Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

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In Les Miserables, how do the attitudes and actions of one character make a difference in making the world a better or worse place?

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The actions of Inspector Javert make the world a worse place. By insisting on tracking down Jean Valjean for the sake of law and of preserving his deeply held idea of order, Javert also insists on removing a member of a community and leaving a gaping hole in his place. Who will take care of Fantine's daughter, Cosette? Apparently, the Thénardiers, who may not be criminals but who are certainly less kind to Cosette than Jean Valjean would have been. It is no surprise that Valjean fakes his death to escape and return to his community to help repair the harm that his absence has caused. All this is why, in the end, Javert must finally learn that enforcing the law is not the same thing as enforcing justice.

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Inspector Javert is the primary example in the novel of a man whose attitudes and actions make the world a worse place. In this, he differs from naturally "bad" characters, such as the Thénardiers. The Thénardiers are corrupt people acting as corruptly as we would expect, but Javert...

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