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A Year with Les Miz: Lasting Impressions

No one knew him.

Les Miserables, p. 55

Yet, Jean Valjean is judged by the yellow passport he carries. He enters the village, and the people peer at him through veiled windows, slam doors in his face, or leer at him as he walks down the street. He expects it.

People who are crushed do not look behind them. They know too well the evil fate that follows them.

p. 58

As much as he tries to hide his past, it follows him. He even wears it.

All that could be distinguished of his face, beneath his cap, which was well pulled down, assumed a vague appearance of comfort, mingled with that other poignant aspect which habitual suffering bestows.

It was, moreover, a firm, energetic, and melancholy profile. The physiognomy was strangely composed; it began by seeming humble, and ended by seeming severe. The eye shone beneath its lashes like a fire beneath brushwood.

p. 58

So he stumbles starving down the streets, seeking a place to sleep. He is turned away from every door including a dog’s den. Why bother with the cathedral if the peasants will not help him? He shakes his fist at that door. Until an old woman questions him further.

You have knocked at all the doors?


Have you knocked at that one?


Knock there.

p. 62

“There” is the Bishop’s home. That unlocked door.

It opened wide with a rapid movement, as though some one had given it an energetic and resolute push.

p. 65

He did not have to push it. But, when all the other doors are locked, the vagrant expects the same of all. He enters boldly because he is afraid of more rejection. After all, this is the last resort.

When he is met with welcome–after all that is the Bishop’s name–he thrusts out the yellow passport. He casts his past before his benefactor even as silver is placed for him on the table. He almost refuses the offering of a bed as the fresh sheets are being spread. Finally, he relents.

Ignominy thirsts for consideration.

p. 66

But, he still questions. He wonders at the grace he does not deserve from this Bishop who does not know him.

The door does not demand of him who enters whether he has a name, but whether he has a grief.

p. 67

Perhaps in that moment he realizes he has an advocate, that first impressions are not always lasting ones.

Have you ever been shocked after you “knocked on that door” and received the help you sought?

Is reading Les Miz every day making an impression? What we read impacts our lives in ways we never imagine. By January 27, read through Volume I, Book Second, Chapter XIII. You may never be the same!

Categories: A Year with Les Miz

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