The Letter Of The Law (TCWT)

The Letter Of The Law (TCWT)

Write a letter to an antagonist. That’s what we were asked to do for TCWT this month. You know what was the hardest bit? Choosing a character who actually IS an antagonist — or rather, finding a character who was an antagonist, but fully developed enough that I cared to write a letter to them.

Today is World Book Day, and I’m dressed as Éponine (pictures to come, if anyone is interested). So, let’s continue with the Les Misérables theme …

Dear Inspector Javert,

You never saw yourself as an antagonist. I like that. You believe in your work. You believe that everything you’ve done is the right thing: that Valjean, having broken his parole, deserved to be hunted down through the new life he’d made. He deserved to have the status he’d worked so hard for compromised by somebody who couldn’t let go of a petty crime. He deserved to be judged and treated with suspicion when he tried to do the right thing, because once a thief, always a thief. Obviously, he deserved everything he got.

Did you hear that? That was sarcasm. I mean, you might not get it. Maybe I’m being too concise. You, after all, spent several pages soliloquising before you jumped. It wasn’t the longest chapter in the book, but that’s a long time to be talking to yourself. Perhaps you needed psychiatric help.

But I do wonder if you actually thought about the whole thing. If you ever wondered whether what you were doing was truly the best use of your skill set. I know you had a crisis of belief when Valjean let you go — we’re not talking about that. Let’s get down to basics. He stole a loaf of bread and went to jail. He tried to escape, so spent longer in jail. And then he broke his parole and disappeared and, oh, guess what? Made something of himself!

Is that such a crime? Is there some personal reason why you got involved, why you took him on as your pet project? Perhaps you believed that while he was at large, you were failing The Law. You were failing in your duties.

And if that’s the truth, then I am so sorry. I pity you.

You didn’t need to spend all those years hunting him. He didn’t need to spend all those years being hunted. Don’t you see, Javert? You went through all that — and for what? To realise that you were wrong? To doubt, who never doubted all these years? He didn’t do anything to deserve it and it breaks my heart that you took it as your task with such conviction, so that failing, or being compromised, was enough to prompt you to end your life.

I wish I could show you that there was more to Valjean than 24601 and the stolen bread. I wish I could show you that there was more to the world than prisoners and their guards.

You were born inside a jail, weren’t you? I forget the details of your childhood. It’s a few years now since I read your story, and people have shared different ones with me since then. But being born in a jail, if I’m right about that — that’s an awful way to grow up. The things you must have seen as a child, the people you must have met with … how is that a childhood? Of course you saw everything as black and white. No one ever showed you that there was more to morality than whether you were in chains or holding a whip.

The Law is not mocked. You feared to be mocked, didn’t you? What you really feared, I think, was not being good enough. And it blinded you, and you spent years chasing a man who shouldn’t have been chased, and it ate up your life and your purpose and everything about you.

I’m sorry. That wasn’t an existence.

I’m sorry that your end was the way it was. I’m sorry that seeing the truth was so painful. I’m sorry that you lost your strength of conviction before you died. To die on the barricades, shot like a dog, but still clinging to ideology and faith — that’s different. A martyr’s death. But a crisis of belief and suicide?

This world would have held you, if you had let it. This world would have been enough. You couldn’t see that. You saw only ‘life with a purpose’ and ‘life without’, because no one taught you to see in between.

I weep for you as much as I weep for Gavroche, for Éponine, for Enjolras and Grantaire, for les amis in the ABC café, for poor doomed Fantine, for Valjean … I did not want to see you die. Yes, if it had come to it, I would have stood between you and Valjean and protected him. I was on his side all along. That doesn’t mean I hated you.

Goodbye, Inspector.

Yours very sincerely,

Miriam Joy

March 5th –
March 6th –
March 7th – <- YOU ARE HERE!
March 8th –
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March 23rd –
March 24th –
March 25th –
March 26th –
March 27th –
March 28th (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain)

23 thoughts on “The Letter Of The Law (TCWT)

  1. I’m glad someone chose Inspector Javert to write to – he’s such an interesting character. I always thought he hated Valjean so much because he was the one who /did/ make him doubt, if only a little. He loathed it so much that he was determined to put Valjean down again and make the world black and white once more. Anyway, interesting post. :)

    1. Thanks for sharing that insight! Yeah, that’s kind of how I saw it — the only thing I never got was why he even cared about Valjean for so many years in the first place. If he’d left him well alone, he’d never have doubted… sigh. And so all sow the seeds of their own destruction…

  2. Aaaand now I have Javert feels all over again. I think your letter really got to the heart of the problem here – he isn’t a bad man, just a blinkered one. Heck, maybe he could have been a friend to Valjean in different circumstances – both have an incredible sense of duty, and if you think about it their morals aren’t so different (Valjean, admittedly, has a more balanced view of humanity, but I think he’s still pretty definitive on knowing good from bad).

    But I’m rambling – yet another testament to how well you’ve done your job of really making one think about the character. Great post!

    1. Thanks, Charley! :) I get Javert feels a lot. But not as often as Enjolras feels (because I literally just sit in class thinking about the barricade boys).
      I think I just generally get a lot of Les Mis feels!

      1. Barricade boys = most feels-inducing characters outside of Shakespeare, a mon avis.

        Les Mis is horrifically painful . . . but at the same time its’ so amazing that one can’t bring oneself to hate it. So we just sit and devolve into tears.

  3. I’m also surprised you didn’t write to Loki. It’s difficult, though; I’ve been umming and erring lately about who to do for mine (I notice I am still booked on for Mother’s Day :o Will have to write that on the ninth, then.) : no antagonist springs out as being the obvious answer for me. I’d never write to Voldemort, for instance – there doesn’t seem to be much of another side to him in the way I portray him in my mind.

    1. Loki is an obvious choice, and I wanted to do a literary character – my primary exposure to him is of course in the film. And I think there is definitely another side to Voldemort, but you have to dig further. (Mind you, I am capable of feeling sympathy for Joffrey Lannister so most people consider my perception flawed.)

      1. True. Literary characters are generally more developed, too. Fair enough decision.
        Yeah… I mean, I know Voldy had a miserable life as a child and whatever, but I don’t FEEL for him as a character. He’s an epic villain, but, for instance, if I chose to write a letter to him, it would probably be along the lines of “leave Harry and his friends alone. Goodbye.”
        Ah…Game of Thrones? I don’t know that character, but I bet your perception is not flawed, just…different. You’re a character-killer anyway. I couldn’t do that to my protagonists (though maybe I could kill their friends…).

  4. That was amazing. I liked how you included lines from the songs, too.

    Javert was a very interesting character. I never thought of anyone in Les Miserables as an antagonist except the Thenardiers, because all of those nasty people have reasons to be nasty. The Thenardiers are just evil.

    I loved Javert’s suicide scene. That whole soliloquy was magnificent.

    1. I believe an antagonist is more than a villain. A villain is a two-dimensional ‘evil’ character with no redeeming features. An antagonist is simply someone who gets in the way of the protagonist’s aims, which in Valjean’s case is making a new life for himself and bringing up Cosette. Therefore, Javert gets in the way, he’s an antag. This means that pretty much anyone can be an antagonist at any point, including the protag’s best friend. However, for the purposes of this I chose somebody who gets in the way for the majority of the book, so that they couldn’t be doubted to be an antagonist.
      I personally never write ‘bad guys’ (with the exception of my current project, and even that has some ambiguoity. I just tend to have a whole bunch of people who all want different, conflicting things. I think it makes it more interesting because there’s more drama and a reader has to decide who they’re going to root for.

  5. Please do post Eponine pictures. Ever since I was introduced to the musical a year ago, I have wanted to perform as her. I do musical theater, but even so, that probably won’t be happening.

    Interesting letter choice. I love, though do not agree with, Javert’s character. He also has some good musical numbers, but beyond that, he’s a very well developed character. Les Mis is full of interesting characters and plotlines, which is why I love it so much. That and the beautiful music numbers.

    (Oh, and this is Wren, by the way. My computer is being weird, so I don’t know if the name-box thingy will show that.)

  6. I haven’t read (or watched) Les Miz, but n’aww, such a good letter! I’m struggling to pick a villain for my letter too. Fully developed antagonists are the best…equally (if not more) important as the protagonist.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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