One of my favorite musicals is Les Miserables. The plot is compelling and the music complements the story well. At the very beginning, the main character, Jean Valjean, is released from prison on parole. His jailer, Javert, comes to give him the news and refers to him as “24601,” his prisoner number. When Valjean tells him, “My name is Jean Valjean,” Javert ignores that and continues to call him “24601.” Later in the story, after Valjean has built an honorable life and is well respected, an innocent man who happens to look like Valjean is captured and thought to be the escaped convict 24601. Valjean sings a poignant song, Who Am I, which highlights his inner struggle of whether or not he should confess who he really is to save the innocent man. As he sings to himself, he asks, “Who am I? I’m Jean Valjean.” When at last he decides to confess to Javert, he ends in a climactic way by singing, “Who am I? 24601!” Throughout the story, Javert sees Valjean as no more than a number, never as a person with a name and a story.

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