Ethical Theories Reflected
Upon the Main Characters from
the Film Adaptation
Les Miserables by
Non-Consequentialist theories of morality are best expressed by the character Inspector Javert. His actions are lead by the theory that it is better to lead a life where rules are followed. It is your duty to obey the laws and it is your duty to always act in this manner. Consequences are not to be considered when judging a persons actions (Thiroux, Krasemann, 2012, p. 46). Inspector Javert's position in society supports his actions. This man must follow the laws set by his government, and lead his community by example. His duty was to carry out the law which are examples of rule absolutes which offer no room for exceptions (Thiroux, Krasemann, 2012, p. 87). The Inspector becomes obsessed with the capture of Jean ValJean, a criminal who must be caught and brought to justice. The film begins with the story of a man, Jean ValJean, who is first introduced to the viewer in a prison setting, where later you find out he was imprisoned for theft. After serving nine-teen years of punishment in prison for his crime he is then rewarded release on parole. Following his release he encounters another situation where he acts in contrast to those beliefs of a rule utilitarian like Javert. These contrasting characters are examples within their guiding principles. Non-Consequentialist Theories are based on the idea that consequences are not and in fact should not be a factor in determining whether the act is moral or immoral (Thiroux, Krasemann, 2012, p. 46). Where as consequentialism is based or concerned with consequences. Jean ValJean's guiding principles are more of an act utilitarian who believes that everyone should perform that act which will bring out the greatest good over bad for everyone affected by the act (Thiroux, Krasemann, 2012, p. 37). Utilitarianism is a form of Consequentialism. Javert is a rule utilitarian where his ideas are that everyone should always follow the rule or rules that will bring greater good. These ideas are contrasting because it is unsure what actions would bring greater good with or without making exceptions to the rules at hand. Javert being an official of the law encourages the importance of law within the film to avoid loosing control within his community. On one hand ValJean broke the law only to avoid the death of starvation. These situations are the basis of the conflicting approaches to morality by each main character in the film. ValJean encounters the Character of Bishop Myriel who offers him a job and teats him kindly despite his criminal background. The Bishop is a positive influence on ValJean. While working for the Bishop, he makes a promise to become a better man and redeem himself only after being caught once again for stealing silverware from the bishop. The Bishop lies to officers only to save ValJean from returning to prison. With the silver that was stolen and now a gift was he only able to accomplish his promise for a better life. ValJeans commitment led him to later became the owner of a factory and the Mayor of his city. There we are first introduced to the character of Fantine. We discover that she has a child, Cossette, who is in care with another family The Thenardiers. Fantine works hard to provide for Cossette at the factory where she is later fired from, which led to her desperate need to make money. Desperate times cause for desperate measures., like Fantine prostituting to as a mean to make money. Fantine's unlawful actions lead her to encounter the Inspector Javert. Here is where the feuding theories of morality between Javert and ValJean are once brought to question once again. Should Fantines actions be justified by the idea that prostitution is wrong and unlawful, or is it okay because she must provide for Cossette and her needs? In the end the Mayors position allows Fantine to avoid prison time thus bringing about...
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