Les Miserables: Common Place Book: Reports & Reality

“What is reported of men, whether it be true or false, may play as large a part in their lives, and above all in their destiny, as the things they do.”  p. 19

A thesis statement? Hidden amidst “no direct bearing on the tale we have to tell”? I suppose we’ll see how that bears out. But do we trust this narrator? If he starts with what’s not important but then speaks of men’s destinies, I’m prone to look at him questioningly, skeptically—but maybe with a smirk. 

So, we are what we hear about ourselves? From an early age we crave approval. We all know “sticks and stones …” is an our right lie—a reply to a hurt, a word to show what we’re made of. But if it didn’t hurt, it wouldn’t need to be said. If it didn’t hurt we’d walk away—or show compassion, love our enemies. 

But this refers to more than just what is reported in our presence. Others’ opinions of us—gleaned from the neighborhood gossips—forms reactions and more opinions which can infect our whole surroundings, leaving us more hero or villain than we deserve. 

As Rich Mullins says, “We are frail, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.” Hero and villain we already are; we hardly need others’ help. And then a page later: “He had to accept the fate of every new comer to a small town where there are plenty of tongues that gossip and few minds that think.” 20

And that fate is precisely—almost—what gossips and feeble minds strive for it to be. But they can be overcome. They can be won. They can be loved. And then the things we do play the larger role. 

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