Friday, January 13, 2012
An Open Letter to Victor Hugo
My dear Mr. Hugo,
We need to talk.
In the mid-nineteenth century, you wrote an incredible, jaw-dropping, inspiring, classic, amazing, massive, ridiculously wonderful tome by the name of Les Miserables. I have just now finished reading it, and I have a bone to pick with you (disgusting idiom, when you think about it).
You created an amazing array of characters. You crafted an intricate plot to rival the Dickens himself. You swept me away into the world of post-Napoleon France, a place I'd never been before, and you made me never want to leave. You made me fall in love with a convicted criminal... more than once throughout the long, long story. You made me cry over a book I'd been assigned to read for school. (yep, you read that right.)
You made me laugh and sigh and sob, you inspired me to rush to my library website and order the Les Miserables In Concert DVD right away. (going to the library tomorrow... I can wait, I CAN WAIT.)
And you killed both my favorite characters.
That's what I can't forgive. I knew Jean Valjean was going to die. That was all right. I cried over his death, but it was all right. He was old and tired. He had lived his life, forgiven people who'd wronged him, made life better for so many people. He died happy. I can, sort of, forgive your heartless murder of Jean Valjean (because, hey, his whole life was about forgiveness).
But you also slew Gavroche Thenardier, and I can never reconcile myself to that. YOU KILLED GAVROCHE, VICTOR HUGO. I still can't believe you did that. Have you no soul, no heart, no sense of humor? I realize there was a battle going on. I realize that several other characters died too. I liked Eponine and felt quite sorry for her, but her death didn't really faze me. Then you killed Enjolras. I was horrified, but I had somehow known it would happen, so it was okay. (Though I still think he should have lived. I liked him. And from what little I've heard of the musical... wowwwww.)
But then you sent Gavroche out of the relative safety barricade to pick up ammunition. Wait, that's not true--Gavroche decided to go out to pick up ammunition. Nobody could have stopped him. You don't stop Gavroche. Gavroche does as he pleases and thumbs his nose at the rest of the world. But you could have stopped the soldier that shot Gavroche, Victor Hugo, and... you didn't.
Gavroche was, like, twelve. He still had his whole life before him. He could have become something great. He didn't have to die for a cause he hardly understood. (Jean Valjean had a habit of picking up stray children who weren't loved--he did well enough with Cosette, couldn't he have adopted a son too?) Were you trying to make some sort of point, Mr. Hugo? Something about the futility of war and how it crushes even plucky little kids like Gavroche? Well, it was a nice point, but you didn't have to sacrifice the second-best character in 800 pages to do it.
And you know, the real reason I'm mad is because I can't help loving Les Miz anyway. You did things to this story that I can't forgive, and yet I know that this book has soared to the top ten on my list of favorites. You created some amazing characters, killed half of them, and yet I know I'll be reading this book again and again. I don't know how you did it, and I don't think I want to know.
Don't take that as a compliment, because I'm still pretty mad.