Compare/Contrast (similarities)

Any discussion related to Victor's Hugo's Les Misérables, in any language.
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YoungStudentMarius
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Compare/Contrast (similarities)

Postby YoungStudentMarius » Tue Aug 21, 2012 2:47 am

So, I just thought this was kind of interesting. What similarities and differences do you see between characters, situations, etc, in Les Mis? Maybe some of them are quite obvious and have been referenced frequently, and maybe others haven't really been thought about before, but either way, how can these characters relate to each other? And what are the differences between them and their situations? Feel free to compare anything, whether it's been said in other threads or not; I guess I just like analytical Les Mis discussions, and it's seemed a little slow in the Brick forum. :D

I'll start us off here by saying that I think Marius and Cosette were in similar situations concerning their childhoods, and their parents' motivations. Both were seen as a blessing by one of their parents, and both lost the other parent, practically at birth. Each of the remaining parents, though for Marius his father, and Cosette, her mother, saw their child as the best thing in their life, their treasure, and all they wanted was for them to be happy and have a good life. For both parents, this meant giving their child up. Both Fantine and Colonel Pontmercy saw this as the best opportunity for their child, and were willing to make that sacrifice in order that Cosette and Marius would live well off and be happy, unlike them and the way their lives had turned out. For both, however, it went wrong. Marius was reared with a gruff, ridiculous hand, and Cosette was abused and tortured. Both lacked the love their parents would have given them, were ignorant of the fact that their parent did love them, and had no one to give their child-like affection to. Because of the separation from their parent, both also experienced poverty at one point in time, although it could be argued that they both would have experienced poverty with their parents as well, but I think it would have been a different kind. Also, Fantine and Colonel Pontmercy each experienced great longing for their child, and tried to send for them, but both Cosette and Marius arrived too late, and only later went on to revere and love their parents, and only after they were already gone (I feel like for Cosette, though not spoken, this is at least inferred). For them to do this, too, it took an outside observer (Mabeuf and Valjean) to tell them, because all knowledge of their parents' virtues had been kept hidden from them. After leaving the guardians to whom they were entrusted, they both went on to create completely different lives from the ones they had had before. And then, they both ended up living the life and situation that their parents had wanted for them in the first place.

So, sorry that was long, and I know there are differences, but I just thought I'd bring that point up. Thanks for listening. Anyone else?
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Re: Compare/Contrast (similarities)

Postby Enjolvert » Fri Oct 05, 2012 9:00 pm

One thing that I've thought before is that when you think about them, there are actually a lot of similarities between Javert and Enjolras. Both men may believe in completely different ideals, both men may have opposite backgrounds and both men may lead completely different lives, but ultimately they're men who are fixated and live for one thing: Javert for the law and Enjolras for the republic.

Ultimately, you could also see both characters as tragic heroes from another perspective, both with a similar flaw. After all, any tragic hero has to die because of his flaw. Both of their flaws are that their obsession with their way of life and what they live for eventually drives them to death: Enjolras because he fights against the government because of his belief in the government, and Javert when his world crumbles after realising that the law is not as clearcut as he thought it to be.

Obviously, as I said, both characters have major differences, but when looked at plainly, there's that massive similarity between the two of them.

Good thread though which I hope gets some replies.
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Re: Compare/Contrast (similarities)

Postby Gervais » Sun Apr 14, 2013 12:44 am

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They've been compared out the wazoo before, but have my two cents for Valjean and Javert.
(Sorry,the headcanon's making its way into this more than I originally planned. Take everything with a large helping of salt. :oops: )

One thing that I've noticed recently is that I see both Valjean and Javert being somewhat perfectionist, at least in my headcanon. With that said, I think Valjean isn't quite as strong a perfectionist as Javert is; Valjean is more open to shades of gray, and is more a perfectionist when it comes to what he himself does, while Javert cares not only about what he does but what others do as well.

Both of them are trying to make up for their pasts, to an extent. Javert is trying to make up for his 'disgrace,' whether for himself or for a higher power I'm not sure (Musical!Javert is doing it for God, I know, but I don't remember Brick!Javert's motivation). Valjean doesn't neccesarily try to make up for his entire past (except for the Petit Gervais incident), but he does try to better himself, which is also part of what Javert tries to do by enforcing the law. Valjean tries to better himself and others through God, and Javert tries to better himself and others through the law.

Their main difference for that bit, at least, is how they think to better the "others." Valjean is someone who thinks everyone deserves mercy, though he'll fight if cornered. Well, he'll fight than give you a lecture on how to better your life. Javert thinks thinks that the Others will be bettered if they follow the law. If you break the law, you are punished. Through being punished, and only by being punished, you can realize why you were wrong and work to make yourself better. (He's probably a fan of the Divine Comedy, come to think of it, but that's more of a meta discussion.)

Sorry if this is a bit incoherent or too much of a rehash of things that have already been said in other places, but this thread needed a revival.
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Re: Compare/Contrast (similarities)

Postby freedomlover » Sun Apr 14, 2013 4:17 am

This looks like an interesting thread! :D I'm really enjoying seeing what y'all are posting. I may post something when I can think of something good.
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Re: Compare/Contrast (similarities)

Postby Juliet24601 » Mon Apr 15, 2013 5:58 pm

Gervais wrote:Image

They've been compared out the wazoo before, but have my two cents for Valjean and Javert.
(Sorry,the headcanon's making its way into this more than I originally planned. Take everything with a large helping of salt. :oops: )

One thing that I've noticed recently is that I see both Valjean and Javert being somewhat perfectionist, at least in my headcanon. With that said, I think Valjean isn't quite as strong a perfectionist as Javert is; Valjean is more open to shades of gray, and is more a perfectionist when it comes to what he himself does, while Javert cares not only about what he does but what others do as well.

Both of them are trying to make up for their pasts, to an extent. Javert is trying to make up for his 'disgrace,' whether for himself or for a higher power I'm not sure (Musical!Javert is doing it for God, I know, but I don't remember Brick!Javert's motivation). Valjean doesn't neccesarily try to make up for his entire past (except for the Petit Gervais incident), but he does try to better himself, which is also part of what Javert tries to do by enforcing the law. Valjean tries to better himself and others through God, and Javert tries to better himself and others through the law.

Their main difference for that bit, at least, is how they think to better the "others." Valjean is someone who thinks everyone deserves mercy, though he'll fight if cornered. Well, he'll fight than give you a lecture on how to better your life. Javert thinks thinks that the Others will be bettered if they follow the law. If you break the law, you are punished. Through being punished, and only by being punished, you can realize why you were wrong and work to make yourself better. (He's probably a fan of the Divine Comedy, come to think of it, but that's more of a meta discussion.)

Sorry if this is a bit incoherent or too much of a rehash of things that have already been said in other places, but this thread needed a revival.


I really agree, I think actually Valjean and Javert have in some respects many of the same attributes - strong commitment to honour, tenacity and like you said perfectionism in being either as good a Christian or as good a law-enforcer as they possibly can. Also the desire to improve society. It seems to me that the difference is actually in how they apply those attributes. It reminds me of a bit in the Brick just after the Champmathieu affair so I've looked it up...

'Integrity, sincerity, honesty, conviction, the sense of duty, these are qualities which, being misguided, may become hideous, but still they retain their greatness'

Hugo is describing Javert, but perhaps the same adjectives actually fit Valjean too?
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Re: Compare/Contrast (similarities)

Postby Gervais » Sat Apr 27, 2013 7:12 am

'Integrity, sincerity, honesty, conviction, the sense of duty, these are qualities which, being misguided, may become hideous, but still they retain their greatness'


They would, I think. The main difference is in "misguided." Valjean has all of these, but towards God or Cosette or both, while Javert's great traits are devoted to laws, some of which are unjust. (Following is in the Les Miz universe for argument purposes, I realize personal opinions differ) God is perfect, Valjean serves the perfect ruler, and is thus living in the correct way; and Javert's ruler, being of Earth, is imperfect, putting him in the "misguided" area.

Crud, I had something else to add, but lost it. :?
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Re: Compare/Contrast (similarities)

Postby Gervais » Thu Jun 06, 2013 1:19 am

Does it count as a double post if there's been months since you posted? :?

Anyway, I was rereading this, and would like to talk some more about Cosette and Marius.

YoungStudentMarius wrote: Because of the separation from their parent, both also experienced poverty at one point in time, although it could be argued that they both would have experienced poverty with their parents as well, but I think it would have been a different kind.


They both definitely experience poverty (and then some, for Cosette), but there are two major differences between them. First off, Marius chooses to be poor. He could take his allowance, but chooses not to for honor's sake. Cosette, not so much of a choice. More on this in a moment.

Second off, Marius learns from his poverty, and Cosette blocks it from her memory.

Alright, combining them! Maybe the reason Marius learns so much from his poverty is because he chose it. He chose to go into it, he tried to fight it, he failed. He was older, too; late teens at the youngest. And, even when he's most desperate, he still has Courfeyrac to bunk with.
Cosette, on the other hand, is practically sold into slavery, though with the drivers being paid rather than paying. She had no choice in this matter at all; she's too young to live on her own, and her only other option is (seemingly) the street. (I say seemingly because I'm hardly an expert on child labour in 19th century Montfermeil.) She doesn't just live in a crappy house; she's beaten and abused. She ends up blocking this from her memory later for a reason; the only thing she could possibly learn from this is fear and bitterness. When Valjean adopts her, he more or less acts as her Myriel, except acting before she became too bitter and fearful of the world. If someone else made a Valjean vs Bishop post, I would love you forever.

So, basically, yes, they both go through poverty, but poverty helps Marius while it almost kills Cosette.
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Re: Compare/Contrast (similarities)

Postby Gervais » Wed Aug 07, 2013 1:38 am

Ugh, triple post, just kill me now. But I have something to add to the Javert/Enjolras comparison. So don't kill me until I write that.

I don't know a lot about the French colonial system because my textbook hasn't gotten really deep into it, but there was this little tidbit I found interesting:
Unnamed American History Textbook of Doom and Despair wrote:Royal intervention transformed Canada after 1663 when Louis XIV and his prime minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, took charge of the colony and tried to turn it into a model absolutist society--peaceful, orderly, deferential. Government was in the hands of two appointed officials: a governor-general responsible for military and diplomatic affairs, and an intendant who administered justice.

Then there's a little bit about banning lawyers and having low taxes and tithes, and then this bit about the governor:
The governor appointed all militia officers and granted promotion for merit, not by selling commissions.
And then it goes on about how clever the officers were and how Colbert boosted the population of New France by sending pretty girls over, but that's kind of irrelevant.

I know that there's not much about the role of the intendant, especially, and not that much about the governor, but I think it's interesting that Javert and Enjolras seem to fill the basic requirements of their roles, respectively.

Wikipedia does say this about the Intendant, though:
The duties of the intendant were to oversee justice, finances and policing in the colony. He also presided over the Sovereign Council and acted as a judge. He was also responsible for establishing regulations relative to the police, commerce, market prices, currency, militia, and seigniorial rights. Nevertheless, the intendant lacked any power over the military. He was answerable only to the Minister of the Marine.

Javert doesn't do much with money at all, which is a major part of the Intendant's job, so it's a pretty weak comparison, but still. I also love the fact that the Intendant is only answerable to the Minister of the Marine, but this is all probably coincidence, so.
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Re: Compare/Contrast (similarities)

Postby CosetteMari » Sun Aug 18, 2013 2:31 pm

Well, I do see the Enjolras/Javert thing... Enjy is devoted to not only the republic, but freedom, while Javert is, and always will be, devoted to the Law. I think that YoungStudentMarius is correct, if they had their (Cosette and Marius) parents, 'cause Monsieur G. is not Marius' father after all! Well, with the Javert/Valjean... I'm silent about that... how about Fantine/Mme. Thenardier? Remember that Mme. regretted her husband... and so did Fantine?
Whenever I see either Roy, 'Pony, Enjy, Mari, Fantine, Comb, Couf, Jehan, Joly, and Gav, I fangirl... too much. (Do you guys know who Roy is? Well, if you barricaders go online to the new performers, you might know... :D)

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Re: Compare/Contrast (similarities)

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Sun Aug 18, 2013 2:50 pm

Interesting comparison. And how their children turned out....if you go by Hugo's theory that children are copies of their mother?
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Re: Compare/Contrast (similarities)

Postby CosetteMari » Mon Aug 19, 2013 2:06 am

Yeah... I'm like on page 200 or something, but I still remember the theory... perhaps? Anyway, I'm thinking about the Bishop's SUPER strong faith compared to Valjean's renewed faith? It seems like a little similarity, but if we go to the musical, we can compare the strong faiths of: Bishop Myriel/Bienvenue/Bienvenu, Valjean, or Javert.
Whenever I see either Roy, 'Pony, Enjy, Mari, Fantine, Comb, Couf, Jehan, Joly, and Gav, I fangirl... too much. (Do you guys know who Roy is? Well, if you barricaders go online to the new performers, you might know... :D)

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Re: Compare/Contrast (similarities)

Postby Rachel » Mon Aug 19, 2013 8:41 pm

I know that she's not from Les Mis, but I feel like a comparison between Éponine and Nancy (Oliver Twist) would be fascinating, just because of how similar their stories are. Éponine and Nancy are both degraded and twisted, they're criminals from the lowest rung of society, their love of Marius and Bill respectively eventually dooms both of them (though, for both, their love is also their redeeming quality), and both are in far too deep to ever achieve the happiness and peace that they desire. But their choices are so different, and I feel like it says something about Hugo and Dickens' attitudes towards the poor, specifically poor women.
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Re: Compare/Contrast (similarities)

Postby LauraLeZunzu » Thu Sep 12, 2013 12:11 am

Enjolvert wrote:One thing that I've thought before is that when you think about them, there are actually a lot of similarities between Javert and Enjolras. Both men may believe in completely different ideals, both men may have opposite backgrounds and both men may lead completely different lives, but ultimately they're men who are fixated and live for one thing: Javert for the law and Enjolras for the republic.

Ultimately, you could also see both characters as tragic heroes from another perspective, both with a similar flaw. After all, any tragic hero has to die because of his flaw. Both of their flaws are that their obsession with their way of life and what they live for eventually drives them to death: Enjolras because he fights against the government because of his belief in the government, and Javert when his world crumbles after realising that the law is not as clearcut as he thought it to be.

Obviously, as I said, both characters have major differences, but when looked at plainly, there's that massive similarity between the two of them.

Good thread though which I hope gets some replies.

I've always thought like that!
But it seemed interesting to me then analyzing why they are so similar but look like they are so different, and they actually are almost "enemies" (different sides on the barricades, so).
I ended up thinking that the difference is on the source of that strong believes. I mean, Javert's believe is the law. And the law. It was based in the law itself, so there was no self-criticism.
On the other hand, we have Enjolras, a child of a rich family who has learned many many books, classic books, politics books, philosophy and thought books. And then, it was born his believe.
I mean, I think Hugo made them similar in some way intentionally, because a strong believe always carries the danger of being uncorrect. But their differences, what makes Enjolras good for progress and not Javert, what make Enjolras in some way (because nothing is universal, and less for everybody) "right", is that his strong believe has suffered different steps and is based in a strong knowledge about...everything.
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Re: Compare/Contrast (similarities)

Postby Gervais » Mon Sep 01, 2014 1:42 am

I found the following in my drafts folder. It's about...a year old, maybe? I have no clue why I never published it.


Yay, other people!

Alright. Bishop vs. Valjean. :twisted: (Yes, I've been wanting this for awhile. Please, um, pardon the length.)

Probably because of the musical, where we only meet Myriel when he's giving to Valjean, people forget that it says Myriel had a bit of a wild past.
M. Myriel was the son of a councillor of the Parliament of Aix; hence he belonged to the nobility of the bar. It was said that his father, destining him to be the heir of his own post, had married him at a very early age, eighteen or twenty, in accordance with a custom which is rather widely prevalent in parliamentary families. In spite of this marriage, however, it was said that Charles Myriel created a great deal of talk. He was well formed, though rather short in stature, elegant, graceful, intelligent; the whole of the first portion of his life had been devoted to the world and to gallantry.

...Okay, so not wild. But he wasn't saintly, either. He's kind of just trudging along, but then the Revolution comes, he runs off to Italy, his wife dies childless. Kind of sad, but apparently not that important, because Hugo barely talks about that. But then, then we get this:
Was he, in the midst of these distractions, these affections which absorbed his life, suddenly smitten with one of those mysterious and terrible blows which sometimes overwhelm, by striking to his heart, a man whom public catastrophes would not shake, by striking at his existence and his fortune? No one could have told: all that was known was, that when he returned from Italy he was a priest.

No one really knows what made him change, but given what happens to Valjean later on, I say this suggestion seems the most likely (there's a somewhat short list before it). His life sucks, and then, BAM! God enters! His life has a purpose again! Perhaps another priest was the one that pointed him onto the path to becoming one, perhaps he found the path himself. Again, for the sake of a parallel with Valjean, I would want to say someone else did.

You could also kind-of say that the minor things Myriel did for his town, like turning his "palace" into a hospital, is sort of like Valjean's changes to Montreil-sur-mer (Ach, we just went over this in the read-through, I know, but I can't remember if Valjean using his attic as a small hospital for at least Fantine is in the book or just the anime. If it is, there's that, too; using their homes as a place for healing, which would go with the theme of social progress going along with personal growth; as Valjean and Myriel better themselves, they better the lives of those around them. Not only helping them, but opening their homes, their privacy to them to an extent [well, metaphorically]. "Mi casa es su casa" and all that.).





To keep this from becoming a way-too-long post, here's an outline:
Bishop:
*Is born with some nobility
*Married young, possibly without much choice
*Is chased out by the Revolution to Italy
*Wife dies while in Italy, no children
*Magical Transformation!
*Returns to France as a priest
*Is promoted to Bishop by the Emperor
*Gives his "palace" to the hospital; gives away almost all frivolous worldly belongings but silverware
*Conversation with G; minor faith questioning
*Meets Valjean
*Gives him the silver, plus candlesticks, after attempted theft
*Is blind, but with his "pure" sister who takes care of him
*Dies

Valjean
*Is born in a working-class family, mother dead, father dies or gone
*Is taken care of by his sister, later helps take care of her children
*Steals a loaf of bread to feed them
*Is imprisoned; original five-year sentence lengthened to nineteen because of escape attempts
*Is finally released, eventually meets Myriel
*Silverware stolen; forgiven; Petit-Gervais incident
*Magical Transformation!
*Eventually becomes mayor of Montreil-sur-Mer, begins some transformation of town, promises to bring Cosette to Fantine
*Champmathieu; death of Fantine; rearrest
*Finding of Love when taking care of Cosette
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