Wednesday, January 16, 2013

fictional heroes

Photo credit
Move over, Edward Cullen. Step aside, Rhett Butler. Stand in line, Mr. Darcy. I have a new favorite fictional hero: Jean Valjean.

I saw the musical version of Les Miserables in Chicago on my 24th birthday, nearly 15 years ago. While I walked away from the performance loving the music, some of the plot had escaped me. It wasn't until watching the movie version just a few weeks ago that I truly understood the plot, and the beauty that is Jean Valjean.

Does a better fictional hero exist?

While watching the movie, I was struck by how many similarities there are between The Count of Monte Cristo and Les Miserables. (Just in case anyone else is curious, The Count of Monte Cristo was published first, in 1844. Les Miserables followed in 1862.) Both protagonists serve time in prison. Both make daring escapes from their pursuers. Both men are strong and smart and rebuild their lives after prison. Themes of love and revenge are woven throughout both stories, albeit in different forms. But Jean Valjean, the movie version at least, exudes kindness and compassion that The Count lacked. I enjoyed reading The Count of Monte Cristo and am glad that Brad and I both read it. But my major criticism of that tale is that, in my opinion, The Count didn't seem very human. He was too cold and calculating for me. After reading 1,000+ pages, I wanted to feel connected to the protagonist--or even just like him-- more than I did. I don't have that problem with (the movie version of) Jean Valjean.

A few days after seeing Les Miserables, Brad, Mason and I went to Barnes and Noble. Copies of Les Miserables tempted me from every direction. I now feel an obligation to read the book sometime in my lifetime. But since I failed at my one reading goal of 2012, I believe that 2013 is not the year to take on another 1,200+ page tome. I resisted the urge and saved us $18 on a book that I surely would not finish anytime soon.

Instead, I came home and downloaded the free copy of Les Miserables via my Kindle application on my iPhone 5. How crazy is that? And how many pages would a 1,200-page normal book be on an iPhone? 8,000? 10,000? At least the Kindle version was free!

Who are your favorite fictional heroes? And is anyone else as obsessed with Jean Valjean as I am?


Lorelei said...

I agree that Jean Valjean outranks many protagonists, especially the Count. I also did not really like the Count, after reading TCOMC. You will fall more in love with Jean Valjean if you read the novel, guaranteed! It's such a long book, and drags in some places, intentionally, to keep you hanging I think, but wow one of the best books I have ever read. I think it took me about a year on and off to finish it. Another favorite of mine is Sidney Carton. Love, love, love A Tale of Two Cities.

Lorelei said...

Oh, and if you ever want to you can borrow our paperback copy of LM.

AMRJ said...

Les Mis is my favorite musical HANDS DOWN. I see it almost every time it is in town! I have also been intrigued to read the book but have been too intimidated by the size. I love that you have clued me in to the fact that I can download it free on kindle though so THANKS for the tip!

Amy Hill said...

The movie was wonderful. I have been a fan since broadway years ago. I've seen it on the stage many times and know the music by heart. I have read the abridged version of the book twice. That might be a more doable goal, though, even though it's like cheating to read the abridged version! I am a new fan of Hugh Jackman's after that movie, though!