Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Convict and the Lark - Celebrate Musicals Week, Day 3

Welcome to Day 3!
(I'm going to do this red-and-black thing the rest of the week, guys.)

There are a number of amazing relationships in the story of Les Miserables. Most of these aren't romantic at all, and those, in my opinion, are the best ones. One of my favorites is that of Jean Valjean and Cosette, which I will spend some time talking about today. This one is a bit more serious than the last Shipping post. Get the tissues out--you might need them. But then, if you're a Mizzie (is that the correct term for us?) you're probably trained to grab your tissues whenever you even see the words Les Mis. So, you're good.

The story of Jean Valjean and Cosette really begins with Jean Valjean and Fantine. Fantine was ruined indirectly by Jean Valjean after she was fired from his factory. He didn't fire her (indeed, he would have helped her if he'd known how desperate she was) but his overseer did, and Fantine was sure that Monsieur le Maire was not as kind as he had always been thought to be. As she spiraled downwards into the depths of despair, she also developed a sheer hatred for this man who had inadvertently caused her so much distress. 

When Fantine is abused by a man, she fights back and gets arrested herself. She's given a prison sentence, but Monsieur le Maire lets her go. The truth comes out about her situation, and Jean Valjean is horrified by what he has done to this woman. He cares for her the best he can in the time she has left and they form a bond punctuated by Fantine's intense love for her daughter. However, not even the best of care can prevent Fantine's death, as illustrated in one of the most heart-wrenching songs of the musical. 

And suddenly, Cosette (called the Lark by her neighbors) was as good as an orphan with no one to care for her but Jean Valjean, on the run from the law yet again. In the musical, Javert pretty much lets Jean Valjean go after The Confrontation. In the book, it's definitely not that simple. After some shrewd dealing with the Thenardiers he has to employ every bit of his physical strength and mental cunningness (both developed via his convict years) to get both Cosette and himself hidden.

It shows such love on Valjean's part that he would risk his life to save the child of this dying woman, whom he had known for so short of a time. All he knew was that Fantine depended on him, and although he failed her, he was not going to fail her daughter. Cosette adores the man that rescued her. She is a gentle little girl who simply wants to be loved. And love her, he does. 

The paradoxes are so beautiful. The Convict and the Lark. The little girl and the wizened man. The one who loves unconditionally because she has never had anything to love until now, and the one who had to learn to love all over again for the same reason. One of my favorite quotes in the novel is this one:
When he saw Cosette, when he had taken possession of her, carried her off, and delivered her, he felt his heart moved within him. 

All the passion and affection within him awoke, and rushed towards that child. He approached the bed, where she lay sleeping, and trembled with joy. He suffered all the pangs of a mother, and he knew not what it meant; for that great and singular movement of a heart which begins to love is a very obscure and a very sweet thing. 

Poor old man, with a perfectly new heart!  
Which, of course, says it better than I ever could. 

Along with the other songs performed on Broadway for so many years, a new song was added to the Les Miserables repertoire for the 2012 movie. It's called Suddenly, and it's sung by Jean Valjean about Cosette. I think it was an excellent decision to add this song and there's no better topic they could have added to.
"Suddenly you're here. Suddenly it starts. Can two anxious hearts beat as one?
Yesterday I was alone, today you walk beside me."

On that note, I end my post for today. Have a wonderful Wednesday. 


P.S. This one is for my American Girl fan readers! I found this adorable picture of the Cosette actress Isabelle Allen with her AG doll, Caroline, who coincidentally looks a lot like Cosette! 

1 comment:

Emma Kate said...

I miss you, Quinlyn :)