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Themes of redemption and compassion in ‘Les Mis’ are universal

THOSE WHO have been stirred by “Les Misérables,” either Victor Hugo’s novel, the music, or now the movie, will applaud the drama department at Hopkinton High School for rescuing Jennifer Graham from the ranks of those who had never experienced its power (“The faith personified in ‘Les Mis,’ ” Op-ed, Jan. 1).

But many will balk at her wrapping Jean Valjean (and Hugo) in the robes of Christian evangelism. Encouragement of redemptive compassion is hardly unique to Christianity. Such commitment animates secular movements like ethical humanism as well as other religious traditions, from the obligation to relieve suffering in Buddhism to the commandment to heal the world in Judaism.

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The worldwide appeal of “Les Misérables” fits better with James Carroll’s celebration in the same day’s Globe of “a new world of pluralism.”

Gordon Harper


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