Monday, April 22, 2013

Les Misérables: S is for Symbolism

Candlesticks and "Living on the Edge"

The protagonist, Jean Valjean, and the antagonist, Javert, each have a symbol which follows them throughout the film. One is a position, and the other, a possession.

Proverbs 28:14 "Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble."

Javert lives and walks on the edge, until one day. . .

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In the song, "Stars," Javert compares the constancy of the stars to the Law. As he is walking above the city of Paris, on a ledge in view of Notre Dame he concludes:

"And so it has been, and so it's written
On the doorway to Paradise
That those who falter
And those who fall
Must pay
The price."

At least three or four times in the movie, we watch Javert dutifully walking a straight line close to the edge of a high wall. I see the ledge as a representation of the law. As long as he stays on the ledge, following the law, he is safe. Javert wrestles with the grace and mercy Valjean embodies, which is so opposed to his straight line of the law:

"I am reaching but I fall
And the stars are black and cold
As I stare into the void of a world that cannot hold
I'll escape now from that world
From the world of Jean Valjean
There is nowhere I can turn
There is no way to go on..."

The minute he wavers, and doubts himself, he steps off the wall and into eternity.

On the other hand, there are the candlesticks. . .

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

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Valjean has just experienced the generous hospitality of the priest, and in the middle of the night, repays that kindness by stealing his silver dishes. He is caught, and the police bring Valjean and his loot back to the rectory.

They tell the priest that Valjean claims he gave him the silver. The priest affirms that claim (even though he knows he has stolen it), and asks the police to release him (mercy). But what he did next was something only one motivated by the spirit could do. . . he said, "You left so early that you forgot the most precious items--the silver candlesticks!" That, my friends, is the grace of God!

Did you notice that mercy (NOT getting what we DO deserve) and grace (getting what we DON'T deserve) came together in one momentous scene?

Valjean is so humbled that he is moved to tears. . . And repentance:

"I am reaching, but I fall
And the night is closing in
And I stare into the void-
To the whirlpool of my sin
I'll escape now from that world
From the World of jean Valjean
Jean Valjean is nothing now
Another story must begin."

Jean Valjean carries those candlesticks wherever he goes, to remind him of the grace and mercy of God!

Are you walking on the edge of life where it is dark, or do you have the light

of God's grace and mercy to illuminate your path?


  1. Interesting thoughts. Thanks for stopping by my site, too!


  2. I love Les Mis! That scene with the candlesticks moved me to tears.

    Thanks for dropping by my blog and greeting my friend!

  3. Thanks for visiting Buttercup's. Please stop by often!

  4. I LOVE that those candlesticks keep coming up throughout the movie. It's like going to Holy Communion on a regular basis...constantly reminded of the grace and mercy of God!

  5. Mmmmmmm. . . I never thought of it that way. Good point!

  6. This was exactly what I was thinking about Javert too. Walking along the wall symbolising he is close to the edge but not close enough!


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