I am going to start by saying that I like the love triangle in Les Mis. I think it gives the musical this wonderful texture when it comes to emotion and character. I also am going to say that I like the character of Eponine more then Cosette and I even like Marius and Cosette together. I am aware that lots of Les Mis fans wish Eponine and Marius were together, but I don’t have that opinion.
I know that the musical doesn’t fully make it clear what Cosette does for Marius to show that she loves him. Lets not forget that Cosette was horribly abused by the Thenadiers when she was just a little girl. She was the unloved, abused, and neglected child and spent her childhood working as a servant. She was so broken on the inside, but she was rescued by Jean Valjean. Considering the fact that Jean Valjean was an ex-convict, it makes sense that Cosette was over-protected and sheltered because her father was always on the run. Cosette is supposed to represent light and hope in the midst of all the tragic events going on. Yes, I believe Cosette is very boring, but I don’t dislike the character. Cosette is in fact in love with Marius and you see in the second act that she was taking care of him after he got severely wounded at the barricade. You can’t have every character have a tragic ending so it is nice that Cosette and Marius had their happy ending even though Cosette’s father died and that Marius lost all of his friends.
As far as Eponine goes, lets remember that she was loved as a child. She was spoiled by her parents, the Thenardiers. But things got even worse soon after Valjean got Cosette. In “Mater of the House”, you learn that the Thenardiers are in fact pickpockets. You even learned that they are quite abusive based on how they treated Cosette. Eponine became the unloved, neglected, and abused teenager because the Thenardiers raised her to be a criminal and later in “attack at rue plumet”, you get a real sense of how her father treated her. Her father does disown her from screaming to warn Valjean and Cosette. She did that in order to protect Marius.
Her parents did not care about her and left her to fend for herself. The family fell into extreme poverty, which fell into Eponine’s hardships. She did not have a single source of light in her life until Marius arrived. She fell in love with him unrequitedly and yes she does stay loyal to him even if he won’t do the same for her. You see her setting aside her own feelings just to make sure Marius is happy. Marius is one of the main reasons why she somehow developed a moral compass.
She went as far as dressing up as a boy to be with Marius at the barricades. Marius did in fact notice her and sent her away to deliver a letter to Cosette. It appears that Marius never truly cared about Eponine because he was unaware that she loved him. But in reality he was the only person who ever showed her kindness.
He only asked her to deliver the letter because he wanted to protect her and keep her safe from the uprising, but she still came back to the barricades. She was fatally wounded while climbing over the barricade, but she still had the strength to climb down and find Marius to tell him that she delivered the letter. This was the moment where you realize that Marius did in fact care about her because her death left him devastated. But at least he showed her compassion and provided her comfort during her final moments. I really think that Eponine just wouldn’t be the same without the unrequited love for Marius and she also wouldn’t be as amazing as a character. I know this sounds crazy, but don’t forget who her parents are and the economic and social status she finds herself in.
The thing I love the most about Eponine and Cosette is how their lives completely mirrored each other as they got older. They were abused, neglected, and unloved at some stage in their lives. Cosette was in that situation when she just a little girl at the Thenardiers’ inn. They had her working as a servant and you got a sense of how cruel and abusive the Thenardiers’ really were. Cosette got rescued while Eponine was stuck with them her whole life.
So I don’t find the whole love triangle silly. I don’t think Marius is a jerk at all. I don’t think it is fair to call him that just because he was unaware that Eponine loved him. There is more to Marius then the whole love triangle. Yes, he sings about Cosette a lot and focused on her so much. It was just he was so in love with her. He still cared and loved Eponine even though he only loved her as a friend. He even has his revolutionary side when he went to the barricades. He was conflicted between his love for Cosette and his passion for the uprising. He went through a lot of horror at the barricades. First, Eponine got fatally wounded and later he lost all of his friends. He was the only one to survive, which left him with survivor’ guilt. The barricades did in fact mature him and he became a different person. He later learned who saved his life and went to find Valjean and Marius and Cosette arrived just in time because Valjean was dying.
Think about it: would it still be Les Mis if the love triangle wasn’t there or if Marius and Eponine ended up together? Would it still be Les Mis if Cosette did not represent hope and light?
I don’t think so. We need Cosette and Marius to end up together because it provides light and hope to this tragic tale. We don’t need to allow everyone to have tragic endings. Both Cosette and Marius did face some kind of trauma and neglect in their lives. It happened to Cosette as young child and it happened to Marius after experiencing all of his friends and Eponine die and later experiencing survivor’s guilt. By the end of the show, all Marius and Cosette have is each other. Cosette has just lost her father and Marius has lost all of his friends. I hope I made all of this clear.