Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pensée With a Plot

I continue reading Les Misérables. The section I'm meditating on this morning is an encounter Fantine has with Javert. The young woman has been insulted by a dandy, so she retaliates. Javert only sees Fantine's response to the one who had mistreated her; so he immediately arrests her, assigning a sentence of six months in prison. Accordingly, Fantine pleads for mercy.

Here is a passage that conveys some of the wisdom Victor Hugo possessed. He gives a painfully beautiful description of Fantine: "She talked thus, bent double, shaken with sobs, blinded by tears, her neck bare, clenching her hands, coughing with a dry and short cough, stammering very feebly with an agonized voice. Great grief is a divine and terrible radiance which transfigures the wretched. At that moment Fantine had again become beautiful. At certain instants she stopped and tenderly kissed the policeman's coat. She would have softened a heart of granite; but you cannot soften a heart of wood."

"'Come,' said Javert, 'I have heard you. Haven't you got through? March off at once! You have your six months! The eternal Father in person could do nothing for you.'"

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