In Les Mis, Jean Valjean is the protagonist and one of the most complex characters in the world of musicals. At the beginning of Les Mis, you discover that he stole a loaf of bread to save his sister’s dying son. Before Valjean was sent to person, he was a humble and good person. But when he was sent to jail, he spent five years for stealing a loaf of bread and fourteen years for trying to escape, which gives him a total of nineteen years in prison. In this scene, we discover Jean Valjean’s strong dislike towards Javert. This experience hardened Valjean into a harsh, angry, and hateful man and he lost touch of his conscience and forgot who he really is.
Jean Valjean left prison to be on parole forever. He quickly found out that society treated him cruelly because he is an ex-convict and never gave him a job, place to sleep, and food to eat. All of this hardened and angered Valjean further. Jean Valjean shows the injustice that convicts face when they leave prison. At this point, it doesn’t seem like Valjean will change.
Valjean’s fate soon changes once he meets the humble, forgiving, and loving bishop. Out of everyone, the bishop was the only one who would welcome Valjean. The bishop gave him a place to sleep and food to eat. But Valjean was desperate and ended up stealing the bishop’s silverware. Valjean was caught and was sent back to the bishop’s house and the bishop covered up for Valjean and said that the silver was a gift and gave Valjean the silver candlesticks. Valjean knows that he is guilty of stealing the silver and does not clearly understand why the bishop did what he did. The bishop wants to help Valjean head on the right path and gives Valjean’s soul to God. The bishop was able to teach Valjean the ways of the Lord and forgave Valjean. Valjean eventually had an epiphany and realized he needed to change and become a better person even though it means breaking parole. The bishop shows how much one person can directly impact another person’s life.
Years pass and the transformation of Jean Valjean has begun. He was able to change his name to Monsieur Madeline, but unfortunately Javert become policeman in the town Valjean was mayor of. Besides mayor, Valjean also owned a factory where this woman, Fantine works. We first see Valjean during this time period after Fantine gets into a fight with this other woman, but Valjean asks the foreman to break up the fight. The stage show does not make it clear why Valjean decided to not help settle things in this scene. But according to the movie, Valjean became distracted by the sight of Javert and asked the foreman to settle things. Discovering that Fantine has an illegitimate child. she was fired from her job. Valjean has no idea that Fantine has a child and that she just got fired and Fantine blames Valjean for this.
Three scenes later, Valjean makes an amazing impact on Fantine’s life. Fantine was harassed by an abusive customer and in self-defense, Fantine attacked the man. Valjean was present at the time this took place. Javert wanted to sentence Fantine for six months in prison, but Valjean insisted that she be sent to the hospital instead especially because Fantine has fallen seriously ill at this point in the story. Valjean feels guilty that Fantine was fired from his factory after he discovers the truth about Fantine.
Right after this, Valjean rescues a man whose cart fall on top of him. Javert witnesses this and begins to suspect that Monsieur Madeline is in fact Jean Valjean. One of the greatest things about Valjean is his incredible strength and the book compares Valjean’s strength to the strength of four men. Javert confesses that the “real” Valjean has been found and is about to be sentenced to life in prison. This gives Valjean a dilemma because he could either turn himself in or not. He is mayor and owner of a factory and if he says he is Valjean, he will abandon tons of workers and it will affect his status as mayor. But Valjean knows what it is like to be in prison and feels the innocent man’s pain and agony. He decides to go with the second choice and confess that they caught the wrong man and that was a difficult decision, but the right decision.
On Fantine’s deathbed, Valjean promised to her that he would raise her child, Cosette, as his own. This shows that Valjean is learning how to show concern and compassion towards others. Right after Fantine dies, Javert arrives and tries to arrest Valjean, but Valjean wins and was able to rescue Cosette from the evil Thenardiers.
At this point, Valjean did believe that Cosette was deathly ill due to what Fantine, Cosette’s mother, told him. As a matter of fact, he saw that Cosette was being terribly abused. He discovers that when he finds the little girl in the woods collecting water at night. He was shocked to learn that this was the little girl he was looking for. Even though Cosette barely knew Valjean, she immediately trusted him. Valjean took Cosette back to the Thenardiers and insisted that he take Cosette away, but the Thenardiers insisted that Cosette is better in the hands of them, but Valjean saw through their lies and knew the truth about Cosette.
Cosette was the first person in Valjean’s life after prison that he loved. Cosette had such an impact on Valjean’s life even though it will be tough raising Cosette as he is still on the run from Javert. Valjean rescued Cosette from a terrible fate and raised her to be loving and charitable.
Yes, he may be overprotected and he might shelter Cosette a bit too much, but he is an ex-convict. Valjean’s love for Cosette shows that love can truly change a person. Before Cosette, he did love his sister and nephew before he was sent to prison, but he forgot how to love after being released. So through Cosette, Valjean learned to love again and she is another person that had a huge impact on Valjean’s life.
Years pass and Cosette, now 17, has lived under the care of Valjean for nine years. She has one of the best fathers. Through Valjean, Cosette’s life changes as well. When the two meet, they were both broken people and they were healed through their love for each other. Valjean became Cosette’s adopted father through unexpected circumstances. As much as Valjean loves Cosette, he never once had the courage to tell Cosette about the darkness of his past. The Thenardiers try to rob Valjean twice: the first being during the Robbery and the second during the Attack at Rue Plumet.
The second time, Valjean was warned when Eponine screamed to alert Marius, Cosette, and Valjean. Valjean was convinced that Javert has found out where he lived and he made the decision to take Cosette to England, but he has no idea that his daughter has now fallen in love with a young revolutionary student named Marius. It is tough because Valjean still has to live the life of an ex-convict.
Later on in the show in act two, Valjean discovers that Cosette has in fact fallen in love with Marius through a letter that Eponine delivered to him. He soon leaves and it is not made clear in the stage show why Valjean leaves after he reads the letter and what he is planning to do. At this point, he don’t know if Valjean plans to save Marius or not. Valjean does not want to rescue Marius in a way because that risks losing Cosette forever or he can actually go to the barricades to protect the one that his adopted daughter loves. Due to how much Valjean loves Cosette, Valjean makes one of the most difficult decisions ever.
We later learn that Valjean arrives on the barricades and I think he went out of love for Cosette in order to protect Marius. Enjolras does not trust Valjean, but after Valjean warns them of some army people, Enjolras learns to trust him. Valjean was given the task of executing Javert, but Valjean decided to let Javert go and shows Javert mercy and forgiveness. Valjean even shows that people can learn to forgive their enemies, which shows through this scene. Valjean realizes that the students and Marius have a slim chance of surviving the uprising and he prays to God to save Marius.
During the actual uprising, Marius became seriously wounded and fell unconscious, which forces Valjean to carry Marius through the sewers. He did this because he wants to save the man that his adopted daughter loves. If it wasn’t for Valjean, Marius would have died at the barricades.Valjean decides to confess to Marius the truth about him being an ex-convcit and it is not made clear why Valjean makes this decision. Valjean does not attend his daughter’s wedding in order to protect her due to his ex-convict status.
Because Cosette is now out of Valjean’s life, he feels completely broken. He is now dying due to a broken heart. He almost died alone. But at the wedding, Marius discovers that Valjean was his savior at the barricades and learns of Valjean’s current location and takes Cosette there. Marius confesses to Cosette that Valjean is in fact a saint because he saved his life. Valjean does eventually confess that he is dying and decides to give Cosette a note, which tells her of his wounded, broken and dark past. Even though Valjean dies, he accepts it and dies in peace and comfort due to being with both Cosette and Marius.
Valjean is the kind of character that teaches you how you can raise above your background and that you can become a better person. Valjean lives through the example set by the bishop throughout his life. Valjean represents injustice that convicts fact once released. Valjean does seem like the kind of person that isn’t capable to change, but through the act of one person, Valjean truly learned the importance of mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and kindness. Valjean learned about love through the child, Cosette, and it is very hard for him to let her go. Not only does Valjean represent injustice, but he also represents change. He once was filled with so much hate, bitterness, and anger, but he learned to become compassionate, forgiving, kind, good, and even saintlike. He helped save Fantine (even though he couldn’t save her life), Cosette, and Marius.
Tomorrow is Javert.