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In the film Les Misérables Javert kills himself after letting Valjean pass. Why did he commit suicide?

  • Was it because he felt he failed?
  • Was it because he didn't want to be indebted to a criminal?
  • Was it because he realised he'd been perusing a good man?

I can see these reasons upsetting him but not enough to take his own life!

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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Javert reveals his reasons in the song he sings when he commits suicide.

And must I now begin to doubt, who never doubted all these years/ My heart is stone and still it trembles/ The world I have known is lost in shadows/ Is he from Heaven or from Hell?/ And does he know, that granting me my life today, this man has killed me even so...

I am reaching but I fall and the stars are black and cold/ As I stare it to the void/ to a world that cannot hold

I'll escape now from that world, from the world of Jean Valjean/ There is nowhere I can turn/ There is no way to go on.

Javert kills himself because the mercy shown to him by Jean Valjean so disrupts his black and white world view that he cannot bear to live in a world he no longer understands.

One of the key themes in the work is that those who cannot adapt are destroyed (Javert, Fantine, Enjolras), while those who are flexible thrive (Thénardier). It is really a very cynical work when you get down to it.

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All of the lyrics to that song are relevant, such as "Damned if I'll live in the debt of a thief![...]I live... but live in hell." stlyrics.com/lyrics/lesmiserables/javertssuicide.htm –  Thomas Aug 26 '13 at 18:42
@Thomas I agree, but some of the earlier parts of the song are a bit more defiant. I tried to id the point where he seems resigned to his fate. –  KennyPeanuts Aug 26 '13 at 19:58

Javert was a man of big integrity and he believed fully in the law and the penalty system. He followed and enforced the law to the letter.

So when he realized that Val Jean was doing more good as a free man that he would have done in jail he find himself with a dilemma. He can't let him free because he would betray his integrity, but also he can't stop him because he would prevent him from protecting good people.

So he found the only solution to his inner fight. If he dies Val Jean is free to go and he would not have to betray the law. From wikipedia:

When Valjean saves his life, Javert finds himself unable to reconcile his life's work pursuing criminals with the nobility and justice shown him by the man he thought was a criminal, and takes his own life by jumping off a bridge into the river Seine.

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