Les Mis – Act V

Characters Introduced:

Gavroche/EnjolrasRevolutionaries – 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).

MariusThe 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:


In other words, Marius prefers love to revenge.

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


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