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Do Two "Wrongs" Ever Make a "Right?"

During his 19 years in prison, Jean Valjean—the main character of Les Miserables—has a lot of time to think:

  • He thinks about what he did to himself (and questions whether he committed a crime).
  • He thinks about the time he has served in prison (and questions whether society committed a crime against him).

Valjean concludes that he committed a crime (by stealing) and that society committed a crime against him (by imprisoning him for so long). There are thus two “wrongs” in the early part of Valjean’s story.

After he is released from prison, and is helped by a kindly Bishop who urges him to change his ways, Valjean does change. He is determined to live a good life.

There is a belief that “two wrongs never make a right,” and that it’s a logical fallacy to even think that way. But if we consider the case of Jean Valjean—when he realizes there are two wrongs (his own for the crime and society’s for the punishment)—he decides to change his life.

Is this one of those rare times when two wrongs actually make a right? Explain your answer.


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