Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Character - Inspector Javert

I've been talking about things that greatly influenced me and my writing, so I felt the urge to give Inspector Javert and Victor Hugo their due.
In fact, I think Les Miserables as a whole has greatly effected me. Let's focus on Javert. How long do you want this post to be, anyways. ;-)

Javert is an amazing three dimensional character, which I think, must have been especially difficult giving his particular traits. He is dutiful, stoic, uncommunicative, unmovable, legalistic-- all things that few authors seem to portray without getting flat stereotypes. And he changes realistically.

Unfortunately I think I have tried to imitate Victor Hugo too many times and have not achieved his success. I can see poor attempts at Javert in many of my characters scattered through several projects.

Going back and picking apart why I like Javert so much has been a recent study of mine. I think there is a lot to learn.

I'm not saying, of course, that we should try to copy him. I can just see his profound influence in a lot of my own characters of the years. I didn't even realize he was influencing them! Now I want to study why mine are so bad and Hugo's is so good.

As irritating as he can be, I think he'll remain one of my favorite characters forever.

Here is an excerpt from the end of Javert's life. Some is cut out, with no offense to the genius of the author, simply for spaces sake. ;-)

(Oh Beka! I feel like quoting it with you at this moment. Thanks for being my Les Mis quoting pal!;-)

Javert made his way with slow steps from the Rue de l'Homme Arme. He walked with his head down, for the first time in his life, and, for the first time in his life as well, with his hands behind his back...His whole person, slow and gloomy, bore the impress of anxiety...

He took the shortest route towards the Seine, reached the Quai des Ormes, went along the quai...This point of the Seine is dreaded by mariners. Nothing is more dangerous that this rapid...Men who fall in there, one never sees again; the best swimmers are drowned.

Javert leaned both elbows on the parape, with his chin in his hands, and while his fingers were clenched mechanically in the thickest of his whiskers, he reflected.
There had been a new thing, a revolution, a catastrophe in the depths of his being, and there was a matter for self-examination.

Javert was suffering rightfully...[He] felt that duty was growing weaker in his conscience, and he could not hide it from himself...He saw before him two roads, both equally straight; but he saw two; and that terrified him--him, who had never in his life known but one strait line. And, bitter anguish, these two roads were contradictory. One of these two straight lines excluded the other. Which of the two was true?

His condition was inexpressible.

To owe life to a malefactor, to accept that debt and to pay it, to be, in spite of himself, on a level with a fugitive from justice, and to pay him for one service with another service; to allow him to say "go away," and to say to him in turn, "Be free"; to sacrifice duty, that general obligation, to personal motives, and to feel in these personal motives something general also, and perhaps superior; to betray society in order to be true to his own conscience; that all these absurdities should be realized and that they should be accumulated upon himself, this was by which he was prostrated...

Where was he? He sought himself and found himself to longer.

~Les Miserables

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian


David K said...

I agree. Javert is definitely the most interesting character in Les Miserables.

I know that much in the book is lost is in the musical, and of course it can't cover nearly as much material as the book does. But Javert's soliloquy is still an amazing feat of music and poetry. Probably my favorite from the entire work. It's very rare to see such depth and movement of character in a single song like that.

Miss Pickwickian said...

I am relatively unfamiliar with the musical, but I of any musical, I would want to see Les Miserables live.

Thanks for the link. I went through a bunch of videos of Javert's soliloquy, but I couldn't find any that were done very professionally. Obviously I didn't look long enough. This one is really neat. It is a very moving piece. Thanks for the link.

And...I just found out my sister-in-law has this whole rendition on VHS! I'm very excited to borrow it.

Miss Pickwickian