In Les Misérables, you get to meet the Thenardier Family, which consists of Madame and Monsieur Thenardier, Eponine and Gavroche. The musical does not make it clear that Gavroche is a Thenardier, but you discover it in the book. The best way to understand this family is to understand Monsieur and Madame Thenardier, the parents of Eponine and Gavrcohe. However in the book, there are five Thenardier children, but in the musical you only get to discover two: Eponine and Gavroche. In the book Azelma is the second born child and daughter and there are two younger brothers who are younger than Gavroche.
Monsieur and Madame Thenardier are not very good parents or very nice people. They are pretty selfish, greedy, abusive, and quite cruel. This is clear in the first couple of scenes you meet them in. Cosette, Fantine’s young daughter, is lodging with the Thenardiers because it is dangerous at the time to be known that you have an illegitimate child. They basically scam Fantine out of her money and make her believe that Cosette is deathly ill, but in reality that is not true. They are especially abusive towards her and treat her like the slave.
The money that Fantine sends to the Thenardiers is used to spoil their own daughter, Eponine. Following her parents’ lead, Eponine treats Cosette cruelly. At the time, it seems like Eponine will grow up to be like her parents. During the “Master of the House” scene, you discover that the Thenardiers are in fact pickpockets and steal absolutely anything and do anything they can to gain more money, which shows just how greedy they are. They basically kick Gavroche, their son, out of the house at such a young age and that shows that they are in fact unloving towards their children.
While Valjean goes and rescues Cosette from the clutches of the evil Thenardiers, Eponine is stuck with them. Eponine, one of my favorite characters, is their eldest child and she is basically a product of her environment. The Thenardiers basically drag her into the criminal world and they fall into extreme poverty. Once Cosette is taken away, they start using their abuse on Eponine and she becomes unloved and neglected.
The only light in her miserable life is Marius, who she falls in love with unrequitedly. For some reason, Eponine was able to see the kindness in him even though she is in fact a Thenardier. This family becomes well known in Paris and they are basically in fact criminals. Eponine has to serve as a watchdog during her father’s schemes and she would rather not, but she decides to stay loyal to Marius instead of her parents.
Eponine does remember Cosette at one point in the show and she realizes that they have switched places. In the scene previously, she realizes that Marius loves Cosette and that Cosette loves Marius. She will stick by Marius’ side no matter what and this does in fact lead Monsieur Thenardier to disown her. After Eponine shows Marius where Cosette lives, the two lovers confess their love for each other. Well, Thenardier shows up and tries to rob the house, but Eponine intervenes and warns Valjean. Due to this, Thenardier ends up disowning his own daughter.
Eponine is well aware that her feelings for Marius will always be unrequited, but she also knows that Marius is the only light in her miserable life. She didn’t do anything wrong, but she is a product of being a Thenardier. They raised her to be a criminal and she never once felt loved in her life. Marius is everything to her and she risks her life several times for him. She does stay so loyal to Marius that she ends up disguising herself as a boy to be with him at the barricades. This is a very risky move and Marius is well aware of how dark and sad her life is.
He does truly care about her despite how oblivious he is towards her love towards him. He does send her away from the barricades to protect her, but yet she still comes back, but that leads to unfortunate circumstances. She gets shot fatally and she dies in Marius’ arms. She would rather die in his arms than to die when it comes to the law. This is the happiest moment of her life and she is with the man she loves and Marius never leaves her side. Eponine is so brave but yet so unloved, neglected, and lonely. She is basically on her own. She is so loyal towards Marius and would rather be loyal to him than her parents. She has such a tragic life outside of Marius and due to that terrible life, her unrequited love is so painful and heartbreaking. But after she dies, Marius says “her name was Eponine, her life was cold and dark, yet she was unafraid”. Marius knew about Eponine’s cold life and saw how unhappy she was, but also know about her fierceness, toughness, and bravery she shows.
Gavroche is another Thenardier and is their eldest son. He was kicked out at such a young age and is basically a street urchin. He hangs out with the students of the uprising. If you think about it, the students are basically the family he has. The Thenardiers’ don’t even care about him or Eponine. He is so brave and full of such spirit and becomes this sort of mascot for the rebellion. He bravely climbs over the barricade to collect ammunition even though he dies in the attempt.
To be a Thenardier means to steal, to rob, to manipulate, and be a pickpocket. That is basically what the Thenardiers’ are. They don’t care about their children and they didn’t even care that both Gavroche and Eponine were killed at the barricades during the uprising. There is a line during the wedding scene when they try to scam Marius that says “clear away the barricades and we’re still there”.
That shows that they didn’t care that their children are in fact dead. Their only goal in life is to survive and all they care about is money. Eponine and Gavroche are wonderful characters despite being part of the Thenardier family. Even though I have a dislike towards Monsieur and Madame Thenardier, I love them for the fact that they provide much needed comic relief and that two of the musical’s best characters happen to be their children.