How many of you cried? When and why?
"Sweet Jesus, hear our prayer; Sweet Jesus doesn't care." play opens.
Rationalist Victor Hugo was exploring the oppression and injustice endemic in society in a broken world, and he really wanted to move people to change things. Play ends with an appeal, an admonishment to the audience to "join in our crusade." "To love another person is to see the face of God."
As we read and interpret literature I often remind you that every author writes out of some idea of what is wrong with the world and what he thinks will fix it. What do you think Hugo thinks is wrong with the world and the solution to the problem? Discuss.
Hugo seems to want us to conclude that rebellion and warfare doesn't solve the problem.
The master of the house and his fulsome wife's pilfering ways don't solve it either (note how they have developed their own self-salvation project through thievery, robbing the rich. "God is dead," cries the master of the house as he robs and steals for his own advantage).
Law and justice, as Jauvert interprets these, does not solve it either. "Honest work, just reward; That's the way to please the Lord," Jauvert sounds like the elder brother when he declares, "The world is turned upside down." According to the rule-keeping Jauvert, Jean Valjean is "a slave of the law" who is unable to "escape the whirlwind of his sin," and Jauvert is relentless in hunting down the ex convict Jean Valjean "until he learns the meaning of the law."
It reminds me of what Tripp says, "Rules reveal and restrain sin but they have now power to rescue us from it."
Jean Valjean seems to have discovered the way to salvation, for Hugo: personal sacrifice, kindness and love, forgiveness. Do these and you will be right with God, and receive your reward. "You take and you give. Let him (Marius) live... Let me die." Marius will refer to Jean Valjean as his "Savior." Ironically, Jean Valjean's way of salvation is not unique, not a tertium quid, an entirely different way at all; it's yet another varient on justification by grace AND good deeds "love another..."
But what is missing here? There are hints of the gospel in this redemptive tale, but only partial: when the bishop protects Jean Valjean, and what's more gives him still more silver, admonishing him to start his life anew on the principle of love and forgiveness. This may be closer to the mercy of Christ in the gospel, but then the bishop disappears and leaves things up to Jean Valjean, to atone for his past sins by living a life of love and forgiveness.
A Ferrari with no engine.
Remember the problems with employing Christ figures in literature? Dickens and Tale of Two Cities, where he reduces Jesus to a metaphor for the higher thing, social justice. So different from what Lewis does with Aslan.
Victor Hugo buried in Parthenon in Paris. 19th century rationalist who nevertheless felt compelled to draw heavily from biblical imagery creating a Christ figure of Jean Valjean.
cross in mullions of the window as Jean Valjean intercedes for Fantine,
he seeks Cosette as she goes to draw water from the well, as with Abraham's servant seeking a bride for Isaac,
and then redeemers her, buys her, from the master of the house swindler,
frees jauvert "without bargains or conditions," others?)
If he gives us a stunning, though problematic, Christ figure in Jean Valjean ("his road to Calvary" "I will never leave you... You are safe"), conversely Hugo gives us an antagonist extraordinaire in Jauvert. Ironically the law-keeping, self-righteous, legalist enforcer, is truly the evil one, worse than all the rest--just as Jesus portrayed the elder brother, rule-keeper legalist, in the parable of the two lost sons.
2 Corinthians 8:9 "you know the grace of our Lord Jesus for though he was rich yet for your sake he became poor that you through his poverty might become rich." Repeat it.
We will stand at Watts' grave in a little bit and sing his "when I survey the wondrous cross... Love so amazing so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all."
Beware redemptive tales that turn us to ourselves and not to Jesus. Weep, yes, "but drops of grief can never repay the debt of love I owe..."
"Honest work, just reward; That's the way to please the Lord," says Victor Hugo's rigid legalistic chief of police Jauvert to the unfortunate Fantine in the London adaptation of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, longest running musical in the world. According to the rule-keeping Jauvert, Jean Valjean is "a slave of the law" who is unable to "escape the whirlwind of his sin," and Jauvert is relentless in hunting down the ex convict Jean Valjean "until he learns the meaning of the law." Hugo was no theologian, but he makes Herculean efforts to portray unmerited grace when he has the kindly bishop clear Valjean the desperate and embittered thief and presses him to take the silver candlesticks along with the silver cups he stole. Filled with biblical imagery throughout, yet even this falls far short of the magnitude of the grace of God in the gospel.