word of the day: theme \thēm\ the author’s message or main idea of the story
In my classroom for the last few weeks, we’ve been discussing the concept of theme. The fact that every author has some sort of purpose for writing his or her story. Something the reader is supposed to walk away having learned or at least pondered. We talk about the fact that authors don’t explicitly state their intended theme, for that would be far too easy. Instead, they give us, as readers, clues and rely on our human insight in order make accurate inferences.
So, wouldn’t you know that when I saw Les Misérables on Saturday with my family, I spent a good amount of time thinking about theme.
It didn’t strike me until the end about what a strong message Victor Hugo was sending. Sort of the ultimate pay it forward. The world turns against the title character, Jean Valjean. He can’t catch a break and uses that as license to abide by his own code. It is the Bishop who shows him incredible kindness and sends him on his way with these words:
But remember this, my brother
See in this some higher plan
You must use this precious silver
To become an honest man
By the witness of the martyrs
By the Passion and the Blood
God has raised you out of darkness
I have bought your soul for God!
Valjean indeed becomes an honest man. The remainder of the story is filled with moments of his self-sacrifice and love. Of doing what’s best for another person regardless of the danger it places on his own life or how that person had treated him previously.
Towards the end of the musical, I found myself thinking about what Victor Hugo’s overall theme was and literally two seconds later (no exaggeration there), Jean Valjean answered my question himself:
The truth that once was spoken
To love another person
Is to see the face of God.
To love another person is the see the face of God.
That’s it. There’s nothing else profound for me to say because it’s all summed up in that statement. All that’s left in my mind are the voices of the chorus:
Something tells me that their crusade transcends the time of the French Revolution. It is today. It is now. Their drum beats the reminder that tomorrow is here.Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
when tomorrow comes...