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Christian Symbolisms/Context In Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables

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We have all seen the film version of Victor Hugo’s novel ‘Les Miserables ‘ in the year 2012. We may have not noticed it, but there are Christian symbolisms or Biblical truths found in this film. Les Miserables is a film filled with imagery, symbolism and timeless Biblical truths. It is a story of forgiveness, redemption and love.

Here are some important themes from the film Les Miserables:

A) The Power Of Forgiveness

We have been introduced to the character of Jean Valjean, a former thief or convict who sees his future as a bleak one. What we can see here that may strike us is Valjean’s encounter with the Bishop of Digne who shows great kindness to the main character, even though Valjean knows he is undeserving to be treated with kindness by the priest. Despite being shown kindness, Valjean continues to steal from the Bishop of Digne, flees from the parish but was caught red-handed. The priest may have just let him be put to jail, but rather than have Valjean imprisoned, the Bishop of Digne assures the police that Valjean didn’t commit any theft but gave the candlesticks to him as a gift.

Just like Valjean, we are undeserving of God’s forgiveness, but because of His great love for us, He gave up His Only Son to die on the cross for our sins.

Scripture Verse : Romans 3:23,24

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

B) Bound By The Law

Through this theme, Inspector Javert is the perfect example as he made it his personal mission to ensure that Jean Valjean be put behind bars for his entire life. Inspector Javert doesn’t believe that people can change for the better and that they stay the way they are. Bound by his need to follow the law, he doesn’t see any other way to set Jean Valjean free than to commit suicide, in which he commits another sin.

We were set free by the law by God’s grace.

Scripture Verse: Matthew 5:38, 39

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

C) Love Conquers All

God redeemed His people by His great love towards them. God loves us as an earthly father would do. We were adopted and given the right to be called His children.

Jean Valjean displays Christ’s relationship with us wherein comfort, selfless love and hope are being demonstrated as Valjean adopts Cosette and takes her away from the hands of the ethically challenged Thenardier couple, keeping his promise to Fantine.

We may not have noticed it in the film, but Valjean also risked being shot by Inspector Javert so that he could save the life of Marius.

Scripture Verse: John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Not only do we see Christian symbolisms in the film itself, but also through its characters. We may see them through Jean Valjean , The Bishop, Inspector Javert, Fantine, Enjolras, Marius, Eponine, Gavroche and Cosette.

Jean Valjean (portrayed by Hugh Jackman)
Jean Valjean (portrayed by Hugh Jackman)

Jean Valjean

We may see Valjean’s yearning for freedom after serving his 19 year sentence in a French prison for stealing a loaf of bread just to save his sister’s dying son and for trying to escape. Valjean suffered from injustice where he was incarcerated for petty crimes and was treated poorly by not being given a shelter and employment due that he was carrying a yellow ticket which condemns him.

How We Can Reflect/Relate Through Jean Valjean: 

Every one of us has this yearning to be free from what bounds us. Freedom is given to us not to sin again but to have a new life. We are being saved by grace through faith and not of our own works.

The Bishop (portrayed by Colm Wilkinson)
The Bishop (portrayed by Colm Wilkinson)

The Bishop

The Bishop is a perfect example of God’s loving kindness and mercy towards us. He freely forgave Valjean  and brought him back to God that Valjean may start a new life, rather than condemning him for the crime he committed.

How We Can Reflect/Relate:

There are times that someone in our lives, whether our loved ones or another person, may have wronged us. We are tempted to condemn that person rather than forgiving him/her for hurting us.  But this is not what God wants us to do.

There are verses that we can refer to with this:

Matthew 6:14

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.”

Ephesians 4:32

“Be kind and tender-hearted to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Inspector Javert (portrayed by Russell Crowe)
Inspector Javert (portrayed by Russell Crowe)

Inspector Javert (portrayed by Russell Crowe)

A rigid and dogmatic believer who sticks to the law is what perfectly describes Inspector Javert as he sees that men like Valjean can never change and that for him, Valjean will always be a thief in his eyes. The problem with Valjean is that he is obsessed with his own ideal of justice which makes him become  a villain serving as a judge or jury to everyone he meets.

How We Can Reflect or Relate:

Just like Javert, we tend to stick to our own rules and idea of justice which ties us down and make it impossible for us to truly forgive someone for the wrongs they have done. We cannot be transformed by love or forgiveness and show compassion if we keep holding on to our ideal of justice.

Fantine (portrayed by Anne Hathaway)
Fantine (portrayed by Anne Hathaway)

Fantine (portrayed by Anne Hathaway)

Fantine is one of the examples of those who suffered injustice in that she was sacked from her job for the fact that she had an illegitimate child, resulting to her poverty and causing her to turn to prostitution. Valjean recognizes her from the factory as he helps rescue her from the being arrested by Inspector Javert.

How We Can Reflect/Relate:

Fantine’s character reminds us that we are not immune from suffering and trials, but God’s promise reminds us that we are never alone.

Enjolras (portrayed by Aaron Tveit)
Enjolras (portrayed by Aaron Tveit)

Enjolras (portrayed by Aaron Tveit)

A charming young man who is capable of being terrible best describes Enjolras. He is the leader of the Friends of the ABC /Parisian student revolutionaries in 1832. Enjolras sees General Lamarque’s death as an opportunity to assert the ideals of equality and help for the poor and believes that he and his comrades can rally the people with demonstrations of freedom in the streets.

However , with the arrival of Enjolras and his friends who want political change, the themes or redemption are being intertwined.

How We Can Reflect/Relate:

There is nothing wrong with siding with the poor and oppressed and yes, we all want freedom from slavery of the corrupt practices of the government, but there is no need for violence. Just like Enjolras, we wanted to see our fellow men treated with equality and respect, but not to the extent of harming other people and shedding blood.

We all want political reform but it doesn’t have to mean violence.

Marius (portrayed by Eddie Redmayne)
Marius (portrayed by Eddie Redmayne)

Marius (portrayed by Eddie Redmayne)

A handsome Parisian student who is immediately smitten with love as he sees Cosette for the first time. He is also a part of the student rebellion who then was wounded at the barricade. Valjean served as Marius savor who brought him back to his grandfather.

How We Can Reflect/Relate:

Just like Marius, we all had our share of experiences and memories of our first love. Aside from that, he also stands for the youthful idealism which propels us that we can change the world.

Eponine (portrayed by Samantha Barks)
Eponine (portrayed by Samantha Barks)

Eponine (portrayed by Samantha Barks)

Eponine, despite being raised to an ethically challenged Thenardier couple, makes it sure that she puts Marius happiness first before her, as she is deeply in love with him.

Eponine plays a major spiritual role in terms of bringing Marius and Cosette together eventually. What we can see through her is the nobility of self sacrifice for other people’s happiness and well being. The only problem though is that she burns herself out by giving up her own pleasure and all that she’s got to others and not taking care of herself.

How We Can Reflect/Relate:

We’ve all had our fair share and experiences of unrequited love. And that’s really painful.

Though it’s good that we stay loyal and dedicated care-giver to those we love, we must still remember that we have the responsibility to take care of ourselves and that we deserve to be loved. We are responsible for our happiness.

Gavroche
Gavroche (portrayed by Daniel Huttlestone)

Gavroche (Daniel Huttlestone)

Who would forget the cute street urchin who finds a home and meaning of life with the revolutionaries? Gavroche is an epitome of one who courageously lays down his life for the sake of his friends.

How We Can Reflect/Relate

We all have that one Gavroche in our life who keeps the faith that despite being outnumbered in a fight, we are still able to become triumphant over everything. We have that one person who uplifts our spirits by becoming a cheerful individual.

Scripture Verse: John 15:13

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Cosette (portrayed by Amanda Seyfried)
Cosette (portrayed by Amanda Seyfried)

Cosette (portrayed by Amanda Seyfried)

Cosette was raised by Valjean as his daughter, as a promise kept to Fantine. She was protected and loved by both Valjean and Marius.

How We Can Reflect/Relate:

Grace, like to us Christians, is a mystery to Cosette who responds in the only way she can which is total love. We are to respond the same to God’s love.

Summing this up, Les Miserables displays Biblical truths about love, redemption and forgiveness . It’s not just about sentiments, we learn and reflect from each character.

Image Sources:

Les Miserables film poster
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1707386/

Jean Valjean (portrayed by Hugh Jackman)
http://firstbaptistfrench1.blogspot.com/2013/01/le-luttes-de-jean-valjean-by-chad-hunter.html

The Bishop of Digne (portrayed by Colm Wilkinson)
Lent Bible Study Week 2: The Bishop of Digne

Inspector Javert (portrayed by Russell Crowe)
http://lesmiserables.wikia.com/wiki/Inspector_Javert

Fantine (portrayed by Anne Hathaway)
https://alchetron.com/Fantine-2563692-W

Enjolras (portrayed by Aaron Tveit)
http://lesmiserables.wikia.com/wiki/Enjolras

Eponine (portrayed by Samantha Barks)
https://100waystowrite.wordpress.com/2014/05/20/the-role-of-eponine/

Gavroche (portrayed by Daniel Huttlestone)
https://alchetron.com/Gavroche-2598668-W

Cosette (portrayed by Amanda Seyfried)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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