I’ve long wanted to write of mercy and justice in Les Misérables: what distinguishes Valjean and Javert, ultimately, is their different responses to an unmerited gift of mercy. Here’s Caitrin Keiper for Plough on the seemingly impossibility of grace in Les Mis:

The main impossibility in the ideal of Les Misérables is not that suffering will disappear, but that it can be redeemed; that brokenness does not erase the hope in any person; that dormant souls come back to life; that the cycle of retribution breaks for grace. And for symbolic confirmation of this impossible reality, there is an intimation of the stars on earth – that is, candles.