Wednesday, May 25, 2011

In which I go on about Javert again....

I know I've talked about Javert at great length before...but this is Les Miserables week after all. I can't possibly talk about Les Miz without Javert.

Without Javert, Les Miz would lose its beautiful story.

I don't mean that Javert is the main character or that he is highly admirable. But without his contrast against Jean Valjean, you would lose much of the compelling character elements of the story.
Isn't one of the major elements of the story how Javert and Jean Valjean react differently to similar changes, feelings, and circumstances?
The musical highlights this directly and beautifully and the book more subtly and satisfyingly. I can't really even talk about the movie versions. Most of them have some fatal error (in my opinion) when depicting Javert. Geoffry Rush does a great job in moments, but the whole ending is awful.

I sincerely believe that Javert is one of the most fascinating characters in all of fiction. Victor Hugo really shows his genius with his creation.

One of my great disappointments with the musical is the way it handles the section when Javert reacts after accusing Monsieur Madeleine of being Jean Valjean. This is a major point of Javert's character. It proves that he holds himself to the same standards. This is one of the only points I resonate with Geoffry Rush's portrayal.

The musical shows this briefly in Javert's last scenes when he insists Jean Valjean should shoot him, but I think it's an important part of Javert that should be shown as it is in the book. The way the musical is, that earlier section doesn't even really make sense.

Having said that, I think otherwise the musical does a fabulous job of capturing the complexities of unimaginably hard task. My original turn off for the musical when I only heard about it was picturing Javert singing. Somehow they pulled it off beautifully.

I want to write characters as complex and intriguing, as consistent yet changing, as human and yet bigger than life as Javert. And I'm going to keep studying Victor Hugo until I can. I know I'll never master it, so this probably means I should die with Les Miserables in my hands, but I want to learn all of it I can.

What do you think? What other characters really stand out to you in fiction? They don't have to be good. They just need to feel real and fascinating. How do authors do it?

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian


Jennoelle said...

So, I read the title of this post and got really excited. :P I'm so glad someone feels the same way!
I've always thought that Javert was so intense and powerful, and the whole book would be much less intense and powerful without the contrast of his character. Plus, the story would lose its beauty.
When I read the book, I cried for Valjean's death. Sure, I didn't cry nearly as hard when Javert died, but I did cry all the same. For his hopelessness and inability to see anything but what has consumed his life in the past.
Geoffrey Rush is absolutely brilliant in my opinion, and I loved seeing him act out Javert. But in the end that movie adaption was such a let-down [Jean Valjean slaps Cosette? No Eponine? No Enjolras? Ending at Javert's suicide? NO.]. But that wasn't Rush's fault.
As for the musical, there are pieces and parts that had to be left out, yes (one thing I wish they would have kept in is that box that Jean Valjean always carries with and that Cosette always wonders about, and then the moment on that night when Valjean thinks he has lost Cosette forever and he takes out of the box Cosette's clothes from when she was tiny and he had rescued her, lays them out on the bed, and prays and sobs. GAAH.) But even though there were parts that could have added more or developed more--such as Javert's reaction after he thinks he incorrectly reported Monsieur Madeleine--the musical captures the essence of the novel. It captures its beauty and despair and hope. I've never really had a problem with much of anything in the musical, because I simply fill in the rest in my head.
Anyway, Javert and Jean Valjean both are two of the most powerful characters I've ever read. The only other one I can think of right now as being equally real and fascinating is Atticus from To Kill a Mockingbird. He is deep, intense, and most of all, he is GOOD.
Hehe, sorry for the novel-length comment. :P I tend to ramble about Les Mis whenever given the chance.

Keaghan said...

Javert is, indeed, a powerful character. Hugo made great use of the fact that Javert and Valjean are nearly perfect foils. Even in their backgrounds they are foils--Javert was the son of a criminal who became a policeman, Valjean was the son of an honest, hardworking man who became a criminal.

I second Jennoelle's comment on Atticus Finch. Amazing character. Another realistic character that comes to mind would be Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities or Henry V from the Shakespeare play of the same name.

And why, oh why, did they butcher the beautiful stories and characters in that movie adaptation? It had the potential to be so wonderful--I loved Liam Neeson as Valjean. The ending was horrible and the leaving out of Eponine and other key characters was disappointing, to say the least. Not to mention Valjean slapping Cosette and Javert's revealing to Valjean via letter that Cosette was "betraying him every night." Oh well. I've seen rumors that there might be a movie production of the musical coming up! Here's to hoping Hollywood doesn't ruin it!

Eyebright said...

Ooops! I guess I need to read more carefully! I signed up for the even with the Linky, but didn't read that the deadline is the 23rd. Sorry!

But I did want to say that my sister and I have just started discovering Les Miserables, and are definitely enjoying the discussions that we have of it! I think the Les Miserables even is a great idea!

*Charity* said...

I feel the same way! But I personally think the book would never be complete without Enjolras. He's not even in the book for very long but something about his passion and leadership qualities just made the book for me.

Happy Homemaker said...

If I could tell you how authors pull off such characters, I promise I would! Although I have noticed that the books with the deepest characters tend to be written by older authors. I think that perhaps life experience is a factor. Which, considering my age, is a tidbit disappointing... oh well. I suppose we ought to just keep reading, watching (people) and living.