Godliness and Truth: Jean Valjean’s Cultivation of a Garden.

Godliness and Truth: Jean Valjean’s Cultivation of a Garden.

Godliness and Truth: Jean Valjean’s Cultivation of a Garden During the 18th century, a popular philosophy was based upon the belief that because there is a supreme being all that we consider “evil” and “bad” is actually good and that the world, as it is, is right and good. It is this prophetic philosophy that Victor Hugo and Voltaire come to ridicule in their respective works of Les Miserables and Candide. In their literature, the theme of cultivating one’s own garden plays a tremendous part in the evolution of the main characters, their life goals, and their final achievement of utter spirituality. Jean Valjean is introduced as a cruel, hardened criminal, but through a relationship with a unique bishop, he recognizes the morals and ethics of the world, and begins on a path toward complete purity. It is when Jean Valjean reaches complete purity and moral excellence that he has achieved the “cultivation of his garden.” Hugo, a strong advocate of improvements in the judicial system, introduces Jean Valjean to his audience as “Jean Valjean entered the galleys sobbing and trembling; he left hardened. He entered in despair; he left sullen…He sentenced [society] to his hatred”(Hugo 87-88). Torture of the body and soul and lack of love gave birth to a hardened, hateful creature. When Jean Valjean leaves prison, society looks down upon him with disgust, while he looks up at it with hatred and vengeance. He enters the “world,” as Candide did, disillusioned and believing in a strict code. Jean Valjean believes in and follows a prisoner’s code of the world being evil and its people are out to aid in his demise, whereas Candide believes that “all is the best possible” (Voltaire 49-50). Jean Valjean knows no better, so he does no better. Before a literary character can choose to live for goodness and virtuousness, he usually meets a mentor character, who teaches him about the world and its inhabitants. A me…


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