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Vanessa20

No clearly defined heros or villains?

I just thought I'd start a new topic that (hopefully) won't end up being another one devoted to David Thaxton fangirling. (I SO wish I could afford to go to London and see him!!! Crying or Very sad Crying or Very sad)

Anyway, I was looking at the comments on Youtube for the TAC rendition of "Stars," and I found one where someone said that in "Les Mis," there are no clearly defined villain/hero roles.

They were referring to the fact that Javert isn't a villain, which of course I agree with, but I don't quite agree with the whole statement. Valjean may not be perfect, he may even be "almost evil" in the beginning, but he seems like a clearly defined hero to me. Nor do the Thenardiers, however much you blame society for making them who they are, seem as redeemable as Javert. It's not like, say, Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," or even the opera "Carmen" (two extremely different examples Laughing) where the characters are so morally ambiguous that it's hard to know who to side with.

What do you guys think? Are there no real heros or villains in this story, or are they clearly defined, just complex?
marlalp

While I think the characters are all fairly complex I still see Thénardier as a clearly defined villian and Valjean as a hero.
Eppie-Sue

Re: No clearly defined heros or villains?

The only true hero is DT.





... I'm kidding, I'm kidding.


Okay. So, I think it's all down to the definition of "villian". If a villain is the antagonist, the opponent of the protagonist, then there obviously are quite a few villains in Les Misérables.
But I choose to interpret it differently, and I think Hugo has really answered this question, simply by naming the book "Les Misérables". Even though they have villanous and/or heroic traits, all the characters are simply that - les misérables, no heros, no villains.
Ulkis

Quote:
Even though they have villanous and/or heroic traits, all the characters are simply that - les misérables, no heros, no villains.


But being wretched or an outcast or poor doesn't exclude you from being a hero or a villian. He says outright at one point that the Thenardiers are so horrific because they are poor and evil, as opposed to poor and pitiable, I believe.

At first I rejected calling Valjean a hero because even though obviously he is the whole book is about him struggling with the choices he has to make. But yeah, I guess I would put him in the hero category.
Orestes Fasting

Re: No clearly defined heros or villains?

Eppie-Sue wrote:

But I choose to interpret it differently, and I think Hugo has really answered this question, simply by naming the book "Les Misérables". Even though they have villanous and/or heroic traits, all the characters are simply that - les misérables, no heros, no villains.


Bull. If he'd meant to have no true villains, he would've given the Thénardiers some redeeming characteristics.

I'm not entirely sure where Thénardier fits in with Hugo's views on the perfectability of human nature, or if he's even meant to be human at all rather than an archetype. But I think what he represents is that the castigation of the misérables is utterly futile: an absolute, archetypal villain, the kind of criminal that people thought the "dangerous classes" were full of, will be able to scheme and connive his way out of every kind of law and social banishment society can impose on him, and furthermore he's the only kind of person who can escape it. The people who get utterly crushed by their misery aren't villains, they're fallible humans who made one mistake or were born in the wrong place at the wrong time, and got crushed under the sheer weight of poverty and condemnation and misplaced authority.
Eppie-Sue

Okay, so maybe it's just language problems coming through here, seeing as neither the English "villain" nor the French "misérables" is my native language.

The problem with the definition of Hugo's characters is that he uses archetypes. As a matter of fact, the only character that is excluded from this list of "monsters", as Mario Vargas Llosa calls them (in that "The Temptation of the Impossible" analyse, which I fangirl), is Marius. He doubts, he wavers, he is human. And that's where I'm coming from. The others are not so much human but symbols. And therefore I believe they serve other purposes than to put them into these two categories "good" and "evil" - or "heroes" and "villains". Hugo uses them as puppets to illustrate a certain misère.
...
Ulkis

Quote:
The others are not so much human but symbols. And therefore I believe they serve other purposes than to put them into these two categories "good" and "evil" - or "heroes" and "villains". Hugo uses them as puppets to illustrate a certain misère.


No, I think you got the definitions right, because that's what I was saying - just because a character is outcast or poor or a revolutionary or what have you doesn't mean they can't be put in a good or evil category. I think we're saying the same thing: that Hugo was showing you can have evil and good anywhere in society, and how and why they came to be there.

Of couse I think the characters are a more complicated than that, but in the case of the question in the beginining of this thread - do you agree that Les Miserables is a tale without heroes or villians, I would have to say no.
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