Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

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In Les Miserables, why didn't Inspector Javert kill or imprison Jean Valjean?

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Inspector Javert actually does arrest Jean Valjean once, after Valjean comes forward to save the wrongly accused Champmathieu at the end of Part I, but Valjean manages to escape.  Valjean spends the following years living a peaceful life incognito in Paris, but he must be always watchful so that Javert does not find him.  Decades later, Javert's and Valjean's paths cross again, when Valjean saves Javert's life.  In an act of supreme honor, Valjean, who has Javert at his mercy, reveals his identity and where he can be found, and lets him go.  Javert, impressed by Valjean's courage, begins to question his own beliefs and the single-minded manner in which he has sought over the years to bring Valjean to justice.  Amazed at the integrity of the man he has spent a lifetime pursuing, Javert finds himself in a moral quandary which he cannot resolve, and instead of going after Valjean and completing his life's endeavor, he drowns himself in the river.

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