Les Mis – 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.
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