“According to the Law, I am the judge in both of these cases. I order the woman released.”
Having to raise a daughter after the man who fathered the former left her, Fantine struggles to find a job in 1800 France in order to raise her. Leaving her with the Thenardiers, a greedy and selfish pair, she goes to another town to look for a job. Dealing with the extreme classism, socio-economic divide, and moral prejudice, she is eventually left on the streets, with only the clothes on her back to figure out how to provide for her daughter.
Fantine, Tragic Heroine
Though shunned by the general public for being an unwed mother, Fantine does not only emanate love, but courage, and with great juxtaposition to the people who have shunned her, faith.
Shown through her willingness to leave her daughter in the care of a seemingly well-to-do family, it took immense courage to part from Cosette, and a great amount of faith to trust that the Thenardiers are looking after her child properly. Therefore, while others may argue that Fantine is naïve to continue sending the Thenardiers money despite their false claims, it can also be said that her love for her daughter was so great that she is willing to place a good amount of faith on her caretakers, on top of all the sacrifices she has done for the welfare of Cosette.
At the same time, one can say that Fantine is rather wise about the situation at hand as well – knowing that having her daughter in tow while looking for a job to raise her was going to harm Cosette more, she ends up with the painful decision to let her be taken care of by others.
The idea of class and its influence on society is clear. And until today, such classism can be seen as people progress from one kind of classism to another.
Economic class – despite the progresses of society, economic class remains rampant, though subtle. Privilege and respect is given easily to those who are well-off and often, the benefit-of-doubt or leniency as well. As Fantine defended herself against a wealthy man who bullied her on the streets, Inspector Javert continues to be adamant in taking the side of the one who is more well-to-do.
At the same time, it can also be said that the Thenardiers, caretakers to Cosette, her daughter, had economic power over her as well. Thought to be better caretakers of Cosette, due to their business and the fact that they had a nuclear family, the fact that they could provide for her daughter better than she could was a kind of power over her as well.
Social class – closely tied to economic classism, social class is prominent as well. As mentioned above, Inspector Javert also continues to defend the man who abused her on the streets, making clear that this man was a ‘gentleman’, whose words were against those of a ‘prostitute’, a worker considered to be in the lower echelons of society.
Moral class – as we move from the general setting to the setting of the ‘working-class’, classism penetrates the ‘disadvantaged’ class as well. While everyone tries to set themselves apart, it turns into a self-righteous kind of moral prejudice – where Fantine is discriminated and eventually ostracized just because she is an unwed mother, and assumed to be immoral.
Style & Structure
Turning novel classics into comics and manga may not only serve as a visual aid or an easier option, but can also serve as a trigger to pick up the original and delve into the classics more. The simple lines and minimal background does well in placing the focus on the character – the most important aspect of the scene.
One of the great things about comics and graphic novels is the fact that the art does the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ aspect for the story rather well too, such as in this case.
To find out more about these manga classics, click here.
In the meantime…