[LMB] Hugo's Novel

Bart Kemper bkemper at bigdogz.com
Thu, 28 Feb 2002 09:07:17 -0600

Eric Oppen wrote:

> Okay...but I want to know:
> WHERE were this guy (Javert)'s superiors?  I can just imagine what would
> happen if I were a cop and went on this sort of
> "Captain-Ahab-and-the-Great-White-Whale" quest...I'd get the reading-out of
> my life and be transferred to whatever the police department I was in
> considered the closest equivalent of the Russian Front. (Why, yes, I _did_
> watch a lot of "Hogan's Heroes" as a child.  How did you guess?)
> Or was France such a crime-free utopia that he really didn't have anything
> better to do?

This is set in post-revolutionary France.  Police forces were a new 
innovation.  In America a rookie would be chastised for bringing 
someone in without a mark "because now they won't respect us."  No 
Miranda, not a lot of rules, and very draconian punishments for 
minor offenses by poor folks.  Just a generation previously a 12 
year old stealing bread in London would be sent to Austrailia.  In 
NYC there was a demark line beyond which the police just didn't 
go--it was an understanding that the bosses in those area would 
'take care of their own' as long as they didn't come up and bother 
real people.  The same happened other places. As long as an 
'upstanding citizen' didn't complain, the urban poor folk pretty 
much got kept down during the 1800's, early 1900's.  The police 
force shown in The Untouchables was way more civilized than their 
predecessors....forex, the NYC PD threatened to strike, the State 
legislature sent the state police in, and there was a huge running 
war (mostsly billy clubs) between the two forces with little being 
done for public safety.

So...if someone got a wild hair up their butt, they could make your 
life miserable.  Defiance of authority was not tolerated very well. 
Truth of the matter Javert had other things to do, but would 
remember that guy (forgot name) and respond accordingly when he saw 
him...but from the protagonist's POV, Javert must have been hunting 
him non-stop.  I'll spare the literary symbolism, largely because 
its been 20 years since I read the novel and my history is rusty.