Non-Consequentialist theories of morality are best expressed by the character Inspector Javert. His actions are lead by the theory that it is better to lead a life where rules are followed. It is your duty to obey the laws and it is your duty to always act in this manner. Consequences are not to be considered when judging a persons actions (Thiroux, Krasemann, 2012, p. 46). Inspector Javert’s position in society supports his actions. This man must follow the laws set by his government, and lead his community by example.
His duty was to carry out the law which are examples of rule absolutes which offer no room for exceptions (Thiroux, Krasemann, 2012, p. 87). The Inspector becomes obsessed with the capture of Jean ValJean, a criminal who must be caught and brought to justice. The film begins with the story of a man, Jean ValJean, who is first introduced to the viewer in a prison setting, where later you find out he was imprisoned for theft.
After serving nine-teen years of punishment in prison for his crime he is then rewarded release on parole. Following his release he encounters another situation where he acts in contrast to those beliefs of a rule utilitarian like Javert. These contrasting characters are examples within their guiding principles. Non-Consequentialist Theories are based on the idea that consequences are not and in fact should not be a factor in determining whether the act is moral or immoral (Thiroux, Krasemann, 2012, p. 46). Where as consequentialism is based or concerned with consequences. Jean ValJean’s guiding principles are more of an act utilitarian who believes that everyone should perform that act which will bring out the greatest good over bad for everyone affected by the act (Thiroux, Krasemann, 2012, p. 37). Utilitarianism is a form of Consequentialism. Javert is a rule utilitarian where his ideas are that everyone should always follow the rule or rules that will bring greater good. These ideas are contrasting because it is unsure what actions would bring greater good with or without making exceptions to the rules at hand.
Javert being an official of the law encourages the importance of law within the film to avoid loosing control within his community. On one hand ValJean broke the law only to avoid the death of starvation. These situations are the basis of the conflicting approaches to morality by each main character in the film. ValJean encounters the Character of Bishop Myriel who offers him a job and teats him kindly despite his criminal background. The Bishop is a positive influence on ValJean. While working for the Bishop, he makes a promise to become a better man and redeem himself only after being caught once again for stealing silverware from the bishop. The Bishop lies to officers only to save ValJean from returning to prison. With the silver that was stolen and now a gift was he only able to accomplish his promise for a better life. ValJeans commitment led him to later became the owner of a factory and the Mayor of his city. There we are first introduced to the character of Fantine.
We discover that she has a child, Cossette, who is in care with another family The Thenardiers. Fantine works hard to provide for Cossette at the factory where she is later fired from, which led to her desperate need to make money. Desperate times cause for desperate measures., like Fantine prostituting to as a mean to make money. Fantine’s unlawful actions lead her to encounter the Inspector Javert. Here is where the feuding theories of morality between Javert and ValJean are once brought to question once again. Should Fantines actions be justified by the idea that prostitution is wrong and unlawful, or is it okay because she must provide for Cossette and her needs? In the end the Mayors position allows Fantine to avoid prison time thus bringing about greatness for her family. His utilitarian approach to the situation causes more conflict with the Inspector who believes she should be inprisoned for breaking the law.
More evidence with the personal moral theories conflicting are evident when Jean ValJean promises Fantine that he will take care of her daughter Cossette. He first must escape from Mr. Jovert who is now aware that he is a convict. Javert expressed the idea that a law breaker cannot reform therefore ValJean should not be Mayor. Javert commented on his parents also being criminals when he was a child. Once exposed ValJean escapes once again with Cossette to Paris, where they live in a convent. He feels it is his duty to carry out his promise of a better life. Reparation (prima facie) is a duty mentioned when looking at non-consequential theories (Thiroux, Krasemann, 2012, p. 54). Cossette and ValJean are able to achieve a fulfilled life with security in the city of Paris while at the convent. Cossette ultimately asks to not become a nun and persuades ValJean to live outside the convent. Willing to please Cossette, ValJean agrees to the move.
Cossette attracts an admirer while exploring her new surroundings in the character Marius. Marius is a young revolutionary who asks to “Restore the Republic”. He becomes obsessed and determined to interact with Cossette, very much like he is committed to his revolution. Inspector Javert also resides in Paris where he is the newest Deputy as the reward from exposing the truth about Jean ValJean. The “cat and mouse game” between Jean ValJean and the Inspector Javert is continued in Paris when he is informed with information about the revolutionists new love interested Cossette. Marius was followed by one of ValJeans informant following the revolutionists. Javert is once again on the hot pursuit to bring ValJean to an end. He is determined to bring justice because it is the right thing for him to do. ValJean unaware of Cossettes relationship with her young suitor opens an opportunity for the Inspector to get close and finally cease the former convict. ValJean now a “reformed man” refuses to give up without a fight. In the attempt to flee once again ValJean is encountered with the dilemma of Marius and Cossette’s relationship.
Her relationship is troubled by the increasing resistance from the revolutionists against the Parisian army. With the city barricaded ValJean must return Marius safely to Cossette. In pursuit for Marius the army injures Cossette’s love and now ValJean must flee the chaos of the city with the injured Marius. Not before once again encountering the persistant Javert. This is a turn of events that gives ValJean to turn on his predator and kill him. This doesn’t happen because ValJean is said to have been merciful towards the Inspector. In the end of this tale the Inspector is surprised by the mercy ValJean showed towards him. The Inspector allowed the convict to aid the Marius to some medical attention and return to his capturer. ValJean also agreed to be turned into the Parisian officials after saving Marius. With Marius alive he would no longer have to worry about his Cossettte. Therefore fulfilling his commitment to Fantine. Upon returning Mr. Javert expressed how his guiding principles to perform his duty the right way brought him confusion when ValJean showed him mercy in the situation of life and death.
Death was the only solution the Inspector had in store to this for this ending. Everything ValJean did was justified when the Inspector decided to kill himself. The Inspector never breaking the law himself saw that there were flaws to his guiding principles and could not live with himself no more. Unwilling to face the consequences he saw fit to end his life thus granting ValJean his freedom. He felt his obsession for the capture of the ValJean would see no end and haunt him forever. At this point he acknowledges the fact that ValJean is a reformed man and not an “animal” thought to have been created while in the prison system. Before ValJean was a “difficult problem” to the Inspector himself and he needed bring justice to those acts of the former Mayor. Everyday we are faced with the same if not different situations where we are asked to do the “right thing”.
This is very difficult even to those who appeal to be morally or ethically correct. Rules can be to general and only act as a guide to do the greatest of good while avoiding consequences. It is also difficult in the sense that there acts or rules offer no exceptions. The story of Les Miserables proves otherwise. ValJean overcame many difficulties and while his actions may have been unlawful they did affect those around him positively. His actions in the end brought him security and loving relationship with his “daughter”, Cossette, all while ultimately keeping his promis to the Bishop Myriel and the late Fantine. His actions throughout the film prove that he is indeed a good man despite his criminal background. ValJean accomplishes reformation which seemed impossible to the characteristics of the Inspector.
Ciminals should be brought to jusitice, laws are meant to be followed, under no circumstances can the law be flawed, and no exceptions are to be made. These guiding principles for the Inspector shaped his actions throughout this story. ValJeans actions show that his is a honest, caring, and loving man who is rewarded with freedom. He no longer has the fear of being caught by the Inspector and also rewarded with love from his “daughter”, Cossette. In the film ValJean states that “Love is the only future God gives us”.
The guiding theories to ones ethical and moral dilemmas can be conflicting with those of others. Here we have actions based on the idea of realizing the consequences for your actions first or not thinking about any consequences and acting on what you feel to be right. Rules should always be followed with no exceptions. The belief that one should not be judged or defined by any action in particularly. Rules are important to a society bringing awareness to consequences by ones actions. It is important to not give up on ourselves because we are all capable of reformation if we want it.