As expected, the epic screen adaptation of Les Miserables has taken the world by storm and is worthy of all Oscar accolades.

Unlike the stage production – as good as it is – this film soars to new levels matched only by the grandeur of the musical score. But despite the genius casting, the masterpiece music, and the brilliant cinematography, at the heart of the film is a testament to the human spirit and its ability, under the right conditions, to overcome adversity and rise to new heights.

For over 150 years philosophers and literary experts have attempted to decode the meaning behind Victor Hugo’s narrative of Jean Valjean. Was the 1862 original classic a condemnation of the social injustices of the industrial revolution? Was it a scathing rebuke of idealistic revolutionaries? While this debate still lingers, there is little ambiguity regarding the character of Jean Valjean – the tale’s protagonist.

Valjean is the embodiment of individual responsibility and personal freedom–which carries him from defeatism to victory. For this reason, Jean Valjean is the anecdotal rebuttal to every liberal argument made for big government.

Right from the onset, Jean Valjean, recently released from prison, scours the countryside for a job, a piece of bread, someone to take compassion on him. While the 21st century Valjean most likely would have made a beeline straight for his local welfare office for government assistance, the 19th century Valjean seeks refuge in a church parish. Even in the days before the cable news outlets made a sport of mocking and marginalizing the Christian faith, it was the church that extended charity to societal castoffs.

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