Many people will have heard about “Les Misérables”. A very successful musical. This musical is based on a book with the same title written by the frenchman Victor Hugo in 1862.
It is an extraordinary book: the paperback version has 1463 pages. And what Victor Hugo has written on all those pages is more than extraordinary. Basically the whole book is about morality. As Victor Hugo calls it: the reasons of conscience. A good example is that in the last chapters, two of the several protagonists in the book, Marius and Cosette, marry and although Victor Hugo describes everything in detail and at length, he will not go as far as explain what happened during their wedding-night. He writes:
“The bride and groom disappeared. Here we stop. On the threshold of wedding nights stands an angle smiling, a finger to his lips.”
Recently, many people worldwide were reading a contemporary book titled “Fifty shades of grey” written by E.L. James. It is the best-selling book of all times in the U.K. with over 5,3 million copies sold. It is a most silly story of appalling writing and the reason why it is a success is the openness about which E.L. James writes about sexual activities by the two protagonists, often involving light forms of sadomasochism.
These two books compared: “Les Misérables” and “Fifty shades of grey”, one written in 1862 and the other written in 2010, explain a lot how intimacy has changed in the awareness and perception of many people. Victor Hugo saw a smiling angle on the threshold of wedding nights and stays outside not telling us anything. Some things of us should not be talked about, he implies. While for E.L. James there are no more thresholds and she describes endlessly scenes like how a weirdo guy roughs up a naked girl. James believes everything of us can be talked about.
What does this all tell us? One thing for sure: morality has changed. The reasons of our conscience have been replaced.
The question is: are we better off now?