(Minor/Major spoilers ahead)
For the next couple of blogs, I will be focusing on Les Mis. My love for that musical is deep and it changed my perspective on musicals.This musical taught me that tragedies can be loved and that they are more than being sad.
One thing that people do not seem to understand about Les Mis is how can such a sad musical be such an uplifting one? The first time I watched the movie, I did not see past the sad world of the musical. Eventually I was able to find how inspirational the show is. The title of the show may mean “the miserable”, but it is so much more than being a tragedy. The earliest moment of spirituality in the musical is the bishop scene. This show has themes of humanity, hope, love, sacrifice, forgiveness, compassion, and redemption.
The famous bishop scene is a very important scene. The main character, Jean Valjean, has just been released from prison for stealing a loaf of bread. No one would give him a chance because he was an ex-convict. There was only one person who gave him a place to stay for the night. That was the bishop, who plays a small, but crucial role to the story. The bishop gave Valjean a meal and bed for the night. Despite the bishop’s kindness, Valjean woke up in the middle of the night and stole the bishop’s silver. When the police took Valjean back to the bishop, the bishop took his kindness a step further. He lied and said that he gave Valjean the silver as a gift and gave Valjean two candlesticks. The bishop was able to forgive Valjean for stealing his silver. The bishop told Valjean that he must use the silver to become an honest man. He called Valjean his brother and showed him the ways of the Lord. Because of the bishop’s compassion, Valjean decided to turn his life around. After being released from prison, he was filled with anger and hate, but the bishop’s act saved him. The bishop’s act saved him because Valjean finally got a sense of hope and knew that he had an opportunity to become a better person, but in order to do that, he would need to break parole, which is against the law.
Before turning into a better person, Valjean reflected on what the bishop had done. He reflected on his past and the compassion of the bishop. When time passed, Valjean became mayor a town and opened up a factory. At this point in the story, he is no longer an angry and harsh man. He shows compassion towards to the poor.One of his factory worker’s ,Fantine, has been fired from his factory by the foreman because she had an illegitimate child. Fantine had to turn to prostitution in order to provide for her child. After an abusive customer harassed her, Javert tried to arrest her, but Valjean intervened and saved her from being arrested. The compassion he shows towards Fantine is a big part of the story. He felt like it was his fault that Fantine was fired because it was his factory. When Fantine was on her deathbed, he promised her that he would raise her daughter, Cosette, as his own. Valjean was able to save Cosette from her abusive and sad life from the Thenardiers’. Valjean was shocked that Cosette was treated so poorly. Cosette was the first person that Valjean was able to love. Surprisingly Valjean saves Javert’s life as well. Valjean had the chance to kill Javert at the barricades, but Valjean decides to let him go. The last time Valjean saved a life was at the barricades. Marius, the boy that Cosette loves, was a revolutionary student at the barricades. Because Valjean wants to keep Cosette happy, he went to the barricades to save Marius. If Valjean did not do his heroic action, Marius would have died. After Valjean did all the the things that he did, he became almost like a saint and ended up with a strong redemption. Valjean was able to die in peace because he was with Cosette and Marius.
There is another character who gets redemption, but that character gets destroyed. That would be Javert, the antagonist of the story. Javert is a policeman who is fully committed to the law. He sees the world in black and white and believes that “once a criminal always a criminal”. Javert spends his entire life trying to capture Valjean after he broke parole. But eventually Javert gets destroyed. After Valjean released him, Javert realized that Valjean actually did become a better person. Javert could not believe that he let Valjean go after Valjean came out of the sewers with the unconscious Marius. After that scene, Javert was going through extreme suffering. He still wants to turn Valjean in because that is what the laws says, but Javert does not think that it is fair because of the goodness he saw in Valjean. But Javert still did not have the power to forgive Valjean for breaking parole. He eventually committed suicide because his life seems completely pointless.
There is another moment in Les Mis where I believe there is compassion. It is during “A Little Fall of Rain”, Eponine’s death scene. Even though the scene is depressing, it still is such a bittersweet moment. While coming back to the barricades, Eponine got shot and the wound ended up being fatal. After Marius realized that she got shot, he could not believe what is happening, but he decided to be brave for Eponine. There is happiness in this scene because Eponine is dying in the arms of the man that she loves. The love she has for Marius is unrequited, but to die in his arms is very special to her. This is her happiest moment of her life. Marius did the right thing and provided her compassion and comfort during these last couple of moments of her life. Even though dying from a gunshot wound is painful, Eponine does not feel the pain she is in because Marius is there. This is my favorite death scene of the musical.
Sacrifice is also another major component of the spirituality of the show. Fantine and Eponine, the tragic heroines of the musical would do anything for the ones that they love which includes death. The students also sacrifice their lives for what they believe in. They always remain passionate for their cause no matter what. Every song they sing is epic except for “Drink With Me” because they realized that they lost hope in the rebellion. After Eponine died, the students realize that they are going to lose and will also die. But at the final battle, they still stand up for what they believe in even if they will eventually die.
There are different kinds of love in this show. Fantine has love for her daughter, Cosette and would do anything for her. After being fired, she had to sell her possessions including her body in order to care for her daughter. Her life is a quick downward spiral and after Valjean promises that he will raise her daughter, Fantine gets to die in peace, comfort, and joy.There is love for a country, which comes from the students. The students stand up for what they believe in because the government is very unstable and there is only one person left who cares for the poor. They want to make the world a better place and they stay passionate for their cause, even though they eventually feel hopeless. There is the love triangle between Marius, Cosette, and Eponine. If it wasn’t for Eponine, Marius never would have found Cosette. Eponine did everything that she could in order to make Marius happy. She did not care much about her own happiness. Eponine protected Marius and Cosette from her father after he tried to rob Valjean’s house. Valjean and Marius both show love towards Cosette in different ways. Cosette is Valjean’s adopted daughter and he would do anything for her even if it means saving the one that she loves. I know it seems as if Marius does not do anything to show love towards Cosette, but I think he does. After Marius found out that Valjean saved his life at the barricades, he took Cosette to Valjean. Cosette and Marius saw Valjean one last time. Marius wanted to tell Cosette what Valjean had done for them and how Valjean saved his life.
“To Love Another Person is To See the Face Of God”
“Even the Darkest Night Will End and the Sun Will Rise”