Saturday, June 16, 2012

Quick Thoughts on Les Miserables

on pop theology, philosophy, theology, culture, pop culture, christianityby Ben Howard

If you weren't at the Movie Night last Thursday, here are a few quick thoughts on Les Miserables with Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Uma Thurman and Claire Danes.

The central conflict between Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert ultimately boils down to the question of justice.  In Javert’s opinion, justice is the law and the law is justice in return.  I’m of the opinion that this view misunderstands the intuitive complexity of true justice.  Jacques Derrida argues that justice is what stands behind the law.  It is what we continue to strive towards as we deconstruct and reconstruct the law over and over again.  Ultimately, the law attempts to achieve justice, but falls short, much like the rest of humanity.  Jean Valjean is able to embody this concept of adaptive justice.  He is changed by the experience of justice and grace in his life and is therefore responsive to the changing needs and circumstances which affect the true administration of justice and the application of grace.  He understands that sometimes in the pursuit of noble goals, such as the safety of Cosette, we can violate true justice.  Additionally, he shows that real justice is more than retribution through his response to Javert both when he finds out that he has been slandered and when he allows Javert to go free outside the rebels base.  Jean Valjean shows us that in order to achieve true justice we must become intimately connected to the grace we have received and the beauty of the life we live.

-Jean Valjean is often shown to be a man who has flaws and works to rectify them.  His relationship to both Cosette, Fantine, and Marius highlight this.

-Javert at point tells Valjean that if he is not punished then his life would be meaningless.  I feel like this connects strongly to a strong Augustinian view of sin where people are made to feel as if they need punishment to purify them.

-Jean Valjean’s growth from beneficient, fearless mayor to overprotective father struck me as an interesting parallel to the life of a new convert, especially in evangelical circles.  At first, the passion and desire overwhelm all fears, yet when they have children they try to protect them from the same times of painful, yet formative events which created the dedication in the first place.


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