Why Is Les Miserables Important? Part 2

19 Mar

I’ll admit, I was being somewhat facetious with that last post. I fully expected that nobody would actually click any of the links (and according to WordPress’ site monitor, nobody has). So why did I do it? Why did I spend the time I did, finding 100-some-odd posts on oppression and oppressed people in recent months (almost all of those links were published at some point in the first three months of 2009) and hyperlinking them to the preface to Les Miserables?

It’s because I could, quite honestly. Because there is still so much oppression existing in this world, because so many people suffer daily from people exercising unjustifiable privilege over them, because I could have found twice the amount of examples I did if I had spent another half-hour on that post. It’s because I can’t understand how people can be aware of that much suffering and oppression, and not be progressives. And not be feminists. And not be fully opposed to the power structure that makes that much unnecessary anguish not only possible, but standard operating procedure.

That’s why I care about the message of Les Miserables. Hugo’s oeuvre undermines the Social Darwinistic narrative our culture gives us every fucking day – that some people are “other than” and “less than,” and don’t matter as long as I come out on top. That’s why I’m writing the Les Miserables Blogging Project of Unusual Size. It’s because I see it as a form of activism – a way of pushing back against the culture that screams at me to shut the fuck up because I’m young, queer, in need of antidepressants and female, that tells others to back off because of their race or ethnicity, their disabilities, because they are trans, and 42 other reasons, give or take. Hugo’s characters and themes point toward the underlying structures that dehumanize us and take away our voices, and give hope that things can and will improve. Hugo’s writing presents an unquashable sense of optimism – the idea that where our society is (and has been for centuries) is not where it must stay. Hugo’s book is a fucking teaspoon, and it’s my hope (there’s that word again) that this series of analysis, and ultimately this blog, become teaspoons as well.

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