Thursday, April 5, 2012

(From "Random Reflections") Les Miserables: What We Can Learn

Hello my dear readers,

This week I had the opportunity to go see a professional production of the musical Les Miserables. I tagged along with some friends and neighbors, watched the show from prime seats in the theater, and had a splendid time. It was my second time seeing Les Mis, as I also saw it a year ago at a different venue. I know this time around, though, I cried at least twice as much as last time!

The music and the story of Les Miserables both are awe-inspiring and powerful. Set in the French Revolution and with a man on parole as the main character, the story has many different aspects and twists to it. It is filled with tragedy and joy, justice and injustice, life and death. The musical score and the lyrics that go with it reflect these things, powerfully expressing the characters' emotions and deepest struggles.

Many of the characters in the story are sunken in the depths of despair. Jean Valjean is fresh out of nineteen years of slave labor for a small crime and is now on parole. Fantine loses her job, which was her only way of sending money to the caretakers of her dying child. Eponine is madly in love with Marius, who chooses Cosette instead. All of the characters deal with the terror, pain, and misery that accompany the French Revolution - especially during and after the tragic barricade battles.

You can see this despair in the characters' actions and faces. You can hear it in their voices and in the words that they sing. Misery and despair loom everywhere, and you, too, can really feel it as the characters do.

All of the characters seek to heal their wounding hearts and renew their broken lives. Some of them, though, go about doing this in the wrong way. Madame and Monsieur Thenardier are angry and greedy innkeepers who think there is nothing more to life than money and drinking. The numerous prostitutes have all given up and lost hope, and in doing so give up and lose themselves and any concept of morality. Inspector Javert cannot understand or accept the forgiveness and mercy of Valjean, whom he has hunted down for years, and commits suicide. These are all examples of people who, in times of hardship, lost faith and did not turn to God for comfort and new life.

In many other characters, though, there is a sense of hope and of faith that there is a God who will carry them through. Valjean especially makes a firm resolution to start his life afresh after being released from slavery, and succeeds with the help of God. He transforms himself into a man of justice, of compassion, and of mercy. He does anything to help anyone in need, and is always ready with open and generous arms. And all along, he speaks about how God has always been there for him, giving him love, guidance, and grace.

This play can serve as a lesson for all of us. The story and its characters show us examples of true suffering and despair, things that we all experience during our lives. And it tells us that in the midst of such hardships, we have two choices. We can either lose hope and turn away from the love of God, as people such as the Thenardiers or the prostitutes did. Or, we can keep our faith alive and trust that God has a plan for us, as Valjean and others did. We can see the consequences of both paths in the lives of each character in the show.

I hope that if you are not familiar with Les Miserables, you will check out the music, the show itself, or the book (which I have yet to read myself). It is truly incredible, inspiring, and powerful in so many ways.

Have a wonderful Holy Week, dear readers! And, if I don't post beforehand, have a wonderful Easter as well!


"To love another person is to see the face of God." -from "Finale" in Les Miserables

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