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J. E. McReynolds: Mercy triumphant in Hugo's novel

Published: January 20, 2013

“Les Miserables” doesn't just chronicle the miseries of the common people. Dickens was certainly adept at that. Hugo's book masterfully contrasts the law with grace. It celebrates mercy's triumph over judgment. It smolders with spirituality.

None of this matters to Academy Award voters, of course. Even though “Lincoln” wasn't a big hit with the people who pick Golden Globe winners, last week's awards ceremony got Bill Clinton a standing ovation merely for being connected with the movie's intro that night. Yet Clinton has a stronger link to “Les Mis.” After l'affaire Lewinsky, his fans saw the president as Jean Valjean to Kenneth Starr's Javert. One wonders why a former Democratic president was cast in the role of introducing a movie about a Republican president. Then again, this was Hollywood.

On June 5, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy's dreams of becoming president were gunned down in a Los Angeles hotel that had hosted the second and the 12th Academy Awards ceremonies. My family got the news while house-hunting in Hugo. I didn't know then the source of the city's name. Even years later, I didn't know more than the rudiments of the “Les Miserables” plot. And not until seeing this movie did I realize how uplifting the story is.

Hugo. In 1968, we spurned it, moving instead to a place 30 miles south named after the capital of France. We lived in exile from Oklahoma for years, in a city called Paris.

McReynolds is The Oklahoman's opinion editor.


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