Wednesday, August 29, 2012
So, in effect, a very action-packed last section of the book. Jean Valjean is the only character that stays with us throughout the entire book, and is a metaphor for how the human spirit can rise above misery and triumph. He is a Christ-figure, despised by the man who owes him most, but never acting in selfishness after he is redeemed by the love of the bishop of Digne. Jean Valjean's final trials are the hardest to read about because his confessions lead Marius to believe the worst of him. True to his nature, Jean Valjean only reveals the dark parts of his past with none of the redeeming qualities. While Cosette knows nothing of her father's past and is puzzled by his growing distance from her, she is so blinded by her happiness at being married to Marius that she doesn't think much of it. Meanwhile, Marius is distrusting of Jean Valjean and makes him as unwelcome as possible, not lighting the fire and removing the armchairs from the room in which they sit. Once Marius finally learns the truth about Jean Valjean, he is absolutely mortified and crestfallen at how he treated his savior.
The other part of this section that was especially poignant for me was the wedding scene between Marius and Cosette. Their happiness was described as being the most transcendent possible because of the purity with which Marius and Cosette had treated their relationship and their absolute commitment to each other. The description of their joy was so gorgeously written and moving that it brought me to tears. I don't think their relationship was idealized because of the era -- I think it was just treated with care that we seldom see in modern-day relationships. It was inspiring and beautiful.
The last section of Les Miserables is a beautiful ending to a stunning book. I'll post my full review next week.