Les Miserables - Meet Javert - Audio Reading

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After the Bishop of Digne shows kindness to Jean Valjean, providing him with food and allowing him to spend the night without pay, Valjean steals the Bishop's silver plates and silverware. 

Caught by the police, Valjean faces life in prison for his latest crime.  He is freed from a terrible future when the Bishop tells the police that he gave the silverware to Valjean as a gift (and that he had also given him candlesticks which Valjean had left behind).

Stunned that the Bishop would do such a thing, to help him, Valjean listens to the old man when he tells the ex-convict to change his life.  Selling the silver goods will give him the financial footing he needs to start again.

When he reaches the village of Montreuil-sur-Mer, in northwestern France, Valjean rescues two children from a fire.  Their father is the chief of the local police. 

So grateful to the stranger, for saving his youngsters, the police chief does not ask to see the hero's travel papers.  This gives Valjean an opportunity to live and work in Montreuil-sur-Mer, using a new name.  Everyone calls him Father Madeleine.  (When he first introduces Father Madeleine, however, Victor Hugo does not tell his readers that the rescue-hero is Jean Valjean.  That happens in the next "Book" of Volume I.)

Another police official - an inspector - also works in the pastoral town of Montreuil-sur-Mer.  His name is Javert.  Who is this man?

Born in a prison, to a fortune-telling mother (whose husband "was in the galleys"), Javert is 40 years old when we first meet him in Les Mis.  He is a most unpleasant man who despises anyone breaking the law.  He rigidly believes that every rule and regulation passed by government officials must be obeyed.  He doesn't ever break the law himself.  Of him, Hugo says:

As we have said, he had no vices.  When he was pleased with himself, he permitted himself a pinch of snuff.  Therein lay his connection with humanity.

As Father Madeleine moves easily amongst the townspeople, who greatly respect him, Javert watches.  Hugo describes that watchfulness:

Javert was like an eye constantly fixed on M. Madeleine.  An eye full of suspicion and conjecture.

In this audio clip, Carole Bos reads from Les Miserables, Volume I - Book Fifth ("The Descent) - Chapter V (entitled "Vague Flashes on the Horizon").  As you listen, consider these topics.

ISSUES AND QUESTIONS TO PONDER:   What kind of man is Javert? 

How does Victor Hugo's description of Javert impact your assessment of this police inspector? 

Hugo asserts that "in every man there is one of the animal species ..."  What does he mean by that? 

The author describes both Javert's personality and his appearance in this chapter.  Would you change Javert's appearance, in any way? 

Hugo says that Javert is a "formidable man."  What does that mean? 

Why does Javert view Father Madeleine with "suspicion and conjecture?" 

The title of this chapter is "Vague Flashes on the Horizon."  What does that title suggest about future events in the story?

Les Miserables, Volume I, Book Fifth, Chapter V - "Vague Flashes on the Horizon"

By Victor Hugo

As you listen to Carole Bos read this chapter, you can follow along online.  See the translation by Isabella Hapgood (at Project Gutenberg), which is opened to "Vague Flashes on the Horizon."


Additional dramatizations of Les Miserables:

Part 1 - Bishop Myriel Helps Jean Valjean

Part 2 - Jean Valjean, Background

Part 3 - Jean Valjean, Prison Impact

Part 5 - Saving Fauchelevent (Javert Suspects It's Valjean)

Part 6 - Valjean Becomes Mayor

Part 7 - Valjean Helps Fantine

Part 8 - Valjean Promises Fantine a Future

Part 9 - Valjean Rebukes Javert


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Media Credits

Les Miserables, Volume I, Book Fifth, Chapter V - "Vague Flashes on the Horizon" - by Victor Hugo.  Read by Carole Bos, creator of Awesome Stories.


In-text image, depicting Javert, from an English-language edition of Les Miserables, published in New York by Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc., during 1900. Illustration, by Mead Schaeffer, facing page 44. Online via Open Library.


To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"Les Miserables - Meet Javert - Audio Reading" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Dec 16, 2018.
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