Fantine’s memorable solo “I Dreamed a Dream” is my favorite performance in the musical Les Misérables. The character Fantine has been abandoned by the man she once loved, reduced to penury and forced to face life in post-revolutionary France as a single mother who just lost her job at the local factory. Gradually, she comes to accept that many of her childhood dreams will simply never come to pass.
This is a sad song that has no subliminal uplifting message, but conveys a sense of stoicism that is almost heroic in nature, given the immense difficulties and disillusionments that this poor woman must now overcome just to provide for her infant daughter. I sincerely wish that Mr. Hugo could have been more compassionate with poor Fantine, but I guess that some stories were not meant to have happy endings, as there are dreams that cannot be and storms we cannot weather.
But what can you tell a fellow human being when he or she is forced to face this stark reality? Perhaps the serenity prayer originally conceived by the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr offers some respite: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."