What would you do if you were Valjean?

Any discussion related to Victor's Hugo's Les Misérables, in any language.
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Majestic_Picnob
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What would you do if you were Valjean?

Postby Majestic_Picnob » Tue Apr 01, 2014 7:22 pm

An often-overlooked aspect of the story, and touched on only briefly in the musical, is that Valjean's decision to rescue Champmathieu from his fate comes at the end of a difficult moral dilemma for him. And not just because Champmathieu is a one-man get-out-of-jail-free card for Valjean, but rather because Montreuil is basically dependent on the guy. Sure enough, once Valjean makes his choice, the town's economy crashes. So I thought I'd pose this dilemma to you all (if only because this forum needs more Valjean threads): would you continue to provide for the town, thereby damning an innocent to life in prison if not death? Or would you do as Valjean did and rescue the one, leaving the many to an uncertain fate? Me? On paper I'd probably say continuing to help the town is the better option, but in practice I don't think I'd be able to live with that blood on my hands.

So, what'll it be, friends? Speaking and condemned, or silent and damned?
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Aurelia Combeferre
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Re: What would you do if you were Valjean?

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Tue Apr 01, 2014 10:15 pm

Oh dear.

From experience I'd have to go with doing what Valjean did. For several reasons:

-If I was really living in the 1820s, I'd probably feel more concerned about my duty as a 'citizen of heaven' (the moral/godly/church approved position) than a seemingly fleeting (from that POV, not modern day!) material gain in the form of the town's prosperity.

-1820s morality aside, I'd take this into account: the town *may* survive (he had no way of being absolutely certain that things would crash) but Champmathieu would certainly be convicted.

-Lying to save himself could lead to having to tell deception after deception just to preserve the town. Who knows how long that could last (especially with moralistic folk like Victurnien and company around?)
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Re: What would you do if you were Valjean?

Postby Mlle Patria » Fri Apr 04, 2014 8:44 am

It is a very difficult question. I wish I could say that I'd immediately decide to save Champmathieu, but I know I would have a moral dilemma equal to, if not greater than Valjean's. I think, in the end though, I would have to save Champmathieu. I know I'd spend the rest of my life in misery and self-hatred if I didn't.

However, I would make some arrangements that Valjean didn't, if I could manage in the amount of time allotted. As opposed to just dividing the factory up among the workers, I would attempt to find a reliable individual to put in charge. Perhaps a foreman with management experience. I would want to give the workers each their fair share, but maybe as a pension after they retire from the factory. Of course, this is all modern thinking that Valjean hadn't really been exposed to, so I guess I can't fault him for doing it his way. In addition, I'd probably start making plans for an epic escape. Just because I decide to save Champmathieu wouldn't mean that I'd have to resign myself to the punishment bestowed.

When it comes down to it, I think morality and faith would have make me choose to save Champmathieu. In my eyes it really wasn't much of a decision (the town had a chance and Champmathieu didn't), but I'm sure that, like Valjean, I'd try to convince myself that there was before coming to the same conclusion.
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Re: What would you do if you were Valjean?

Postby Majestic_Picnob » Fri Apr 04, 2014 7:11 pm

So we're three for three that Valjean made the right call. I wonder if there's anyone who'll argue the opposite position?
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Re: What would you do if you were Valjean?

Postby humanracer » Mon Apr 07, 2014 4:31 pm

Valjean's moral dillema is, in my humble opinion, the best part of the novel. I would even say it beats the barricade scenes in terms of tension building.

It is odd that Cosette has not been mentioned so far. I think Valjean knew that if he was behind bars he could not fulfill the promise he made to Fantine. I would probably go with saving Cosette over saving Champ.

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Re: What would you do if you were Valjean?

Postby Gervais » Tue Apr 08, 2014 7:30 am

I know that here I basically kept talking in circles and just couldn't come to a conclusion. Saving Cosette was also a bigger thing in that one, though.

So: Gervais' Updated Plan of Attack
1. Steal a dragon
2. Fly to the Thernardiers
3. Grab Cosette
4. Take her to the convent, and leave her there with a healthy sum of money just in case
5. Fly to the court
6. Set the dragon free
7. Turn myself in
8. When in chains on a ship, call the dragon to come break my chains and fly away
9. Return to convent

The reason I say dragon is because there wouldn't be enough time otherwise. As much as I would like to think I would be able to grab a carriage and be able to this same thing, I just don't think that's possible.

So in Valjean's position now, I think I would do the same thing he did, and just do my best to forget about the factory, because I would feel really guilty about leaving it to drop. Maybe later on, in Paris, if I met someone with a decent morality and business skills I would try to send them that way. That's the one thing that I wish he had done differently.

So I think Valjean made the right call.
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Re: What would you do if you were Valjean?

Postby Majestic_Picnob » Tue Apr 08, 2014 7:46 am

GAH! I didn't realize there was already a thread for this! Sorry!
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