Jean Valjean, AKA: M.
Madeleine, AKA M. Leblanc. Man of middle height, quite stout, in
his late forties. Last seen wearing a grey blouse, yellow shirt and
blue trousers, very ragged. Also has a bulky knapsack and leather cap.
He is wanted for questioning concerning the robbery of a young chimney-sweep
on the open road last week. Suspect has a prior record, 19 years in
the galleys for theft and repeated escape. Valjean is brutal and dangerous,
thought to be armed with a large, knotted stick. If you encounter a
traveler fitting the above description please notify the local authorities
immediately. (Characteristics from Hugo, p.52)
What began as a desperate
attempt to steal a loaf of bread for his sister's children became a
lifelong brand of guilt upon Jean Valjean's head. News of his coming
often proceeds his arrival in a town, and he comes only to find closed
-locked- doors. We cannot imagine the difficulty of reentering
society after nineteen years of hard labor and deprivation, and in this
context Valjean's ascent to mayor and millionaire is extraordinary.
Constant pursuit by the infamous
the attempts of Valjean to lead a better life. In real life, a great
criminal found a solution to this race against the law. After years
of false identities, arrests and escapes, Vidocq
turned himself in to the police, and persuaded them to let him work
as an informer.
Vidocq also published memoirs
that detailed fantastic (and often embellished) adventures of the "great
detective" Vidocq's encounters with the underworld. Remnants of
this type of literature made their way into Valjean's character in scenes
like the wall scaling at the convent and Valjean's escape by live burial.
(Valjean's brilliant courtroom speech is reminiscent of Lacenaire's