Lorettes and society
Class Prostitutes and the Law
Representations in Les Miserables
Realities of Authority in Paris
Brothels and Streetwalkers
The Privileged Class: Courtesans
Defining the courtesan
Courtesans in reality
(Jean Valjean) asked himself whether human society could
have the right to...seize a poor man forever between a defect
and an excess, a default of work and an excess of punishment.
Whether it was not outrageous for society to treat thus
precisely those of its members who were the least well endowed
in the division of goods made by chance, and consequently
the most deserving of consideration."
just learned, Hugo portrays Jean Valjean as a victim in
Les Miserables, and characterizes Javert as a figurehead
of authority: the evil force responsible for Valjean's despair
and broken spirit while he is imprisoned. As the quote above
illustrates, Hugo definitely felt that authority unfairly
targeted the impoverished, like Valjean. But who is this
policeman exactly, and how is authority characterized within
him? His name is Javert...
we see Inspector Javert, as he is first introduced
in the illustrated version of Les Miserables. The
item in front of him, is label "le loi",
or "the law", which seems to suggest that
he is in direct control of the law. Perhaps the illustrator
is suggesting that one man in complete control of
the law represents an abuse of power. Either way,
Javert's face is cold and very harsh looking. He is
not an attractive man, as evidenced in Hugo's description
- Javert is
portrayed as a ruthless, totalitarian force in Les Miserables.
There are so many examples of this pertaining to his bordering-on-the-obessive
search for Jean Valjean. However, since the focus of this
portrait of authority revolves around prostitution, the
episode in which Javert arrests Fantine is the most topically
relevant. This further proves Hugo's distrust and distaste
for the police.
Javert is painted as somewhat of an automaton. True, he
thinks things through clearly in his head, and admits
he has a conscience, but his actions seem almost mechanical.
For example, when he drags Fantine out of the town square,
kicking and screaming, he pulls her away and says absolutely
nothing. Despite her pleas for "mercy", his
decision is unwavering and final.
- The only thing
that reverses his decision is the arrival of Mayor Madeline
(Jean Valjean). This is an interesting characterization
of good versus evil. Jean Valjean, who we immediately
sympathize with due to Hugo's depiction of him, versus
Javert, the emotionless, unmerciful police officer who
causes these two characters so much grief. Here we see
negative authority paying respect to positive authority.
how does Javert measure up to actual police present in the
time of Victor Hugo? In the next section of this site, I
will examine the different types of law enforcers, concentrating
specifically on those who arrested prostitutes, and monitored
of policing in 19th Century Paris