Friday, September 18, 2015

WBI: Javert

Let’s talk Les Mis. If you’ve never seen the musical, then you are sorely missing out on some of the best that Broadway has to offer and if you’ve only seen the movie, then you’re still missing out, because it did not do it justice. Of course, the key to the story of Jean Valjean is his nemesis enemy, Inspector Javert. Who I enjoy immensely, by the way.

via picslist
When prisoner 24601 abandons his parole, Javert pursues him unwaveringly. Though 24601 turns himself in and reveals himself as the mayor of a small town, he disappears shortly after assisting a prostitute. It takes another ten years for Javert to track him down in a conflict-ridden Paris on the brink of the June Rebellion.

WBI Profile

Classification :: Ξ23457#@
Role :: Avenger (seeks justice)
Motivations :: idealism (lawfulness), psychology (needs justice), insubordination (police employee), lifestyle (commitment to justice), personal/material gain (closure, bringing Valjean to justice)
Bonus :: minions (police), name (AND I’M JAVERT)

[Venn Diagram Pending]

A Study 

Cinderella—his rags-to-riches backstory explains that he’s risen from his mother’s prostitution to a keeper of the justice that sanctified him

rights-based ethicist—Javert feels justified in labelling right and wrong based on the laws of church and state; infringement is a permanent failure

via picslist
dominating—he calls prisoners by their numbers to demonstrate power over them even though it’s been like, twenty years

God-fearing—unlike Frollo (another Hugo villain), Javert isn’t selfishly malicious; he earnestly wants to serve God but doesn’t have a forgiving bone in his body

orderly—one reason Javert values the law is that it brings order and consistency in life; he dislikes the poor because they are anything but orderly or consistent

employed—though the story shares his relationship with 24601, he has job responsibilities, like preventing a classroom of twenty-somethings from taking over France

via lesmisthemusical

(no, but notice he actually humanizes Valjean in these last moments!)

unrelenting—when captured, he says, “shoot me now for all I care” and “how right you should kill with a knife” because it was lawful; forgiveness is unrighteous, and when he is shown mercy he can’t reconcile this response with his worldview

suicidal—Javert kills himself because he can’t reconcile mercy with justice; therefore, to carry out justice he inflicts the death he righteously deserves

separated from God—despite attempting to serve God, ultimately Javert doesn’t accept God’s mercy and isn’t saved by his righteousness, for he was never righteous enough

via piclist

Big Idea

justice—it’s interesting that Javert spends his whole life seeking a single principle, that is, justice, that is, enforcing his God’s law on earth. He avenges God, I guess you could say, but ironically enough, in avenging God he loses his relationship with Him. In the end, he only avenges himself with his death.

not cruel—this is certainly a point that can be argued, but I don’t think Javert sets out to inflict human suffering. In fact, he seems rather ignorant of it, for example when he is more willing to put Fantine in a jail than a hospital. He certainly isn’t kind, but I find the Thenardiers, rather than Javert, the truly malicious force. The Inspector is merely the face of justice.

antagonistic—despite Javert’s vendetta against him, Valjean does not seem to blame the inspector himself for pursuing him, instead saying, “You’ve done your duty, nothing more.” Valjean, however, knows he was saved by God’s mercy, not his nineteen winters. Javert here is not really an “evil” force but rather a conflicting ideology that juxtaposes forgiveness. Vajean is saved; Javert only thought he was.

Best of all, he has VILLAIN SONGS! He’s a main character, so he’s there from the prologue, but “Stars” is his villain song, explaining his motivations and relationship with God. I will also include “Javert’s Suicide” as well because that is my favorite song from the musical. Although I did love Norm Lewis as Javert, I have selected the performances of Philip Quast, my favorite Javert, from the 10th Anniversary Recording for these songs.

Oh, what the heck, we'll do Norm Lewis, too,

But seriously. Listen.

**one, you can tell these are good Javerts because of the way they sing "reprieved," and two, you can't see the Norm Lewis video very well but the audio is fine; since the 25th anniversary recording is under strict copyright laws it's hard to get good clips for him.

Have you ever written a main antagonist who isn’t strictly “evil”? Who are some other villains juxtaposing the protagonist?


  1. I have to admit, I've only ever seen the movie version of Les Mis and wasn't too impressed with it (WAY too many closeups.) I'm still very interested in the character of Javert, and his songs were probably my favorite part of the whole thing (apparently Russel Crowe isn't a great singer, but I can't carry a tune in a bucket so he seemed okay to me.) Reading your analysis of him was great, and hearing actual Broadway versions of the songs was wonderful. Thanks for posting!

    1. Yeah, the movie was TOTALLY not worth it. I mean, they added a little setting which was nice, but nah. Nah, nah, nah. Russel Crowe isn't the best singer, but I think he did fine considering the rest of the movie's quality. Thanks for taking the time to check out the Broadway recordings and for reading, Alex!

  2. OH MAN. I could talk Les Mis for DAYS. :P
    The musicals are some of the greatest things that have ever happened, in my opinion (not the movie, haha). Javert has always fascinated me. I find it interesting how Hugo essentially made Jean Valjean and Javert parallel characters at the beginning. Both made mistakes in the past, and both were shown mercy by someone who could have demanded justice. The only difference is how each of the characters react to that. Valjean decides to better himself, and Javert decides that he can no longer go on with life. The tune that plays when they make these decisions is the same!
    Anyways, I LOVE Norm Lewis's performance as Javert, and I also love Philip Quast. This was a great classification of Javert, Heather! :P

    1. WE SHOULD!

      The musicals have been good to us, yes? The juxtaposition Hugo made between Valjean, Javert, and especially the contrast against Thenardier, are all great. You're exactly right, though! They make different decisions, and that makes all the difference. :)

      YES! THEY ARE GREAT! Thanks for reading, Bailey!

  3. *whispers* I haven't seen the musical. Whoops. I did think the singing was kind of meh in the movie, though. Javert was one of my fav characters though (who am I kidding, they're all my fav characters), and your description was as always on point and hilarious. For example: "even though it’s been like, twenty years." << EXACTLY. CHILL, DUDE.

    1. *whispers* If you get a stage recording it's good enough even though nobody acts in those. Have you a library in your pocket? I would say Colm Wilkensen and Anne Hathaway did their jobs, which was good, and of course Sam Barks, since she was actually in the stage production, but beyond that I am dubious. They are all amazing characters, though, and yes, I do try to be hilarious. :) Thanks for reading, Alyssa!

  4. LES MIS. *squeaks* Oh, Javert's Suicide & Stars are awesome. (I do like The Confrontation as well.) (In short: JAVERT. Villain songs are always a plus.)
    I sadly haven't yet made it to see the stage version, but hopefully sometime soon? I mean, I did enjoy the movie, but I didn't think the vocals were great. Lovely post! :)

    1. Yes! Confrontation is also a good song, though I didn't think to post that one. It's fun to do the different parts at the same time. (Go villain songs! :D)

      I'm sorry you haven't seen a live production, but maybe you can get ahold of one of the 10th or 25th anniversary video recordings? There's no acting but they're still amazing. And, as a plus, the vocals are great!

  5. I love Javert so much because he isn't evil for the sake of being evil. Instead, he follows the law so tightly that he's lost his humanity, so to speak. He's more a machine than a person, and it's his unflinching pursuit of justice that causes so much harm. I especially like that he doesn't really recognize that in the end. (And his songs are all my favorite.) I've actually seen the musical and the movie, so I liked getting a chance to compare the two. And you're right, while the movie has some definite bonus points, it does fall short on the whole, as movies tend to do. (I do want to read the book at some point, but it's so long. *whines*)

    In the novel I'm currently querying, my villain is very sympathetic because you could argue he carries some of the moral high ground. He honestly wants to correct some very deep injustices, but he goes about it all the wrong way (genocide, for instance), and he is incapable of seeing where his attempts at justice cause too much harm for them to be justifiable. It strikes me that he's a little bit like Javert, but also very different. And, in my current work in progress, my protagonist is something of an antagonist herself because, again, she wants justice for something (in this case, the murder of her father), but she goes about it all the wrong ways. (I know that it's a little bit off topic, but it sort of fits, because she's not all good but neither is she all bad).

    Anyway, great post! :)

    1. Right? Javert almost does too much of a good thing and that makes him so threatening. You've done a perfect little analysis yourself that I can't even find words to comment on. I'm glad you've seen a stage production, and right? The movie just lacked. (The book is looooooong. I just read the Wikipedia page and that was long, too.)

      Oh, I like this! (Oh, genocide. What's so bad about that? Heh...) I think your villain sounds like Javert in his idealistic motivation, but it also sounds like the action he takes in response is much more drastic! I also love the protag as an antag device, because those are awesome. These both sound like great villains, Liz! (*groans because she does not have enough time on her hands to ask to read them*)

    2. Why thank you. *bows deeply* But I think your analysis was much better. And yeah, the movie was okay, but it didn't have the necessary oomph, if that makes sense. I hope it makes sense. *hides from long books with long Wikipedia pages*

      I'm glad you like my characters. :) And if you're ever interested and you have the time, feel free to let me know. They'll always be there, even if I don't necessarily need feedback for them anymore. :P

    3. Haha, thanks. :) And yeah, the oomph was all gone. :( *long books with long Wikipedia pages follow you to your graves*

      *salutes* I shall remember. But it will probably be like summer because LIFE IS SO BUSY. Agh.

  6. You know how I am about musicals Heather, so I am so happy to see this post. ;) I completely agree with everything you've said here. I feel like Javert is one of the best villains in the sense that he's not actually evil per se; he's real. (Actually, I don't even think it's right to even call him a villain, he's more of an antagonist than anything else).

    He believes he's doing the right thing and that he's helping France and avenging his father's murder, but he doesn't really step back to see the entire picture, you know?

    I think that he is one of the most interesting characters not only in a musical, but in literature as well. He's not black or white, evil or good; he's somewhere in the middle.

    Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous post! ♥ Loved this so much!

    1. Yes! I'm glad that you enjoyed my thoughts! I also agree, Javert is definitely more of an antagonist than anything else, but I don't have a separate scale for antagonists. They kinda just get scholsshed into the mix. :P

      Yes! Stepping back and seeing the big picture--the humanistic picture--would probably suit him better.

      Also, yes. His moral ambiguity makes for something that is awesome and memorable, and I think that's why he is quite popular. :) Thanks for reading, Zoe!

  7. Loved your analysis of Javert! I've only ever seen the recent film, but he never struck me as a particularly evil character. His moral compass just fits closely with the law. And anyway, characters that are pure evil with legs are boring and overused. For every three-dimension, fully fleshed out protagonist, there must be an equal and opposite antagonist. That was actually one of Newtons laws (kind of), and who can argue with a brilliant scientist? :)

    1. Thanks, Jo! He's definitely an antagonist, not a villain, but his determination for the law leads to some unfortunate choices, shall we say? Javert definitely has a lot of flesh to him, I would say, and your Newton's law of villains is exactly right. Thanks for reading, Jo!


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