Elphaba and Eponine are two of the best musical characters ever. Elphaba is one of the two main protagonists in Wicked (with Glinda being the other) and Eponine is a lead character in Les Misérables. I find Elphaba to be a dramatic character and Eponine to be a tragic character. I find dramatic and tragic characters to be quite similar, but the biggest difference has to do with fate. I can’t help but see some wonderful similarities between the two girls and I feel like some wonderful differences come out of their similarities.
Elphaba and Eponine are both loving, complex, young and strong female characters. We meet them at two stages in their lives. Eponine starts out as a child and we see her again as a teenager and we first meet Elphaba as a teenager and we see her progress to young adult. They are both the eldest sibling in their family. Elphaba’s younger sister is named Nessa and Nessa is a character that I always tend to forget about in Wicked and Eponine actually has four younger siblings (all are in the book, but only one makes it to the musical), who are Azelma, Gavroche (one in the musical), and two brothers younger than Gavroche.
One place where you see a similarity in these characters is through their family situation. They live in a broken family, but there are still some obvious differences. In Elphaba’s circumstance, her father hates her because he blames her for the reason why Nessa is disabled and why her mother is dead all because Elphaba was born green. So Elphaba has been treated like an outcast in her own home. Her sister is put on a pedestal and is absolutely spoiled, but later in act two, Nessa betrays Elphaba. However Elphaba feels fiercely protective of Nessa.
As for Eponine, I feel like her family is even more broken than Elphaba’s. At first, when Eponine was only eight, she was spoiled and appeared to be loved by her family. However, following her parent’s lead, she also mistreats Cosette and through “Master of the House”, you get an idea of the environment Eponine is going to be growing up in. Right after Valjean takes Cosette away, Eponine gets the same treatment that Cosette got. She becomes so unloved, abused, lonely, and neglected. Her parents basically drag her into the criminal world. Eponine is completely alone and has never received love from anyone. This situation sounds even worse than the situation that Elphaba finds herself in when it comes to her family.
Another obvious example is coming from a love triangle, but once again there are some obvious differences. Both love triangles seem to have some kind of coincidence involved. In the love triangle in Wicked, it starts out with Elphaba feeling unrequited love for Fiyero. At first, Elphaba thinks Fiyero is super rude and even quite annoying. She has no clue she loves him until the scene before “I’m Not That Girl”. The coincidence with this love triangle is that her best friend also loves Fiyero. I am beginning to wonder if Fiyero had a crush on Elphaba without realizing it in the first act. I am saying that because of how he was interacting with Elphaba before “I’m Not That Girl”, and the scene that follows where Fiyero cannot stop thinking about the incident with the lion cub. I was trying to see if there were clues in act one that would help explain Fiyero’s decision in act two.
Through a major plot twist, Elphaba somehow ends up with Fiyero. It was during “Thank Goodness” where Fiyero realized that he loves Elphaba and never has loved Glinda. He is quite frustrated by all of the rude comments people are making about Elphaba. So Elphaba and Fiyero start a relationship. Elphaba and Fiyero are my favorite musical couple because they are a couple you wouldn’t expect to exist due to Elphaba having unrequited love for Fiyero in act one. The switch of unrequited love in Wicked is why my favorite love triangle is in this musical.
With the love triangle in Les Mis, things are quite different for Eponine. Unlike Elphaba, Marius is the only thing that matters in Eponine’s life. I believe that Eponine loves Marius more than how much Elphaba loves Fiyero, which is part of why her unrequited love for Marius is even more heartbreaking than Elphaba’s unrequited love for Fiyero. A lot of Eponine’s story revolves around her unrequited love for Marius. The coincidence with this love triangle is that Cosette and Eponine love Marius and that is coincidental because both Eponine and Cosette were once living in the same house. Eponine has in fact realized that Marius only has eyes for Cosette and realized that her life and Cosette’s life have literally switched places.
Unlike Elphaba, Eponine will stick by Marius’ side no matter what. She will absolutely do anything for Marius even if he wouldn’t do the same for her. She risks her life several times for the sake of him. She helps find Cosette for him and warns him when her father is trying to rob Valjean’s house. She goes as far as disguising as a boy to assist Marius at the barricades. While Eponine is so aware that Marius is completely oblivious to her feelings for him, that does not change her opinion about Marius. It is clear in “On My Own”, that she is accepting the fact that Marius will never be hers and is even more heartbreaking than “I’m Not That Girl”.
All Eponine has in her life is Marius and that’s it. Eponine even at the end of her journey always has unrequited love for Marius. Even though Eponine dies through a fatal gunshot wound, I think her fate is such wonderful and even beautiful. She gets to die in the arms of the man she loves even though her death leaves Marius devastated.
It is amazing how a lot of these differences come from some of their similarities. Another difference is that Elphaba is from the land of OZ and she has these magical powers that she can’t control and she is treated like an outcast in both her home and society.
The wizard uses Elphaba to his advantage and makes citizens believe that she is truly wicked. That sounds kind of similar to Eponine because her parents use her for their advantage and don’t even care about her and at the end of Eponine’s journey, her parents don’t even care that she got killed.
Between these two girls, I have a more personal and relatable relationship with Elphaba. I relate to Elphaba so much more than Eponine. Elphaba is the character that has been part of my life since 2006 while Eponine has become a favorite character of mine since 2013. I don’t relate to Eponine at all, but yet when I saw the movie a second time, I started having this growing love for Eponine and don’t know where that came from. I sort of wonder that because Elphaba is my favorite musical theatre character and because Elphaba shares many similarities with Eponine, I sort of feel like that might have something to do with my special love for Eponine.