Jean Valjean And How Social Ecology Plays A Role Throughout The Piece

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The field of sociology enables those who study it a look into how society handles development, structure, and how it functions on a grand scale. In researching Les Miserables, a film adapted in 2012 of Victor Hugo’s classic novel, many societal problems are brought to light. Using sociological theories, these societal problems can be explained. Sociologists like Merton, Cohen, Lemert, Durkheim and Becker have studied these problems and have come up with theories to explain the phenomenon. The focus of the research will be on labeling theory as it compares to society 's reaction to Jean Valjean and how social ecology plays a role throughout the piece. The short synopsis of Les Miserables is: a man is released from prison and makes a name…show more content…
In Javert’s eyes, Valjean will be nothing more than a criminal for the rest of his life. Javert sees Valjean’s master status as criminal, which brings with it many other repercussions if anyone were to find out. For this reason, he changes his name and creates a new life for himself. A life that no one knows his past. He is an upstanding citizen, business owner and eventually, a surrogate father. While, yes, criminal activity is a part of his past, it does not define the bigger picture of who he is as a person after his release. This assumption that he is purely criminal does his character a disservice. He is much more than just his criminal activity. "...theorists maintained that criminal behavior was not innate but was a product of the social environment. By that, they did not mean that behavior was caused by the social environment, but rather that is was defined by the social environment" (Williams and McShane 1998). The initial offense came out of necessity, not greed or desire. Valjean and his family were poor and needed to eat, hence doing anything necessary to keep his family alive and fed. There is weakness in the overall theory of labeling. Labeling theory: "highlights social responses to crime and deviance. In its narrowest version it asks what happens to criminals after they have been labeled and suggests that crime may be heightened by criminal sanctions.
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