Les Miserables

Les Miserables

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A police inspector who originally met Jean Valjean in the galleys, and who reemerges again and again throughout the novel, constantly threatening to expose Valjean’s identity and cause his downfall. Javert believes in authority and obedience to the law above all else. The law is so sacred for him that he cannot envision any other system of morality or justice. Javert’s wholehearted devotion to the law is portrayed in the novel as ultimately insufficient, even if it is well-intentioned.

Javert Quotes in Les Miserables

The Les Miserables quotes below are all either spoken by Javert or refer to Javert. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love and Redemption Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Canterbury Classics edition of Les Miserables published in 2015.
Volume 1, Book 5 Quotes

This man was composed of two very simple and two very good sentiments, comparatively; but he rendered them almost bad, by dint of exaggerating them—respect for authority, hatred of rebellion; and in his eyes, murder, robbery, all crimes, are only forms of rebellion.

Related Characters: Javert
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:

Here we are introduced to Javert, the policeman who will serve as Jean Valjean's nemesis for most of the rest of the novel. Yet even this antagonist is shown as not entirely evil, but rather subject to multiple, conflicting impulses that should be examined and understood before they are fully condemned. "Respect for authority" and "hatred of rebellion" are, according to the logic of the novel, not negative traits per se, since they can be mapped onto the understanding of justice that the novel has already begun to sketch. However, the problem comes when, as in Javert's case, these justifiable sentiments are exaggerated such that they come to obsess him and replace any other kind of moral standard. As a result, Javert sees all crimes only as forms of rebellion. He fails to see, as those like the Bishop do, that there may be other reasons, even understandable reasons, for people to commit such crimes. Javert's black-and-white way of viewing the world is proven to be dangerously inadequate, particularly in the complex world of misunderstandings, moral quandaries, and structural injustices that Hugo portrays.

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Volume 5, Book 4 Quotes

His supreme anguish was the loss of certainty. He felt that he had been uprooted […] A whole new world was dawning on his soul: kindness accepted and repaid, devotion, mercy, indulgence, violences committed by pity on austerity, respect for persons, no more definitive condemnation, no more conviction, the possibility of a tear in the eye of the law, no one knows what justice according to God, running in inverse sense to justice according to men. He perceived amid the shadows the terrible rising of an unknown moral sun: it horrified and dazzled him.

Related Characters: Javert
Related Symbols: Light and Darkness
Page Number: 1129
Explanation and Analysis:

We had been introduced to Javert as a man of principles, two principles in fact: love of authority and distrust of rebellion. Now, he has recognized that Valjean, the rebellious, anti-authority criminal that he has been chasing all throughout the novel, is actually a profoundly good person. Almost without thinking, Javert has let him go free, after seeing how he was solely concerned with bringing Marius to safety. Now the careful, principled life that Javert had created for himself is suddenly dissolving. He begins to realize that there are other principles worthy of being followed that he had never believed suitable before. Rather than rules of law and punishment, these are also rules of mercy, forgiveness, and respect.

However, the realization of such a different "moral sun" is not a relief for Javert: on the contrary, it is the source of panic and confusion. It is not that Javert has lived as a criminal himself his entire life, and is only now seeing the "light," but rather that the life he thought was occupied with justice now appears to be entirely unjust. But Javert has not made the step of embracing this new system either. Instead, he is left in a kind of moral void, one that is excruciating because it makes him feel as if nothing is certain, nothing justifiable.

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Javert Character Timeline in Les Miserables

The timeline below shows where the character Javert appears in Les Miserables. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Volume 1, Book 5: The Descent
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...townspeople lose their skepticism about Madeleine. One person, however, is instinctively against him—a policeman named Javert who watches him as though he knew him. Javert is tall, with a heavy cane... (full context)
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...prices—10, 20 louis—for someone to lift the cart with his back. No one answers, and Javert, who has just arrived, say that it’s not for lack of will but for lack... (full context)
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Javert says he only knew one man, a convict in the galleys, who was strong enough... (full context)
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Soon afterwards, Madeleine is appointed mayor, and Javert begins to avoid him as much as possible. Meanwhile, the tax collection begins to increase... (full context)
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...shoulders. She yells and buries her nails in his face, swearing and cursing at him. Javert notices the scuffle, and takes Fantine away, as the dandy escapes. (full context)
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...at the station, Fantine crouches down like a frightened dog. It’s a rare occasion for Javert to seem troubled by the kind of judgment he should impose, but ultimately he tells... (full context)
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...a moment. Fantine laughs hysterically and spits in his face. Wiping it off, Madeleine tells Javert to set the woman free. Javert feels like he is going mad, and Fantine is... (full context)
Volume 1, Book 6: Javert
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...When she awakens, he tells her he knows how much she’s suffered. The same night, Javert writes to the Prefect of Police in Paris. Madeleine sends the 120 francs owed to... (full context)
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...2 One morning Madeleine is in his study preparing for his trip to Montfermeil, when Javert says he wants to speak with him. Upon entering, it’s clear that Javert has just... (full context)
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Madeleine says he’s not interested in the details. He asks Javert to take care of several other matters, but Javert says he is leaving for the... (full context)
Volume 1, Book 7: The Champmathieu Affair
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Chapter 1 On the afternoon following his visit with Javert, Madeleine goes to see Fantine, and summons Sister Simplice, a gentle, austere old woman, known... (full context)
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...Bamatabois (the dandy tormenting Fantine earlier) is one of the jurors, but Valjean cannot see Javert. The defense has just rested its case. The audience is excited by the prior three... (full context)
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The district attorney reminds the jury of Javert ’s earlier testimony and of his upstanding character: Javert had said that he recognized the... (full context)
Volume 1, Book 8: A Counter-blow
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Suddenly Fantine turns silent and pale, and as Valjean turns around he sees Javert in the doorway. (full context)
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...but ultimately the district attorney was committed to convicting a Jean Valjean, so he sent Javert off to arrest Madeleine. Javert had seemed cool and calm, and upon reaching Fantine’s room... (full context)
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...Fantine is terrified and shouts to Madeleine to save her, but he tells her that Javert has not come for her. Javert grabs Valjean by the collar, and while Fantine shrieks,... (full context)
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Valjean says to Javert that he’s murdered her, but Javert angrily yells at him to follow him. Valjean whispers... (full context)
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Chapter 5 Javert brings Valjean to prison. At the word “convict,” nearly everyone in town deserts him, forgetting... (full context)
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They hear the porter downstairs swearing that no one has entered the house all day. Javert ’s voice responds saying that there’s a light in the upstairs room. Valjean blows out... (full context)
Volume 2, Book 2: The Ship Orion
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...for himself, he dies within the month. Around the time of Valjean’s brief escape from Javert, an old road-laborer and ex-convict named Boulatruelle is noticed escaping into the forest in search... (full context)
Volume 2, Book 4: The Gorbeau Hovel
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...malice and misery of society: the fate of women through Fantine, and public authority through Javert. He had attempted to repress any new bitterness at being returned to prison, but if... (full context)
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...approaching the beggar, who raises his head, and Valjean feels panicked: he thinks he’s seen Javert’s face. The next day he returns to speak to the man: he is certainly not... (full context)
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...through the keyhole. He sees a man, who passes in front of Valjean’s room: it’s Javert. The next morning, the housekeeper tells him that a new lodger has entered the house.... (full context)
Volume 2, Book 5: For a Black Hunt, a Mute Pack
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...the square and point in the direction that Valjean had gone. One of them is Javert . (full context)
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Chapter 5 Valjean glances around the corner and sees 7 or 8 soldiers advancing behind Javert. From his time as a convict, Valjean had learned to mount walls and climb obstacles—a... (full context)
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Chapter 10 The narrator explains things from Javert’s perspective. When Valjean had escaped from the town jail, the police assumed he went to... (full context)
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Javert had then gone to Montfermeil, where multiple people told him different versions of the tale.... (full context)
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...about the “beggar who gives alms” in Paris, a man who had come from Montfermeil. Javert dressed up as a beggar, and believed he recognized Valjean when he stooped to give... (full context)
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Still, it was only in the Rue Pontoise that Javert positively recognized Valjean, thanks to a lamplight. He then asked for more reinforcements and followed... (full context)
Volume 3, Book 8: The Wicked Poor Man
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...fire a shot. As Marius leaves, the inspector tells him that his name is Inspector Javert. (full context)
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...go first. Thenardier exclaims that he’s mad. Suddenly, they hear a voice behind them: it’s Javert. (full context)
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Chapter 21 At nightfall, Javert had ambushed the house on all sides, seizing Azelma who was outside the house, but... (full context)
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Javert greets the six handcuffed ruffians merrily, greeting them all by name. Then he asks for... (full context)
Volume 4, Book 2: Eponine
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Chapter 1 After witnessing Javert’s ambush, Marius goes to visit Courfeyrac and spends the night there. The next morning, he... (full context)
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Chapter 2 Javert is still convinced that the prisoner who escaped was the most valuable. Montparnasse and Claquesous... (full context)
Volume 4, Book 9: Whither Are They Going?
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...funeral.” Marius barely pays attention to them, but pockets the pistols given to him by Javert, with no thought of what he’s do with them. He wanders around all day, only... (full context)
Volume 4, Book 12: Corinthe
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...he is. The man smiles disdainfully, saying that he’s an agent of the authorities named Javert. Enjolras makes a sign to four men around him, who immediately throw Javert down and... (full context)
Volume 4, Book 14: The Grandeurs of Despair
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...that it’s Gavroche, warning them. Gavroche arrives and says the enemy is here; he grabs Javert’s gun. 43 insurgents kneel inside the barricade, six in the windows of the tavern. After... (full context)
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...almost taking it. The largest soldier marches on Gavroche with his bayonet. Gavroche fires with Javert’s gun, but it isn’t loaded, and the man laughs at him, before suddenly being struck... (full context)
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...Enjolras’s proclamation all seem like a nightmare for Marius. He doesn’t recognize or even see Javert. Meanwhile, the army is swarming around the end of the street, though they don’t dare... (full context)
Volume 5, Book 1: The War Between Four Walls
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...take refuge and tend to the wounded in a neighboring house, while Enjolras remains with Javert in the tavern. At 2:00 in the morning there are still 37 men. Near dawn,... (full context)
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...dead, but now he wonders why Fauchelevent (Valjean) is here. Meanwhile, Enjolras enters to give Javert a drink. Javert asks to be bound on a table rather than against the post.... (full context)
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...will rush from the tavern to the barricade. The last man to leave will smash Javert’s skull. Valjean steps forward and asks to be one the one to kill him, and... (full context)
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Chapter 19 Valjean is left alone with Javert. He unties the rope. Valjean drags him out of the wine shop, and Marius sees... (full context)
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Javert remains open-mouthed as Valjean tells him his address, in case he should escape. Javert, snarling,... (full context)
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...the Thenardier affair. He had asked Enjolras what the man’s name was, and he’d answered Javert. Marius had sprung to his feet, but then heard the pistol shot and Valjean’s declaration... (full context)
Volume 5, Book 3: Mud But the Soul
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...it’s quickly followed by unease: he turns around, and sees a tall man carrying a bludgeon—Javert. Javert had been in pursuit of Thenardier, who had disappeared. Thenardier had then allowed Valjean... (full context)
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Chapter 10 The trio arrives at the Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire. Javert addresses the porter, saying that Gillenormand’s son is brought back, dead. The porter doesn’t seem... (full context)
Volume 5, Book 4: Javert Derailed
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Chapter 1 Javert walks down Valjean’s street, his head drooping. He takes the shortest way to the Seine,... (full context)
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Javert cannot understand Valjean through the values that have guided his life. Javert recalls Madeleine, and... (full context)
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Javert feels that he now has a new superior other than the police chief—God—but he doesn’t... (full context)
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But Javert takes the other path instead. He goes to the Place du Chatelet and sits down... (full context)
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Javert gazes into the black foamy water. All at once, he takes off his hat, places... (full context)
Volume 5, Book 5: Grandson and Grandfather
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...needed money. Now he keeps only 500 francs for himself. He knows he’s free from Javert; he saw in the newspaper that the police inspector was found drowned, in a probable... (full context)
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...who declares that on that afternoon, he had stood at the command of a police-agent (Javert) on the quai; around nine o’clock that evening, a man had emerged from the sewer... (full context)
Volume 5, Book 7: The Last Draught from the Cup
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Then Marius asks himself why Valjean came to the barricade, and he recalls Valjean dragging Javert down the street, as well as the pistol shot. Marius asks himself how it was... (full context)
Volume 5, Book 9: Supreme Shadow, Supreme Dawn
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...robbed Madeleine of over half a million francs. In addition, Valjean killed the police inspector Javert — Marius witnessed it. (full context)
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...they’re on the wrong track. First, Valjean didn’t rob Madeleine—they are the same person. Second, Javert himself killed Javert. He draws several newspapers, yellow and faded, from his pockets. One, from... (full context)