In Victor Hugo’s Les Miserable, at what point does Monsieur Madeline/ Jean Valjean realize who his real adversary is?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Part I, Book V, Chapter V, Monsieur Madeleine reencounters Inspector Javert who is now the police inspector of Montreuil-sur-mer where Jean Valjean has redeemed himself, made his fortunate and even became mayor and is now known as Monsieur Madeleine.  Prior to this, Javert was a police warden at the Toulon prison where Jean Valjean was imprisoned.  Inspector Javert is an adversary and a danger to Monsieur Madeleine because if Javert recognizes him as the ex-convict Jean Valjean, he could be imprisoned for life for taking on an assumed identity, plus the authorities are still trying to arrest him for robbing the Bishop of Digne’s.

At first, even though Monsieur Madeleine sees Javert studying him quizzically, Madeleine does not suspect Javert of recognizing him until the next chapter.  In Chapter 6, Madeleine is forced to rescue a man from being crushed beneath a cart using nothing more than the strength of his bare back.  Madeleine begs the other bystanders to help and lift the cart off the man, even offering an award but no one steps forward.  Javert argues that the task is impossible and would require a great deal of strength.  He then looks directly into Madeleine’s face and says that he has only known one man who was capable of such strength and that he was a convict in the Toulon prison.  It is at this moment that Monsieur Madeleine begins to suspect Javert of recognizing him and that Javert is his enemy who would have him imprisoned again for assuming a false identity.  Later, in Book VI, Madeleine’s suspicions are confirmed when Javert confesses to him in his mayor’s office that he had reported Monsieur Madeleine to the Paris Prefecture of being the ex-convict Jean Valjean whom authorities are still seeking to arrest for robbing the Bishop of Digne’s house.

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