Javert was born in a prison in 1780 to a fortuneteller mother and a galley-slave father. He grew up in the streets and become a prison guard in the galleys in Toulon when he was young, where he met the convict Jean Valjean, then known as 24601 or Jean le Cric, notorious for his strength for his numerous escape attempts. (He tried to escape a total of three times, adding fourteen years to his sentence of five, making nineteen.)
Javert's first appearance in the book is when he arrives in Montreuil-sur-Mer in 1823, as a newly-appointed inspector under the new mayor. This new mayor, Madeleine, has already refused his appointment once, and is a successful businessman in the jet bead industry. Javert immediately suspects Madeleine to be Jean Valjean, who broke parole, but doesn't voice these suspicions, since they have no grounds but his own instinct.
At the docks in Montreuil-sur-Mer, Javert arrests the prostitute Fantine for attacking a bourgeois, Bamatabois. He sentences her to six months in prison and impatiently waves away her pleas. However, Madeleine, who saw the whole thing and followed them to the station-house, intervenes and releases her, much to Javert's chagrin.
Fantine is quite ill, so Madeleine puts her up at the hospital and makes provisions for her care, further angering Javert.
When old Fauchelevent, a rival of Madeleine's who went bankrupt, gets trapped under a fallen cart, Madeleine uses his exceptional strength to help lift the cart off of him. The sheer brute force required to do such a thing, and the fact that Madeleine managed it, confirms Javert's suspicion that the man is Jean Valjean, thus sends in a report to the Prefecture, denouncing the mayor as an ex-convict.
After a few days, Javert receives a letter stating that Jean Valjean had been arrested in Arras, going under the name of Champmathieu, and that he is summoned to the trial. Upon seeing the innocent Champmathieu, Javert recognizes him as Jean Valjean. He then returns to Monsieur Madeleine, the true Valjean and asks to be dismissed from his position as Inspector under the belief that he, the subordinate, has failed to respect his betters, calling himself "nothing but a police spy." The mayor, however, states that Javert is at no fault, as he had only done what he thought was his duty. They argue, but in the end Javert reluctantly says he will continue in his post until a replacement is found. He leaves.
Javert discovers that he was right--at the Champmathieu trial, Madeleine revealed himself to be Jean Valjean, proved it without a shadow of a doubt, and was allowed to walk out of the courthouse due to everyone being dumbfounded by what he had done. Javert goes to the hospital where Fantine lies ill and waits, knowing that Valjean often visits her. He confronts him there, at a dying Fantine's bedside, and ruthlessly informs her that her daughter is still in Montfermeil, and her revered Mayor is in fact a dangerous escaped convict named Jean Valjean. This shock combined with her weakened body kills Fantine.
Less than a year later, Javert reads in the paper that Jean Valjean has died, although he hears rumours about a man living in the Gorbeau tenement, who apparently has a coat lined with millions, which he gives to the poor. Javert moves into a neighbouring room in the tenement, disguising himself as a mendicant. At night, when Valjean gives him the money, they recognize each other instantly. By the next evening, Javert brings in other officers to chase him down, but it is too late, and Valjean escapes with the young child Cosette. Javert then returns to police headquarters, clearly frustrated at another failed attempt to capture Valjean.
In 1832, Javert is now Inspector of the First Class under the Prefecture of Police. Following the suspicious activity of the Patron-Minette, Javert is alerted of a robbery that was scheduled to take place in the very same Gorbeau tenement as years prior. The man who brings this to his attention is Marius Pontmercy, to whom he lends two pistols to shoot as a signal. Waiting outside the house, and despite not hearing the pistol-shot, Javert enters to confront the Patron-Minette, the most dangerous gang in Paris, single-handedly. He manages to arrest all of them, although Claquesous escapes before he can be jailed.
Later during the June Rebellion, Javert disguises himself, and becomes a spy, relaying false information to the boys at the barricades. However, before he can do much damage, the Thénardier boy, Gavroche, recognizes him, and informs Enjolras, the leader of Les Amis de l'ABC. With very little provocation, Javert admits to being a spy, and is quickly tied up in the back room of the Musain. Before the barricades fall, Jean Valjean, who was at the barricades to rescue Marius, ends up also saving Javert's life, by volunteering to shoot him. Valjean takes Javert to a place where no onlookers are able to see, then unties him and fires the gun in the opposite direction, allowing him to go free. Marius, who remembers Javert from the episode with the Patron-Minette gang in the Gorbeau tenement, tries to plead for his life, but believes himself to be too late.
Javert returns promptly to his post by the Seine, waiting with a fiacre he had hired, when he sees a man emerge from the sewers, with another slung over his shoulder. So covered in sewage is the man, that Javert doesn't recognize him until he states that he is Jean Valjean. He is about to arrest Valjean once more, when the man requests for Javert to take him to Marius' grandfather, Monsieur Gillenormand. With great hesitation, he eventually does so, and once that deed has been completed, he takes Valjean to his residence for only a brief moment. When Valjean returns from his house, ready to be taken back to prison, Javert is gone.
Returning to the parapet by the Seine, Javert enters, and begins to write "Notes for the good of the service", pertaining to the slight betterment of overall life in prison. This strongly reflects Javert's change of heart, as before that moment, he merely cared about his duty, and not the negative consequences that his actions would bestow upon others. Javert, being one who could only see in black or white, found it impossible that a man like Jean Valjean, who had been an ex-convict, could have possibly bettered himself. In Javert's mind, any path he took would have been wrong, due to his now-shattered world views, and growing admiration for Valjean. He knew that to set Valjean free would be to release a felon, yet to arrest him would be to arrest a good man. This inner derailment, and utter inability to choose a side, forces Javert to choose the only path he sees before him-suicide. He dies by throwing himself into the raging waters of the Seine from off of a parapet. Soon after, his body is found and recovered from the water, then is disposed of.
Physical appearance Edit
As described in the book: Javert is a very tall, robust man with a flat nose, thin lips, narrow brows, a large jaw and a narrow heat. "Locks" of hair cover his narrow forehead and fall over his eyebrows. The hair is dark and immaculately combed. Javert is mentioned to have big hands. He is hard of aspect and described to resemble a wolf-dog.
As described in the book: He wears a grey tail-coat and a cravat. He owns a tunic with buttons, that has a collar buckle at the back of his neck. In addition he is mentioned to wear a great coat buttoned up close to his chin. It may be interpreted that the uniform coat is blue. A low-brimmed hat adorns his heat. A cudgel is part of his equipment.
Javert can be summed up in one sentence, "He is a man who lives, breathes, eats, sleeps, and would die for justice, in the form of the law," and all that implies. To elaborate:
He acts confidently and decisively, and never doubts himself once he has already acted. He is not given to fancy or whimsy, and whatever creative thought he has is usually bent to the accomplishment of his duty--his sole source of satisfaction in life. Because of this, he doesn't often read anything irrelevant to his job. His confidence and total knowledge of himself and his abilities allows him to stay absolutely calm in stressful situations such as his job will require; he went ahead into the den of the Patron-Minette, a dangerous Parisian gang, by himself.
Javert is ruthless and straightforward to a fault--this inflexibility of his is sometimes cruelty, as in the case of Fantine--because of his law fanaticism. He carries out his orders to the letter, and because of his awkwardness and tacit outcast status, he tends to err on the side of severity more often than not, scaring everyone he meets. His brutal honesty makes him both an irreproachable policeman and a terrible spy.
His deadpan sense of humor sometimes serves to make him even more frightening, such as in his dramatic entrance to the 'Jondrette' household with the line "Would you like my hat?" and other times simply makes him funny. When he's not snarking, however, he tends to be abrupt and serious, talking in concise sentences.
On occasion he allows himself a pinch of snuff when especially satisfied with himself. He also has the habits of muttering into his cravat, fiddling with small objects, and dramatizing tense situations (such as the confrontations with Valjean and Patron-Minette).
Though at first glance Javert seems as straightforward a character as he would no doubt like you to believe, he has serious issues in his worldview and his self-image. Due to the inflexibility and abrupt decisiveness inherent to his beliefs ("if you abide the law, you are good; once you break it, you are evil"), he is quick to condemn and has no intention of trying to understand any deeper moral struggles or dilemmas, such as the situation of 26-year-old Jean Valjean. Since he never encounters any contradictions to this worldview that smack him in the face, he's quite willing to ignore the evidence and hold on to his overly simple black-and-white belief system, which is part of the reason he is confident to the point of recklessness.
Since he himself falls into the "evil" part of his world--being the son of criminals--his self-image has suffered; on multiple occasions in the book, he makes it clear that he doesn't believe he deserves good things in life, including kindness that he doesn't ask for, and he considers himself worthless due to his origins. The satisfaction he derives from persecuting lawbreakers can be seen as his own way of coping with his crushing self-reproach, though as a coping mechanism little can be said for it.
Apart from his own self-loathing, his black-and-white worldview doesn't appear to cause him problems, though it's quite prominent, until the chapter Javert Derailed (also Javert in Disarray, Javert Off the Track, Javert's Derailment, etc.). Jean Valjean sparing his life, even when there was a considerable benefit to not doing so, means that Jean Valjean--an ex-convict, a parole-breaker, a recidivist besides--is good. That a man can be good despite the law condemning him, that justice is not equal to the law, is something Javert has never had to consider--until his life is spared by one of these walking contradictions.
His inability to cope with this realization is what leads him to commit suicide.
- Javert's Introduction (2012 film only)
- Fantine's Arrest
- The Runaway Cart
- Javert's Apology (2012 film only)
- Who Am I? (silent)
- The Confrontation
- The Robbery/Javert's Intervention
- One Day More
- Building the Barricade (Upon These Stones)
- Javert's Arrival
- Little People
- The First Attack
- The Final Battle
- Dog Eats Dog (The Sewers)
- Javert's Suicide
- In the anime Les Miserables: Shojo Cosette, Javert's suicide is averted.
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