Amph Follow me down the Brick road (Les Misérables -Eponine)

Discussion in 'Community' started by Obi Anne, Jul 12, 2013.

  1. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    Grantaire is a fascinating character, and I think he is very much needed as a counterpoint to the other idealistic students.
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  2. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    Book 5 – The excellence of misfortune
    So Marius is on his own now. He doesn’t contact his grandfather, though it’s clear that Gillenormand regrets the lost contact between them, or aunt and he doesn’t go to the Musain anymore. He keeps contact with Courfeyrac though, who helps him get a job. By living at the Gorbeau tenement and not eating much and not spending more than necessary on his clothes he manages to live quite comfortably. He is poor, but he doesn’t starve and he even helps his neighbours, the Jondrettes, by paying their rent just before they are kicked out of their home. Thus the novel leaps around three years forward.

    I thought that this book was quite inspirational. Marius manages to build up a life for himself, starting from basically nothing but an unfinished law degree. Sure he has to give up on some comforts, but he is independent and not indebted to anyone. I think quite a few people in today’s society actually should read this part and see how it’s possible to build up a life, even if it’s maybe not the life you dreamt of as a child.
  3. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    Book 6 – The Conjunction of two stars
    Marius has grown up and become a man. He’s quite handsome but doesn’t really think about women. One of his habits is to take a walk in the Luxembourg Gardens, where he routinely meets an old man and young girl out walking. They don’t talk, but the pass each other every time they are there. Then Marius stops going there, but a year later he returns again. He doesn’t meet the old man and girl, but instead his eyes catch a young beautiful woman. He’s astonished when he realizes that it’s in fact the girl that has grown up. Marius falls in love and starts obsessing about this girl, even if he doesn’t even know her name.

    In this book we meet Marius as the romantic hero. Even his looks are described as romantic, down to his “large and passionate nostrils”. I’ve heard the comment that one bad thing with many adaptions, the music included, is that Marius falls in love just from a glance when in the novel it’s something comes along slowly. I would disagree with this. Sure he has seen the girl he has fallen in love of for several years, but Hugo makes clear that when he falls in love it’s like a being struck by thunderbolt. It feels as if it’s a very conventional love story, and I can’t help but think that I would love to see them at least talk to each other rather than just fantasize about their personalities, since they only things they know about each other are their looks.

    So for fun, which of these Mariuses have the most passionate nostrils?

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  4. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    The Fall

    I like the contrast between the first two taverns Valjean is turned out of. At the first one, he has a lengthy conversation, about a page and a half, with the innkeeper, attempting to convince him to let him stay. At the second, the conversation is shorter and much more heartbreaking:

    "You are going to clear out from here!"
    "Oh! Do you know?"
    "Yes."
    "They sent me away from the other inn."
    "And we turn you out of this."
    "Where would you have me go?"
    "Somewhere else."

    Recidivism, 1860 style: "Monsieur Turnkey, will you open and let me stay here to-night?" "A prison is not a tavern: get yourself arrested and we will open." I'm not sure it's not basically the same problem today.

    Heartbreaking: “For pity’s sake, a glass of water.” “A gun shot.”

    I love the simplicity of the conversation that directs Valjean to the Bishop’s house: “You have knocked at every door?” “Yes.” “Have you knocked at that one there?” “No.” “Knock at that one.” That’s just beautiful in its restraint.

    Wonderful bit here. Madam Magloire is raving on about the fact that there’s a convict loose in the village and how they’re going to have to finally lock the doors tonight and such. “’And then Monseigneur has the habit of always saying “Come in,” even at midnight . . .’ At this moment there was a violent knock on the door. “Come in!” said the bishop.”

    One thing I love about Hugo is the way that he finds humor in even very serious moments by virtue of his characters verbosity. Some dislike the long speeches, but I love them particularly when they’re touched by humor. Valjean goes on at great length about how glad he is to finally have a place to stay. Once he realizes that his benefactor is a priest, he blurts, “How stupid I am; I didn’t notice your cap.” I love that.

    I find this stuff incredibly moving. I’m going to quote the Bishop at length: “This is not my house; it is the house of Christ. It does not ask any comer whether he has a name, but whether he has an affliction. You are suffering; you are hungry and thirsty; be welcome. And do not thank me; do not tell me that I take you into my house. This is the home of no man, except him who needs an asylum.”

    More: “What need have I to know your name? Besides, before you told me, I knew it.” “Really? You knew my name.” “Yes, your name is brother.”

    I’m getting choked up just skimming this passage. I so love this.

    So, here we get the entire history of Jean Valjean in a really gripping passage.

    I love this: “What became of the seven children? Who troubled himself about that? What becomes of the handful of leaves of the young tree when it is sawn at the trunk?” What a devastating image.

    Continuing: “After a few years in the galleys, even Jean Valjean forgot them. In that heart, in which there had been a wound, there was a scar; that was all.”

    I really love that Hugo just tells us here that we won’t be finding out what happened to Valjean’s sister and her children, that we’ll “not meet them again.” That just creates a real sadness and loss.

    Valjean thinks about the fact that society has turned his back on him and then he has a moment of real tragedy: “These questions asked and decided, he condemned society and sentenced it. He sentenced it to his hatred.”

    Really, this whole chapter, The Depths of Despair, is just really beautiful and horrific and painful and outraged.

    I want to quote one paragraph entire, because it’s one of the most chilling in the entire novel. Here it is:

    In the course of nineteen years, Jean Valjean, the inoffensive pruner of Faverolles, the terrible galley-slave of Toulon, had become capable, thanks to the training he had received in the galleys, of two species of crime; first, a sudden, unpremeditated action, full of rashness, all instinct, a sort of reprisal for the wrong he had suffered; secondly, a serious, premeditated act, discussed by his conscience, and pondered over with the false ideas which such a fate will give. His premeditations passed through the three successive phases to which natures of a certain stampe are limited – reason, will, and obstinancy. He had as motives, habitual indignation, bitterness of soul, a deep sense of injuries suffered, a reaction against the good, the innocent and the upright, if any such there are. The beginning as well as the end of all his thoughts was a hatred of human law; that hatred which, if it be not checked in its growth by some providential event, becomes, in a certain time, hatred of society, then hatred of the human race, and then hatred of creation, and reveals itself by a vague and incessant desire to injure some living being, it matters not who. So, the passport was right which described Jean Valjean as a very dangerous man.

    That is really stunning and gripping to me. I mean, it seems like a perfect summation of what we mean when we say “sociopath.” But this was fifty years or so before the word was even invented. I find that really prescient and insightful. Particularly that bit about the vague desire to harm something living, without any care at all as to who it is.

    One last quote from this chapter: “From year to year this soul had withered more and more slowly, but fatally. With this withered heart, he had a dry eye. When he left the galleys, he had not shed a tear in nineteen years.”

    That’s just amazing.

    Okay, so we all know what happens next. This is the part of the novel that is rendered, I would say, most faithfully and exactly in any and all adaptations. Makes sense; it is the pivotal moment of the story, I’d say.

    Hugo stretches the event out to five pages. Is it methodically suspenseful or interminably boring? Your answer determines whether this novel is for you or not.

    A moment that gives me chills: “Jean Valjean, my brother: you belong no longer to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I am buying for you. I withdraw it from dark thoughts and from the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.”

    And, finally, the Petit Gervais incident, in which Valjean steals from a young child he meets on the road, his conversion not having entirely taken yet. It feels extraneous. Maybe this is WHY it’s always cut from adaptations or maybe it’s BECAUSE it’s always cut from adaptations. Either way, it seems unnecessary. The breaking of the parole is enough to justify the fact that Valjean will go back to the galleys if he’s caught.

    I love the final image of this book, of Valjean kneeling in prayer outside the bishop’s house in the darkness of the night.

    As this book ends, a life changes. This is a really, really beautiful section of the novel.

    Next time, it’s book three; the title character of this section is finally introduced and we get all her backstory that gets cut from the adaptations.
  5. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    I loved this book as well, as I mentioned in my write up I was actually crying when I read it. I don't agree with you on the Petit Gervais incident though, I actually thought it was a good way of showing that Valjean's conversion wasn't quite there, just because the Bishop saved him. It is silly that the incident would be registered and be the reason why he should go back to the galleys for life, I still don't think that a police department in the early 19th century would care that much a young, itinerant musician having lost some money. I also think that where the incident has been rendered in adaptions it's been quite badly done, the important thing isn't the act itself, it's the thoughts that go through Valjean afterwards. That image of Valjean praying outside the bishop would not be such a powerful image if it hadn't been for the Petit Gervais incident.
  6. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    Have you seen the Petit Gervais incident in some adaptations? I'd be interested in knowing which ones and how they handled it.
  7. Thrawn1786 Force Ghost

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    The Petit Gervais incident appears in the 2000 mini-series. In the American version, it sticks to the book, aside from Valjean being gleeful for a moment about stealing the boy's coin, then remembering the bishop's words and instantly becoming remorseful.

    As for the barricade boys, they're all lovable in their own way. I think my favorites are Enjolras and Joly. In the 25th anniversary tour's staging, you really got a sense of true camaraderie among them. Also notable: in the 25th anniversary tour, during Grantaire's solo in "Drink with Me," when he first sang the line 'Could it be you fear to die?' the rest of the students started to rush him, assuming he was insulting their bravery, only to stop when he continued with "will the world remember you when you fall?" You really got the sense that they had not questioned their success/mortality up 'til this moment, and it was one of the more powerful moments of the show for me.
  8. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    Yes, the only adaptions where I've seen Petit Gervais is the American/French mini-series, and the Italian from 1964. In the American version it felt strange that the incident was there, when it rushed or cut away so many other things from the novel. I think Valjean's turn to remorse was a bit too fast to really give an impact, so it would have been better to skip it. I think this is a scene that works in written form, but it's hard to make it good on screen.
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  9. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    Book 7 – The Patron Minette
    In which Hugo basically describes the worst criminals in Paris at the time, centered around the characters that form the Patron Minette gang.
    I would say that this book is actually quite important in order to see Hugo’s view of society. He’s been telling so much about the unfortunate poor and even if they are miserable they aren’t that bad. Here though he describes the worst dregs that you can find, he even calls them pure evil. In all I think it shows that Hugo wasn’t just a dreamer when it came to hoping for an Utopia. It’s possible to build a better society, but one shouldn’t be blind for the darkness that lies far down at the bottom of both the human soul and the human society.

    This will come up more in the next book but I want to mention it here, since there is so much else happening in the next book. It seems to me that Hugo thinks that one of the worst things in society is idleness. The home of the Jondrette family is described as run down in a way that you can only get if you are lazy and don’t care about anything. Montparnasse, one of the Patron Minette, also runs into one person in the next book that warns him that it’s his idleness that will force him to labour. Meaning that Montparnasse doesn’t want to work, but since he’s quite the snob when it comes to clothing he has turned to crime instead of honest work in order to afford his clothes, and the crime will lead him to prison and forced labour. Compare that to the view of Fantine who’s elevated due to her desperate attempts to support herself with sewing and other kinds of crafts, or Jean Valjean who took over the factory and became the mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer by hard work. And even when he didn’t have to in order to support himself he was happy with being a gardner. Marius himself is quite the hero due to the fact the he built up a life where he supported himself fully, even if it wasn’t in his planned career as a lawyer.
  10. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    Book 8 – The Obnoxious Poor
    With this we have now left volume one of my edition, so yes we are halfway through. This book is in a way the book that ties together many of the ends from volume one, and thus also sets the stage for the rest of the plot.

    Marius hasn’t been able to see the beautiful girl again, but he has run into the daughters of his neighbor, the Jondrettes. The Jondrettes are trying to scam money from people by having their daughters deliver letters to possible donators. One of the persons who goes into the trap and agrees to come to their apartment is a mysterious philanthropist called M. Leblanc. Marius has discovered a whole in the wall between his room and the Jondrettes, so he can see everything that goes on. The Jondrettes prepare to receive M. Leblanc by making their home look even more miserable than it is. When Leblanc arrives Marius is startled to discover that it is the man from the Luxembourg gardens, and his daughter, Marius’ love, has come with him. He finally has a trace of who they are. The Jondrettes on their side get angry when Leblanc only offers food and not money, but after telling a lie about how they need money urgently Leblanc agrees to come back later with more money. He leaves.

    Now it’s time for the first reveal for the reader. Of course Leblanc is Valjean, and his daughter is Cosette. The Jondrettes are actually the Thénardier family, and they recognized Valjean and Cosette, and now plan to skin them of their money. Thénardier goes to emply the Patron Minette gang for the evening when Valjean will return. Marius on his side is bewildered about having found his love and wants to stop the planned attack. He finally goes to the police and tells what’s going to happen, and guess what the police inspector happens to be Javert. Javert gives Marius a pistol and tells him to shoot a warning shot when the ambush occurs, so that the police can rush in and arrest the Patron Minette gang.

    The evening comes and Valjean returns. He is ambushed and Thénardier explains that his name isn’t Jondrette but Thénardier and that he now wants to have a large sum of money from Valjean. This is of course the next big reveal of the book. Not for the reader but to Marius has lived with his father’s last will of helping a person called Thénardier in any way possible. Here now is Thénardier, but he is robbing the father of his love, and Marius has already alerted the police about it. Marius is torn about what he should do, save M. Leblanc, who is now called Fabre, or save his father’s savior. In the end Valjean breaks free, there is a ruckus, Javert has become impatient and storms in without waiting for Marius’ warning shot. Javert arrests Thénardier and some members of the gang, while some get away. He is surprised to find that the victim has also disappeared and realizes that the victim might have been a bigger catch than the bandits.

    So a lot goes on in this chapter and it gives us this:
    • · Marius has a name and trace of his love
    • · Marius has also found the man, that his father has told him to help in any way
    • · Eponine Thénardier has met Marius
    • · Thénardier has gotten arrested
    • · Javert has been alerted that there is man out there that runs from the police even when he gets ambushed.
    As a final chapter in the book it’s made clear that the gamin Gavroche is actually the son of the Thénardiers, but has been thrown on the streets to care for himself.

    Despite everything happening in this action filled book I thought it was pretty boring. It’s probably because many of the revelations to the characters, aren’t actually revelations to the reader. We already know about Jondrette/Thénardier and it’s almost impossible to miss that the girl that Marius has fallen in love with is Cosette. As I said in a way this whole book feels like a setting of the stage, from now on all the major characters are aware of each other and they have been brought together by fate. My favorite part of the book is actually Javert, who act like an ice cold and efficient policeman. If you had only read this chapter I bet that you would think that Javert is a really cool and interesting character, and he could definitely be a hero detective. He more or less stares down a loaded gun! So in a way this is Javert´s chance to shine, and compared to Thénardier it’s clear that even though Javert is considered the villain it comes from a twisted sense of morals, while Thénardier in this book is even more just pure evil and showing his true colours as scum of society.
  11. Thrawn1786 Force Ghost

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    Oh, poor Eponine. This is probably one of the main sections I wish fangirls of the musical would read. A common problem people have with the show is understanding the love triangle between Marius, Cosette, and Eponine. The role of Eponine has occasionally been cast where the actress playing her is prettier than the actress playing Cosette, to the point where people have asked, "why in the world would Marius choose Cosette over Eponine?" and so on. Obviously that's not the fault of the actresses, as they are cast for their singing and acting abilities, but the big tragedy of Eponine IS that Marius would never choose her because of her appearance. Hugo is so thorough in his description of her/ unofficial contrast with Cosette (I can't remember, does the description of adult Cosette happen here or later?) that the reader immediately understands Marius's relationship: she's only a friend, and could never be anything but that to him. Not to mention that Eponine's behavior is not exactly ladylike/attractive.

    Question: does anyone think Eponine is a little unstable mentally? Some critics have painted her as such, and I'm curious to know what others think.

    Oh, and I love Javert's attitude regarding the Jondrette situation. The way he reacts to Marius telling him, "you will come in force," and when he first appears at their door: "would you like my hat?" Just little things that I love about the character.
    Last edited by Thrawn1786, Sep 5, 2013
  12. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    I know that some people see Eponine as having some mental problems, but I wouldn't go that far. It's a young girl who's fallen in love, while at the same time trying to stay alive in a hostile environment. Her actions regarding Marius isn't exactly much different than when Fantine kept believing that Tholomyés would come back to her. Unstable is maybe the right word, especially when it comes to her luring Marius to the barricade later on, but I would rather call her emotionally immature. Overall Eponine definitely gets a pass in the musical, where she's much more interesting than Cosette and you don't get much of her backstory and her taking part both in the bullying of Cosette and helping her father with his shady business.
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  13. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    Part four: Saint Denis and idyll of Rue Plumet

    Book 1: A few pages of history
    So after a book with a lot of action, Hugo makes a halt in the plot again. This time it’s to explain his views on king Louis-Philippe and the July monarchy. It’s actually quite a neutral passage. Louis-Philippe was the embodiment of a bourgeois king, who just happened to end up on the throne but could have lived a happy life being an upper middle class person. Still the July revolution ended up kidnapped by the people of the upper classes, and when we the plot comes back we are into 1832 and there is a lot of unrest and movements in the working class and student quarters of Paris. One of the groups involved in all this is of course the Friends of the ABC, that we met a couple of books ago. In the last chapter of the book Enjolras sends out his friends to make contact with other groups. At first he is hesitant to let Grantaire do so, and it turns out that Enjolras is right. Grantaire goes to meet up with their fellow plotters, but when Enjolras goes to check his progress he is drunk and playing cards, not advancing the revolution.

    So this is a fairly short book and one of those passages that Hugo uses to show what he thinks of society. It’s clear that he’s sympathetic to the would be-revolutionaries, and it’s actually quite exciting to read about what went on in Paris in the spring of 1832. There are a lot of descriptions on communications between different cells of people, and that of course leads into the final chapter where Enjolras is shown as being the real leader, while Grantaire fails in his mission.
  14. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    Book 2: Eponine
    We are back to Marius as the main character. He no longer wants to stay at the Gorbeau house so instead he moves in with Courfeyrac. Compared to earlier though he has what the book describes as “fallen into melancholy”. He wanders aimlessly around, having yet again lost contact with his beloved Ursule, eventhough he know calls her “the lark”. At the end of the first chapter he finds a patch of ground called “the field of the lark” and he goes there every day.

    Then the book deals with what happened to the Patron-Minette gang after their arrests. It turns out that some got away, but Thenardier is in solitary confinement, and Eponine is released after a while. As soon as she is out she goes to investigate a house at Rue Plumet, but sends back a message that it’s not worth the effort of a break in. There is also quite a lot of descriptions on how messages are sent and the meaning of words in prisons. Eponine also goes to meet M. Mabeuf, the old man who was acquainted to Marius. By helping him she learns that Marius always goes to “the field of the lark”, and of course she goes there. She finds Marius and tells him that she knows the address of the girl.

    I think this book is an interesting way of showing two people who are clearly in love, but they handle their situations very differently. Marius gets depressed and does nothing, while Eponine acts and goes to great lengths to help Marius, eventhough that mean helping him to find her rival. We touched upon it previously, but I think it’s worth mentioning again what a fascinating character Eponine is. I think her character, at least so far in the novel, is very well summarized by the exchange between M. MAbeuf and herself. He calls her an angel for helping her, and she answers “I am the devil, but it’s all the same to me”. The book also gives her more depth in that she’s not unwilling to help the Patron-Minette or take part in less legal activities, in many adaptions she’s been quite whitewashed and don’t like to cooperate with the gang or her father.