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Les Misérables

by Victor Hugo

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What was Javert's life like before becoming a police officer in Les Misérables?

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In Les Misérables, Javert was born in a prison, the son of a man who rowed in the prison galley (and therefore, presumably, a convict like Valjean). His mother was a fortune-teller. Javert revolted against this background of crime and Bohemianism to become a strict legalist, continually obeying and upholding the letter of the law. In the musical based on Hugo's novel, he appears to be a religious fanatic, but in the book, the highest authority he recognizes is the law.

Because of his fanatical belief, Javert always aspires to be an officer of the law. Before becoming a police officer, he was a prison guard, and it was in this capacity, working at the Bagne of Toulon, that he first encountered Jean Valjean. After this, he appears as a provincial police inspector, then as an inspector in Paris. His upright, narrowly virtuous character makes it unlikely that he would seek or perform any task but that of upholding the law in some capacity.

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