So I’ve been a member of The Classics Club for a while now and I’ve been a very bad member. I haven’t participated in any memes and I’m not sure I’m on track with my reading either. I’ve read two books from my list since I joined in September 2012: Victor Hugo: Les Misérables and Toni Morrison: Beloved. Both were extremely good.
Anyway, back to the case in point. This month’s meme:
“Who is hands-down the best literary hero, in your opinion? Likewise, who is the best heroine?”
None other than Jean Valjean from Les Misérables. Jean Valjean starts out as a nice man trying to help out his family by providing for them. But when he has to steal bread for them, he is put in the gallows and ends up staying there for so long, that he forgets his family and is a changed man when he eventually gets out. He is a broken man, a man with no good in his soul anymore.
But then he meets a man. An old bishop who is a giver. When he has the chance to put Jean Valjean back in the gallows, he doesn’t. This changes something in Valjean and even though he performs one more crime, the bishop’s good deed has put him on a new path.
When we next meet him, he is a mayor doing everything in his power to do good. And even when he again becomes down on his luck, he continues on this path of doing good and helping – particularly in the case of the young daughter of Fantine.
Valjean is very much a hero. He does everything to do good and even though he’s viewed as the lowest of all, he continues striving to improve himself – and succeeds.
A heroine from classic literature can be found in the same book. Fantine. Fantine is a woman who goes from being the belle of the ball to being very much down on her luck. It does seem that I like my heroic characters to be the type who face adversity with dignity and strength, doesn’t it?
What makes Fantine a heroine in my book, is that she is willing to do everything to take care of her child. And not just do everything in the sense that she feeds or clothes her. No, Fantine knows that she is not able herself to take care of her daughter so she finds her what she thinks is the best possible foster home and does everything to pay for it – including selling her hair and teeth. Fantine is an amazing mother even though she doesn’t mother her child herself.
The book was wonderful and amazing. I haven’t watched the recent movie yet but Anne Hathaway’s performance of I Dreamed a Dream makes me cry every time.