Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Despair of Fantine and the Hope of Susan

I think I have watched the video of Susan Boyle singing 'I dreamed a dream', in excess of 30 times now. I don't care why, but each time I watch it, I experience the same pleasure as if it were the first time.

However, after 30+ viewings (and I am not alone here), I begin to ask why, like a rat in cage, I must press the pleasure lever again and again. What pleasure is it that my soul so hungers for, is indeed starved for, that Susan Boyle's song hits the spot every time?

I am not alone here: Susan's song is a global event which touches souls no matter what their culture, or country, or age, or color. Her song has articulated the animus of our times universally, with the words of a musical, Les Miserables. Her choice of this piece of literature, this particular song, is central to the world's reaction to her performance. (One does not entirely dismiss divine inspiration here as a source, yet Susan chose this selection.)

The words of the song by the character 'Fantine' in Les Miserables, tell the story of so so many people in so many lands now:
Fantine - I Dreamed a Dream Lyrics

[Fantine is left alone, unemployed and destitute]

There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time
Then it all went wrong

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shame

He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came

And still I dream he'll come to me
That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.
The frumpy looks and age of Susan Boyle are the perfect embodiment of the spirit of Fantine.

The character of Fantine is one of the most tragic figures in Les Miserables. She is completely a victim of circumstance, and as such, her tragic fate befalls her through no fault of her own. She was an abandoned child, and while it tells little of her childhood, when we meet her she is working in a factory.

There she meets and falls in love with an older student, who does not return her love, but takes advantage of her, and abandons her when she discovers she is pregnant. She cannot afford her child, and though she loves her with all her heart she must leave her with an innkeeper and his wife. They are not good people, and they constantly try to extort more and more money from Fantine by saying that her daughter needs things, and they will put her on the street in Fantine does not send money.

She gets a job at a factory, but she is fired after they learn she has an illegitimate child.She gets a job making shirts and is paid by the piece, but the innkeeper requests more and more money. After she sells her hair and teeth to send him money and he still wants more, she falls into prostitution. She is arrested, and almost thrown in jail, but the kind mayor of the town intervenes and sends her to a charity hospital and attampts to get her daughter for her but she dies before he is able.

The first revelation of the piercing relevance of her lament can be found in the words 'unemployed and destitute'. How many can relate to this description now? How many more will find it in their future? This is a song of the betrayal of life, of ideology, of government and hope itself: the exuberance of youth as it sinks in the miasma of the reality one sees as the years go by. It is the dying of our dreams. How far away from reality is this despair embodied in a play a hundred years old, from today? How many women suffer her fate the world over?

The wretched lives of those in 3rd world countries has now come to the Western civilizations, no more so than the US and Europe, both of which have ample access to the internet; and if nothing else, Susan's song has touched the hearts of the Western people through this medium.

The Victor Hugo novel, Les Miserables, is summarised thusly:
Les Misérables (French pronunciation: [le mizeʁabl(ə)]; translated variously from French as The Miserable Ones, The Wretched, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, The Victims) (1862) is a novel by French author Victor Hugo.

It follows the lives and interactions of several French characters over a twenty-year period in the early 19th century, starting in the year of Napoleon's final defeat. The novel focuses on the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean, as he seeks to redeem himself. It examines the nature of good, evil, and the law, and expounds upon the history of France, architecture of Paris, politics, moral philosophy, antimonarchism, justice, religion, and the types and nature of romantic and familial love.

The story is historical fiction because it contains factual, historic events, including the Paris Uprising of 1832 (often mistaken for the much earlier French Revolution).

Les Misérables is known to many through its numerous stage and screen adaptations, such as stage musical of the same name, sometimes abbreviated "Les Mis" or "Les Miz" (pronounced /leɪ ˈmɪz/).
For those who think historical literature is irrelevant to their daily lives in the modern world, I highly recommend a few hours to enjoy this story which may give an appreciation of the tragic irony of finding the world in exactly the same situation 150 years later.

The miracle of Susan's song is that it has connected us to the message and hearts of those long dead, who through her song remind our collective souls of the fruits of tyranny and the cold hearted effect on common people, of government by the elite, for the elite.

I hope we are listening with all our beings; and perhaps the lament of Fantine will animate the action we need to extinguish despair.


Anonymous said...

It's so funny because i wanted to read that book this week.....now i will...
<3 boo

Sheilanagig said...

Yes on the links of all sorts section of the blog there is an url for the audio book.

Also here is a link to the book online.


I scoured the net for illustrations also...here is one site....


And of course there is the movie, 2 actually, one old and one new. BUt I highle recommend you read the book first as there are things in the book that cannot really be presented in the movie versions.


All blogs are really just small snapshots of a person's mind, heart and soul as they evolve together through life....

Small bits of the thread of life we weave together into the fabric of ourselves, in the hope we will make sense of our existence, individual and collective.

On this page, is the cloak I have fashioned from my fabric to warm myself in a universe which often makes little sense.

Inside my cloak, it is warm enough to face the blistering cold winds of the insane world in which I find myself.

If you find some a bit of 'the good stuff' here, it has been my pleasure.