Most people think that if a person commits a crime then they deserve a harsh punishment. What they never stop to realize is, what if the person had good intentions for doing so They could have been living a poor and deprived life and breaking the law was their last and only choice. This doesn??™t make them bad people like society makes them out to be. Instead of a punishment, they deserve sympathy. Characters, like Jean Valjean and Fantine from the novel Les Miserable by Victor Hugo, were good people at heart who were unjustly punished for violating the rules of society. In a similar situation, Billy and Harrison from the novel ???Welcome to the Monkey House??? by Kurt Vonnegut, suffer an unfair deprived life that encourages them to go against the law. The characters that violate the rules of society deserve sympathy because they violated the rules for good reasons.
In the book Les Miserables, Jean Valjean is a good person at heart who is treated poorly for his actions. He steals a piece of bread which makes him a criminal. But really Valjean steals the bread to try and feed his sister??™s starving family. He has a good heart and good intentions. Jean Valjean actions make society look down on him, but that??™s because they never knew the truth behind it, ???One thing had astonished him, that Jean Valjean has spared him, and one thing that petrified him, that he, Javert, had spared Jean Valjean.??? (Hugo 530). This is the first time Javert has ever let a criminal go free. Javert spares Valhean because he finally understands that Valjean is not a criminal at heart and that he does not deserve the punishments given to him. When Valjean shows society the good person he really is they feel bad for treating him so poorly. Victor Hugo shows that
good people do things against society??™s code and laws but that does not make them a bad person. Hugo wants the audience to sympathize the punishments put on Valjean because when he is violating the rules, he is helping someone. Parallel to the harsh treating Jean Valjean has is the character Fantine. Fantine has a child out of wedlock. This to society is a crime and a violation to the rules of conduct, ???Fantine had been more than a year at the factory, when one morning the overseer of the workshop handed her, on behalf of the mayor, fifty francs, saying that she was no longer wanted in the shop, and enjoining her, on behalf of the mayor, to leave the city??? (Hugo 60). This is a turning point in Fantine??™s life. She starts to lose everything she has. And to add to that a stranger on the street chooses to mess with her. In this she defends herself but in the end looks like a bad person. Officials, such as Javert, felt that she was out of line and made her look like a criminal who deserves no empathy. Fantine did nothing wrong; society treats her unfair because of her past which was not her fault. Hugo wants to show that Fantine is a good person who cares for her daughter but because she violates a law society treats her unfair and she should be sympathized for that.
In the novel, Welcome to the Monkey House, Billy suffers a deprived life. He is a nothinghead who is deprived of the feeling of this lower body. He and other nothingheads are forced to take this medication to reduce the amount of sex so that the government can control the population. Billy violates the rules of conduct and he stops taking the medicine. He also has sex with hostesses. He does these things because the feeling of sex should not be taken away; it is a part of human life and nature, ???I have speant this night, and many others like it, attempting to restore a certain amount of
innocent please to the world, which is poorer in pleasure than it needs to be??? (Vonegut 49). He wants to show the virgin hostesses what they were missing in life. The government has no right to take sex away from people. Vonnegut criticizes the government??™s decisions about birth control. He wants the audience to feel bad for all the nothingheads who are punished with this law when really they are not doing anything wrong. Also Vonegut shows that we should sympathize those who break the law to try to make the world the way human nature wanted it to be. Another instance of a deprived lifestyle is in the short story Harrison Bergeron. The world is in a state of communism; no one is any smarter then anyone else and the government makes sure of that. Harrison Bergeron is smarter then the average human but is deprived of his potential because everyone must be equal. In attempt to change society to the way it should be, Harrison overpowers the government and announces himself Emperor on live TV. Society just accepts it because they are not intellectual enough to go against it. In the end though, Harrison is shot and the government goes back to the way it was. Harrison did not approve of the restrictions of the human mind that government had made. He felt that he had so much potential and that the government was taking that away from him- ???Even as I stand here??”??? he bellowed, ???crippled, hobbled, sickened??”I am a greater ruler than any man, who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!??? (Vonegut 12). Harrison??™s thought seems to relate to enlightenment thinking in a way that no one should stop him from his full potential. That is why he pronounced that he was the best ruler that ever lived.
Vonnegut??™s purpose in this story is that humans should not be deprived of their full potential and that someone needs to stand up for what is right and the only way to do that
is to go against the rules of conduct of society. Although Harrison died, he probably made an impact in history on trying to change life to the way it??™s supposed to be with everyone being different and themselves.
Overall, Jean Valjean, Fantine, Billy and Harrison all had perfectly good reasons for why they violated the law. Instead of thinking horribly of them, the audience sympathizes what they have done to try and make things right. The characters in the novels all had good reasons for what they did and they were good people for doing so. Without heroes like these, the world would be a strict mess of unhappiness.
Hugo, Victor. Les Miserables. New York: Simon and Shuster, 2005.
Vonnegut, Kurt. “Welcome to the Monkey House. Welcome to the Monkey House. New York: The Dial Press, 2006.
Vonnegut, Kurt. ???Harrison Bergeron. Welcome to the Monkey House. New York: The Dial Press, 2006.