Sunday, April 10, 2005

Final Thoughts - Les Miserables

I finally finished Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. I'll admit to bawling for the last few chapters. But I want to post some quotes from late in the novel where the police officer Javert commits suicide, after relentlessly pursuing the former convict Jean Valjean. He lets Valjean escape when he realizes that the man is ethical and just despite the law, and for Javert, who has been duty-driven to follow the law no-matter-what, a cognitive dissonance, an impossibility of two conflicting beliefs. Anyway, here's some passages:

"His ultimate anguish was the loss of all certainty. He felt uprooted. The code was no longer anything but a stump in his hand. He was dealing with a scruples of an unknown species. Within him there was a revelation of feeling entirely distinct from the declarations of the law, his only standard hitherto. To retain his old virtue, that no longer sufficed. An entire order of unexpected facts rose and took control of him. An entire new world appeared to his soul; favor accepted and returned, devotion, compassion, indulgence, acts of violence committed by pity on austerity, respect of persons, no more final condemnation, no more damnation, the possibility of a tear in the eye of the law, a mysterious justice according to God going counter to justice according to men. " (pg. 1323)

"[Javert] had a superior, M. Gisquet; he had scarcely thought, until today, of that other superior, God. This new chief, God, he was feeling unawares, and he was perplexed by that. He had lost his bearings in this unexpected presence; he had no idea what to do with this superior; he who was not ignorant of the notion that the subordinate is bound always to yield, that he should neither disobey, nor blame, nor discuss, and that, in presence of a superior who astonishes him too much, the inferior has no resource but resignation. But how to manage to send in his resignation to God?" (pg. 1325)
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