Jean Valjean, soon after changing his identity, knew his purpose- to start a new and honest life. Hugo mentions, “…he lived peaceable, reassured, and hopeful, having but two thoughts: to conceal his name, and to sanctify his life: to escape from men and to return to God”( Hugo 72).
By using “sanctify,” Hugo portrays Jean in a religious manner and utters that Jean wants to purify himself from sin and make his new life holy. Jean Valjean takes the path to becoming an “honest man” in a religious stance to demonstrate his will and satisfaction in living a new life of sincere candor. By making Jean “return to God,” Hugo places mankind below and God above as a means for Jean to escape evil human nature and rise to the heavenly and angelic ways of God. His persistence in becoming a new, honest and almost heavenly being demonstrates not only the depths to which he will go to find meaning in living a life of honesty, but also his ambition to rise from his lowly and horrific past in order to find satisfaction within himself. Through a reference to God, Hugo demonstrates how it is possible for one to find fulfillment when one finds meaning in doing so. Pertaining to heavenly figures, one literary criticism describes a particular scene of Jean Valjean’s religious embodiment of Christ to show a symbolic. An interesting religious take on Jean Valjean compares him to Christ:”Again a prisoner he breaks his chain to save a sailor on the Orion and then leaps overboard in a sort of baptism.
In the law’s eyes he dies, but in reality he is resurrected. He becomes an intercessor for Gosette, teaching her to pray and becoming her ‘father.'” After spending more time prison, Jean Valjean remembers the heartfelt promise he made to Fantine to take care of her daughter Cosette, which prompts him to jump out of the ship Orion. His newfound meaning to cherish and protect is reflected in his “baptism” when he jumps into the water. Jean’s journey in similarity to Christ can be shown through the three stages-death,burial, and resurrection.
The death of Jesus Christ on the cross represents the time right before going into the water, representative of Jean’s past life coming to an end. As Jean jumps into the sea, he symbolizes Jesus buried in the tomb. Then, as Jean eventually comes out of the water, he parallels Jesus rising from the dead. Essentially, Jean does the same because he is now reborn as a fatherly figure with a new meaning in life-taking care of Cosette. Jean Valjean has no problem jumping off a ship because his new priority is Cosette, and despite all the suffering he has been through, it is this newfound purpose through which he will achieve inner fulfillment and satisfaction.