstacles (ie leaving town).
This is the stage when old dreams and hopes are reborn. Like, in the case of Abraham, he had a dream (being a father) and that dream died with time until he thought it would never happen, but then that dream was reborn when God told he would have a kid. He dared to – again – hope.
I dream a dream
Hope is high, and life worth living
I dream that love will never die
CLICK HERE to continue to Act VI
Act VI – Death of the Flesh through Internal Consistency
The nice thing about Gavroach/Enjolras is that they are internally consistent. Enjolra berates Marcus for getting distracted by love, when war is clearly the one and only solution to the problems of France. From the revolutionaries point of view, graceless law (the current gov system there) must be opposed gracelessly and must be opposed violently. They start this plan at the death of Lamarque, continue in arming themselves, setting up barricades, and capturing a spy – Javert. Then, a choice point arrives once they learn that theirs is the only barricade left – they can give up their ideals, or they can die for them. They choose to be consistent – to continue to champion the cause of vengeance – and so they find peace in death (and are resurrected later).
Joining with the revolutionaries, Eponine puts her life carelessly on the line and eventually dies from a gunshot wound. As I said previously, in her the spirit of starvation lives on.
Don’t you fret, M’sieur Marius
I don’t feel any pain
A little fall of rain
Can hardly hurt me now
You’re here, that’s all I need to know
And you will keep me safe
And you will keep me close
And rain will make the flowers grow.
Just hold me now, and let it be.
Shelter me, comfort me.
From her position of hopelessness, sleep until the final resurrection is not necessarily a bad thing. She’s already dead on the inside, and therefore all physical death(sleep, until resurrection) does is to wash away what’s past. (Again, internal consistency). A little death can hardly hurt now.
She takes comfort in love, care, and closeness as she finds peace. Indeed, though, the death of starvation is good for the main character (which includes Vanjean, Fantine, Cosette, Marius, and other characters that sleep until togetherness[marriage] wakes all in the resurrection), I’ll explain why in a moment. First, I will point out that the death of the spirit of starvation(female without male, desire without enactment) is caused by the main character finding love(salvation). One cannot indefinitely hold on to both the fulfillment of all desires and the sad hunger for what one can’t have – one will have to eventually fade away, and ultimately the sad hunger is happier to fade away. In this story, until Eponine dies, she holds on the letter from Cosette (thus keeping her and Marius apart). As she finds peace, this letter is passed along so that love may flourish.
This is the true ending to Fantine’s song, “Life(sin) has killed the dream I dreamed.” The death of Eponine was caused
Now, switching mental scenes here, Javert the spy is handed over to Valjean to be killed. Although Javert has spend years hunting Valjean mercilessly, Valjean decides to show mercy and to let Javert go. Mercy triumphs over judgment. Being shown mercy makes Javert more merciful, and so at their next meeting, he allows Valjean to escape long enough to bring a wounded Marius to the hospital. But at this point, Javert kills himself because he does not want to live in a world with mercy – to him, this translates to the stars going cold and dark. Condemnation and the law are finished chasing Valjean, and yet Valjean is not transparent and hides his true story from Cosette still.
In the last act, dreams were born – dreams of separation and dreams of love. Those who dreamed of separation died of consistency, and they found death (separation of body and spirit). But with the sad dreams at rest, finally the dreams of love CAN start to come together.
Act VI is the stage when the old man dies off. Our sinful dreams are put to rest. How? Internal consistency – we put words to the lies that part of ourselves believes about the world, and then we see where the logical fallacy is. Our flesh says “make them pay” to make right the wrongs of the past, but the truth is that self-sacrificing love is the only thing that heals. Others sin against us, and we finally see that war/revenge/separation does not truly avenge the sins of the past but only serve to take away awesomeness from the world. We get to see where dreams of separation end.
There’s a grief that can’t be spoken
There’s a pain goes on and on
Oh my friends, my friends, don’t ask me
What your sacrifice was for
Empty chairs at empty tables
Where my friends will sing no more
Therefore, like Eponine, we finally let go of false hope in a flawed dream. We realize that we have been believing and hoping this whole time in vain, and finally our sinful dreams die off naturally. Because of sin, there are two unhealthy sides of us – the side that dreams the wrong thing (“Make ’em pay through the nose!”) and the side who is saddens when the right thing happens (“Every word that he says is a dagger in me!”).
In this section of the story, transparency is key. Without consistency between heart and action, the characters who already had death in their heart would not have ended up pursing their dreams and seeing where those dreams ended. The revolutionaries dream was primarily a curse because it was a desire for a lack of forgiveness, death (of the others), and separation (barricades), yet they got to experience the end result of their dream (separation of the body and spirit) and therefore that unhealthy lie was able to die. Follow any half-truth far enough and it will self-destruct.
The main question of this stage is this: Do we shy away from the logical consequences of our desires? The cry of the heart is “What is our sacrifice for?” The revolutionaries sacrificed for revenge (“make them pay for every man”), Marcus saw the pointlessness of their sacrifice, Eponine (the spirit of starvation) was sacrificed for the letter and true love to go forward, Javert sacrificed for judgment without mercy, and Valjean utilized what he’d gained (grace from the Bishop’s sacrifice) to conquer judgment with mercy.
The decision of Act VI is this: follow your dreams to their implications, and if those implications are death, then the old man realizes that what he truly is seeking is death, therefore he embraces that death (“take up your cross”) and the old fleshly miserable self “dies” and finds peace.
CLICK HERE to proceed to Act VII (the final act)
Act VII – Paradise
Referring back to the character guide, we see that all of the characters with black have died off except for ValJean. Of the three main female characters, both Fantine and Eponine have rested in peace, and Cosette remains. Of the three main male characters, only the revolutionary has died – Marius remains, and so does 24601.
As last the dream of togetherness is fulfilled – and Marius and Cosette are married. Let one thing lingers, and that is ValJean’s reluctance to let Cosette know of his past. He is still ashamed of the past. Something comes to set the course in a new direction, and surprisingly, that something comes in the form of the evil inn-keeper.
He comes in, the Accuser of the Brethren, to blackmail Marius about the crimes of ValJean. Marius has had quite enough of the Inn-Keepers crap, learns that ValJean saved his life, learns where ValJean is located (where he is hiding), and throws the Inn-Keepers out. The blackmail, the ransom, it’s done and gone and rejected.
Finally, then, half-awake, ValJean asks, “Am I forgiven?” Once he thinks this way, that his sins are covered and gone, not held against him, then he becomes completely open and transparent – he confesses his past even to Cosette. Once he has done this, he has found peace and rests in peace (death).
Now – this is the conclusion. Of the main characters (refer to part 1, and the chart of the main character progressing through time), 2 female characters have died off, leaving just Cosette. 2 male characters have now died off, leaving just Marius. Cosette and Marius are married together – and life is good. Love has been reached. Thus, we see “paradise” (even Marius and Cosette are seen there) and it’s the end of the story.
Notes on Act VII:
This is the stage when it’s “happily ever after,” which looks like paradise. Until we reach heaven, until we have perfect love, we do not have happily ever after. But this is the final stage of the journey. After everything else is said and done, we who are saved by grace find forgiveness and paradise under God’s direct rule.
Physical Riches (had by Marius and Cosette) are working out, and in the larger scale even all of the dead characters are free, loved, and happy. The dream (of togetherness) is seen in reality – togetherness and love has happened.
Because forgiveness has been internalized, final transparency is reached – there is no more ransom (the guy who charges that sort of thing got blatantly kicked out) and there is also no more condemnation or chasing of people by the law (Javert).
There are no more questions or cries, only answers and happiness. The decisions made include Marius’ decision not to tolerate or respect the accuser or his attempts to shame Valjean, and also Valjean’s decision to interalize that forgiveness was finally offered by God and to keep no more secrets.
Jesus once explained, “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” What does this tells us about Jesus, and what does it refer back to in the Old Testament? To me, I see that it connects with so much, it’s hard to know where to begin. I guess I’ll start with just discussing the word Sabbath itself.
“Look busy” never made it to the top ten commandments that God had for us. Most of the commandments, in fact, are about NOT doing something. Don’t worship idol, don’t murder, avoid using God’s name in vain, stop coveting, do not cheat on your wife, and so on. The three positive commands (positive = adding something) were the instructions to love God, to honor the Sabbath and rest (along with everyone under your jurisdiction), and to honor one’s parents. In the Old Testament, God made it clear first of all that we are echoing Him when we rest on the Sabbath, and spells out that we do what He did when He worked for six days to create the world, and then sat back to rest and enjoy His handiwork on the seventh day. Creation is the first time that we get to see this relationship between work and rest. And in putting that as part of the ten commandments for us, God explicitly spells out that He wants us to practice that same work/rest relationship. This was so important, in fact, that we read this in His Word: “For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of Sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death” (Exodus 31:15). For us in the American culture, it seems CRAZY for God to set working too much as a death penalty sort of sin. Doesn’t He understand the importance of being productive?
Similarly, God spelled out that He wanted His people to give the land itself a Sabbath. We read in Leviticus 25: “When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a Sabbath to the Lord… In the seventh year the land is to have a year of Sabbath rest, a Sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards.” Now, you know how people are. They view this more as “guidelines” than actual rules, and therefore got carried off into captivity. And this, interestingly enough, was a blessing to their land: “Then the land will enjoy its Sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its Sabbaths.” They were gone in captivity that time for 70 years, the exact number of Sabbath years that they had not allowed their land. “The land enjoyed its Sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah” (2 Chronicles 36:21). Why on earth was it such a big deal? What’s so special about rest? Well first of all, we know that God loves it and loves it enough to INSIST that we and our land practice it. But God wants us to understand it even more than that. Solomon put it this way: “Do not overwork to be rich; Because of your own understanding, cease!” And what understanding would help us to know the difference between work and overwork? I think that the difference is that “overwork” forgets it’s purpose. If we work so that we gain enjoyable results, then working to the exclusion of enjoyment is nonsense. If we labor so that we can enter rest, then laboring to the exclusion of rest is a lack of understanding.
“There is one alone, without companion:
He has neither son nor brother.
Yet there is no end to all his labors,
Nor is his eye satisfied with riches.
But he never asks,
“For whom do I toil and deprive myself of good?”
This also is vanity and a grave misfortune.”
Here in Ecclesiastes, we read about the sorry case of the man who never asks himself about the purpose of labor. And therefore he has labor, but he has no rest/enjoyment and no relationships. He embraces work to the exclusion of the rightful end/purpose of work. Looking at the Bible as whole, it’s clear that God wants us to work, like He works, and He wants us to rest as well. 6 parts work to 1 part rest – it’s like a receipt which calls for 6 cups of muffin mix and 1 cup of milk (and then bake). If you just have muffin mix without milk, it’s dry, like work without rest. But if you have rest without work (laziness) then it’s like just baking milk. Neither way will produce the correct end result. Earlier we asked, “Doesn’t He understand the importance of being productive?” And the answer is – Yes, He understands. He understands better than we understand, and the way He tells us to live, rest is the end goal, the importance, of being productive. Now, isn’t it interesting, though, that the man who rejects rest/enjoyment is the one who is alone and without relationships. Is there some connection between those two things?
If the goal of work is rest, and the reason for production is enjoyment of what has been produced, then to work without ever reaching rest is as pointless and tragic as the situation of the couple in the following story – A man a woman, both reasonably poor, get married and love each other a lot. However, there is no money to take a honeymoon together. So the man gets a second job, and he says to his wife, “I love you! I will work and save money so that we can finally take that honeymoon trip and enjoy each other.” But then he gets enough money and spends it on more cars and a bigger house (yet is usually in the office and not home), and he continues to work long hours and make more and more money. He forgets that the goal was to spend time enjoying his wife, and spends all his time at his first and second jobs, and then sleeping at night. The honeymoon, the original goal, is forgotten and does not occur; neither does the man quit his second job to go back to spending a decent amount of time with his wife. A sad ending, but also the logical result of beginning a worthwhile task and then losing track of the end goal of that task.
Are we, as God’s people, intended to have Sabbaths? To rest? To enjoy our work? Are we intended to spent time reading, meditating, relating to God and others, and just talking? “It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late… For He gives His beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2). But it’s a journey to that promised land. “As yet, you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 12:9). Rest is part of our inheritance that the Lord gives us for free, as His children. It’s what He wants for us. David is called the man after God’s own heart. What school did he go to, to learn to enjoy the things of God? Well, he grew up as a shepherd, just spending time with his sheep and with his God, caring for his sheep and being cared for by God. David learned to invite his own soul to rest – “Be still, and know that I am God.”
“The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
My cup runs over.”
Now David actually accepted and enjoyed the rest of the Lord. But not everyone of God’s people did. We hear about this in Isaiah (28, 30):
“To whom He said, ‘This is the rest with which You may cause the weary to rest,’ And, ‘This is the refreshing’; Yet they would not hear.”
“For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.’ But you would not”
Finally, God sent His own Son to earth, the one who can bring us true rest, for we will rest in His work on the cross to bring us salvation. But He came to His people, and they did not know Him. The pharisees did not want rest because they wanted to work for their salvation and get the credit, and they didn’t want Him giving rest to the others because it would take away their own authority (which, in the words of Christ, they were using to “bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers”). He preached a revolutionary message.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Now, this is counter-intuitive even to us! Aren’t we supposed to be dying to ourselves and bearing crosses? Well of course. But when we die to self, we actually find true rest in Christ. We don’t need to haul around our own burdens and lies and troubles – we are called to be “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” Now, just as the Son of God was sentenced to death for blasphemy, He also “got in trouble” for His views about the Sabbath. Jesus was not afraid to marry the concepts of healing and sabbath rest, and the pharisees were really angry. In response, He clarified that HE was the Lord of the Sabbath – He was the ruler over the Sabbath and could choose how it gets implemented, and He was the one who invented the Sabbath to begin with and knows it’s purpose. After Jesus walked the earth, it became clear what the end goal of labor is: “Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest” (Hebrews 4:11).
Sabbath is the blessing of God. “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Look at the difference between this blessing and this curse, from the Old Testament:
“Give her of the fruit of her hands” – Blessing for the Prov. 31 woman
“So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’” – Curse from God, listed in Hebrews
In Sabbath, we get to enjoy the fruits of labor. Without Sabbath, we do not enter God’s rest (for we keep on working, and working, and and working, and going and going, just like the energizer bunny!” Yet we are called to be like God and not like the bunny – “For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.” If we are blessed, we will get to enjoy that rest, and it we are cursed God swears we will have no rest. Which should we be shooting for?