Les Miserables: Novel Summary: Section 5 - Book Four

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Section Five - Jean Valjean
Book Four - Javert Off the Track
After leaving Jean Valjean's door, Javert had walked slowly down the silent streets with his head down and his arms behind his back. He had never walked with his head down or his arms behind his back until that night. His whole person bore the mark of anxiety. He stopped at a police station and wrote a letter to his superior suggesting some improvements that could be made to the established police procedures.
He then walked to a point of the Seine near the Point Note Dame where two bridges make the water wild and dangerous. Javert had only ever known one path in life and that was to do his duty. But since Jean Valjean had spared his life and he had returned the gesture by allowing the convict to remain free, his sense of duty had been trumped and he no longer knew by what principles to live his life. He had been astonished that Jean Valjean had spared him but he was petrified that he, Javert, had in turn spared Jean Valjean. He felt that the right thing to do was to have Jean Valjean arrested but something inside him prevented him from taking the action. But by not taking action Javert realized he was setting himself above the law. He had never aspired to be humane, great or sublime, but merely to be irreproachable and he has failed even in that. He felt he no longer had reason to exist. After a few moments of consideration he mounted the parapet and cast himself into the water.
Analysis
Javert has come to a turning point in his life. He has always followed the law and knew exactly what to do and what was considered to be right and wrong. By allowing Valjean to walk away as a free man, he has done something contrary to the law and is no longer able to function and live. The only left for him to do is to commit suicide.

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