Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Opinion

February 14, 2013

I Dreamed a Dream

Corsicana — Most of us know the song because of Susan Boyle’s appearance on Britain’s Got Talent. April 11, 2009, Susan stood on the stage in her frumpy dress and outdated hairdo The audience and judges snickered and laughed during her interview, enjoying the misery of this out-of-touch want-a-be in an out-of-place position. But, when she opened her mouth and began to sing, everyone sat stunned. In a clear voice that was perfectly on pitch, she sang. “I dreamed a dream of time gone by, when hope was high and life worth living. I dreamed that love would never die. I dreamed that God would be forgiving. Then I was young and unafraid, and dreams were made, and used and wasted …”

It seemed that Susan Boyle was singing her own song, a dream of youth faded and gone. After a moment of stunned silence, the crowd leaped to their feet in a standing ovation for this obscure Scottish woman who lived alone with her cat. In November of 2009 she released her first album. It immediately became the number one best selling album in the world.

The song Susan chose to sing that night comes from the musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel, Les Miserables. It is the song sung by Fantine, an unwed mother ostracized in nineteenth century France for her “moral failure” and forced into prostitution in order to support her child. Anne Hathaway was nominated for an Academy Award and won the Golden Globe for her performance of the song in the recent movie version of the musical.

In 1862, commenting on Fantine, the character in his novel, Victor Hugo wrote, “What is this history of Fantine? It is society purchasing a slave. From whom? From misery. From hunger, cold, isolation, destitution. A dolorous bargain. A soul for a morsel of bread. Misery offers; society accepts. The sacred law of Jesus Christ governs our civilization, but it does not yet permeate it; it is said that slavery has disappeared from European civilization. This is a mistake. It still exists; but it weights only upon the woman, and it is called prostitution.”

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