I would just like to note that Jean Valjean’s only response
to Javert’s suicide is to (1) note that he’s free, and (2) think that Javert
must have already been crazy to let him go.
There’s not an ounce of sadness or regret or even pity about it. Not that I blame Valjean at all. And it’s not even unusual for him. Valjean
generally reserves his emotion for Cosette at the best of times, which this is
not: he’s already benumbed by her impending marriage.
But the fact that he thinks Javert must have been crazy—as opposed to having changed for the better if
just for one moment—is ominous, because it means he’s fully internalized Javert’s
worldview. That’s what that action is to
Javert, from within Javert’s ideology
and viewpoint: madness. Total
disorder. And not just a momentary
madness, but a sign that sanity and order are henceforth impossible for
him. His existence will be wrong no matter what, like I discussed
here. Javert would not want Valjean’s pity even a little bit, and believed
letting Valjean go was either sin or madness, and is either way unacceptable. That’s part of why I have no objection to
the usual musical staging, where Javert isn’t in “barricade heaven” at the
end. Javert does not want to be there.
He wants no part of the “world of Jean Valjean,” as he sings in the
musical. He resigns from God to get away
from that world when it looks like that world might exist on earth. And he sure wouldn’t want to live in the kind
world where Jean Valjeans are commonly treated with respect, which is what the
barricade heaven is. Javert is not
someone who hates himself. He hates the class his parents belonged to.
Not only does he tries to dissociate
himself from other members of
that class as much as he can, but he also actively tries to keep them down and
oppress them. And he does this for
decades, as an adult. He’s not a child
like Azelma or Éponine, under the control of their mother, and taking their
cues from her regarding how to treat Cosette.
He hates that class and does not
want to be part of a world where it’s free. Which is part of why Valjean doesn’t really
think anything about his suicide after releasing Valjean other than “…well, he
was clearly off his rocker anyway.”
…but those are Javert’s standards, not Valjean’s. By Valjean’s own standards, Javert having a
moment of understanding and respect for one of the misérables is a change for the better. But Valjean does not apply those standards to
himself. He’s internalized Javert’s
standards when it comes to himself, meaning he’s internalized self-hatred.
A big EXACTLY to all of this. I’ve never understood the idea that Javert would WANT to be in Barricade Heaven; like you sayhe actively kills himself to escape the possibility of a world where Valjean could belong and have a claim on justice.
And this attitude– from Javert, and even more from the society he serves– does Valjean real internal harm. I feel like a see a lot more about how it damages Javert? Which, it absolutely does, of course it does, that’s maybe the most important fact of his whole character. But Valjean internalizes and destroys himself over that social hierarchy, too, and I see that mentioned a lot less, even though it’s about to drive the whole rest of the novel–and even though it’s arguably the worst thing the system does to him, since, unlike the more obvious physical costs, which already are so high but which he survives, this really will kill him.