In the book, when Jean Valjean reveals himself at the trial of the man mistaken for him, he is taken into custody and then sentenced to life in prison. He had attempted escape while he was in prison the first time. Apparently, his reason for escaping--miserable in prison--wasn’t enough motivation to succeed. However, since his motivation is a promise he made to Fantine, and since he’s now attempting to escape for the third time in his career of escaping, he manages to pull it off.
For the sake of time, the musical version has Jean Valjean immediately leave the trial and go to the hospital where Fantine is dying. He knows his time is running short. Fantine doesn’t have long to live and Javert is coming for him.
I wish I could sit with you and watch this scene. I just YouTubed it. It’s so sad and so sweet all at the same time. After it’s over, I want to hit the pause button and bask in the beauty of this moment before it is destroyed by Javert.
Fantine dreams her final dream in her near-death delirium. She dreams she’s watching Cosette play in the yard. She is happy even though she feels cold as her body hangs on for one final moment.
Valjean arrives and sees Fantine is near the end. He is relieved, as he knows her suffering will soon be finished. He tells her to “be at peace forevermore.”
Even in the haze of death, Fantine still worries about her child. She expresses this worry to Valjean who immediately promises to care for Cosette and see that she wants for nothing.
At this, Fantine is finally able to be at peace. In her last moments, hope returns to her and she dies with a smile on her face.
The stormy pool of doubts, fear, pain, and injustice is calmed. It lies smooth and flawless like a piece of glass. For one moment, there is peace, there is sadness, but there is also joy and a sigh of relief is felt. Everything will be okay.
Then that moment is shattered. Javert enters. He doesn’t care that a woman just died. He doesn’t care that there is a suffering child in the world. His determination to see Valjean served the punishment he deserves clouds his vision. Valjean is equally determined to keep his promise to Fantine. They have a face off.
Watch the below clip from the 10th anniversary concert performed by Colm Wilkinson and Phillip Quast. It’s my favorite performance of this song. This is the moment where Javert enters the hospital after Fantine has passed on. The performance gives me chills.