Character Death- How do I deal with It?

We have favorite characters. They either live or they die in the musical. I once thought character death would be UNMEMORABLE, and I thought it wouldn’t happen through song. One musical would change it all- Les Mis made me view chapter death differently- in a positive way. How do I deal with character death?

Major Spoilers:

Do the characters we love who die really die at the end? Yes, we just witnessed the death of characters. But are they truly DEAD. In a way, those characters aren’t dead. Characters like Fantine, Eponine, and basically a ton of other Les Mis characters die- but I have kept them alive. How do you keep those character ALIVE? That basically means they are alive in you. If it is a musical that is meaningful to you, their stories and songs are alive in you. So, even after death, we hold on to them- so they are not truly dead. Understand what I mean? That is how we deal with the death- we hold on to their stories by listening to the songs. As long as the show means something, the characters stay alive in us even if they do die in the show.

A Little Fall of Rain from the Les Mis Movie- Eponine's Death
A Little Fall of Rain

There is ONE more way we can deal with character death. Think about Les Mis. Songs like “Come to Me”, “A Little Fall of Rain”, and “Finale” help. We are comforted by the fact that the characters who do die are not alone. Fantine is with Valjean, Eponine is in the arms of Marius, and Valjean is with Marius and Cosette. Enjolras, Gavroche, and the students are with each other. See what I mean- songs help us deal with it. For some of these characters- their only true moment of peace and comfort is at their death- for some, it actually is their happiest moment of their life (you have to understand characters to figure this out).

Why is it so easy for me to describe why I deal with character death the easiest in Les Mis as opposed to the other musicals I have seen it in?

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Spiritual Themes of Les Mis

The other day I was asked what the top three spiritual themes I connect to in Les Mis the most. That is kind of a hard question because they all seem to connect.

Major Spoilers:

Love:

  • One of Les Mis’ most famous quotes is “to love another person is to see the face of God”. Love shows up in various ways in Les Mis. Now that I think of it, love seems to one of Les Mis’ strongest spiritual themes. What are the forms of love in Les Mis?

Family Love

Fantine and Cosette- Cosette is Fantine’s daughter. Fantine is a struggling single mother- Cosette’s biological father abandoned both of them. At the time period, it is dangerous to have an illegitimate child. Fantine was desperate for the care of Cosette- she left Cosette in the care of the Thenardiers (little did she know how poorly they would treat her daughter). She did end up working at Valjean’s factory- soon enough, she got fired after the factory women find out about Cosette. She had to sell her hair, her locket, and eventually herself to provide for Cosette. She cared more for her daughter than herself. She had hopes her daughter would have a better life than she had.

Valjean and Cosette- Valjean became Cosette’s adopted father after her mother died. Valjean promised Fantine he would raise Cosette. Cosette was the first person he loved after leaving prison. Cosette never knew love, but Valjean gave that to her

Valjean and Cosette in the movie musical of Les Mis
Valjean and Cosette

Love for God

The Bishop- the Bishop did love God. He was able to welcome Valjean into his home. He provided Valjean with a meal and a place to sleep. He was showing Valjean compassion. After Valjean stole the Bishop’s silver, he was able to forgive, show mercy and grace. The Bishop told the police that Valjean didn’t steal the silver, but that he gave it to him- the Bishop provided Valjean with the candlesticks.

Valjean- Valjean lived by the example the Bishop showed him. It is why he was able to help Fantine. It was why he was able to become a better person. His love for God was clearly shown during “Bring Him Home”. His love for God is why he was able to do all the things he did after he broke parole- it was why he able to forgive Javert.

Bring Him Home in the stage show of Les Mis
Bring Him Home

Friendship Love

Enjolras and the Students- their bond is so tight that you can see them as a family. They have this brotherly connection to each other. They are so passionate about their cause especially Enjolras, their leader. They never lose their passion- even in the end.

Red and Black in the musical movie of Les Mis
Red and Black

Eponine and Marius- their friendship is not in the book- but it does exist in the musical. It is an unpopular opinion, but I do like their friendship. Marius is the only person in Eponine’s life who treats her kindly- this was the reason why she fell in love with him. He was all she had. He knew her life was tough. People say “I don’t like how Marius treated Eponine”. Here’s the thing- I don’t see that. Here’s how I see Marius- he is sweet, kind, brave, awkward, compassionate, and a revolutionary. Just because he asked Eponine to find Cosette for him does not him rude. Let’s go to act II- at the beginning of it, I believe he sent her away with that letter to Cosette to protect her from the uprising in hopes that she will not get hurt or worse killed. However, she did come back- she did get shot- her wound was fatal. Once Marius realized she was shot, and that her wound was fatal, he was devastated. Despite breaking, he stayed with her- he held her and comforted her- that is compassion- I don’t understand how people can’t see that. Do you know how I knew that Marius knew how dark her life was- it was the words he said after she died- “her name was Eponine. Her life was cold and dark. Yet she was unafraid.” If he wasn’t capable of so much compassion- Marius would have left her to die alone. “A Little Fall of Rain” is the most intimate moment Marius and Eponine have.

A Little Fall of Rain from the musical movie of Les Mis
A Little Fall of Rain

Romance

This exists through a love triangle- Marius x Eponine x Cosette. Marius and Cosette fall in love while Eponine is stuck with unrequited love. The love Marius and Cosette have for each other brings hope to this tragedy. Cosette is supposed to represent hope and light. Cosette life goes from bad to good while Eponine’s life goes from good to bad- those two characters are mirrors of each other. Of all the characters in the love triangle, it is Eponine I love the most- but I still love Marius and Cosette. It is Eponine, who would do anything for Marius no matter the cost- even if that means sacrificing her life for him. If it wasn’t for Eponine, Marius and Cosette never would have ended up together. Marius and Cosette are perfect for each other. The love triangle is so effective that you end up feeling for all three of them- for instance, during “A Heart Full of Love”- it starts out as a duet between Marius and Cosette, and later Eponine joins in- so you are feeling for all three of them.

  • So when it comes to love, I think the types of love that speaks to me the most are love for God, love for friends, love for family, and romance. I think I also can add love for a country- which is part of Enjolras and the students’ love for each other.

Sacrifice:

Sacrifice connects to love. The love the characters have leads them to sacrifice their lives. Fantine’s love for Cosette eventually is why she gets deathly ill. Enjolras’ and the students’ love for the country is why they sacrifice their lives. Eponine’s love for Marius is why she gives up her life for him- when she sees him about to get shot, she takes the fatal shot herself. Valjean’s love for Cosette leads him to the barricade to make sure Marius lives.

Hope:

There is hope for many of the characters, which also seems to connect to the love theme as well. Fantine has hope for her daughter. Eponine’s light is Marius, the boy she falls in love with. Enjolras and the students have hope for the cause they believe in because of their love for their country. Marius and Cosette’s love for each other brings hope to the story. Valjean’s hope is initially through the bishop and later through Cosette, which does lead him to protect Marius.

Conclusion:

I could have included more spiritual themes. Love seems to be the main overarching theme in Les Mis. It connects to many other spiritual themes. People constantly associate love to romance. But, love is not just romance- in Les Mis, it goes way way beyond- love for friends, family, God and the country. The underlying spirituality in Les Mis is why Les Mis goes beyond its tragic nature.

My Overall Opinion of the PBS Masterpiece Les Mis Series

For the past six weeks, I have been watching the PBS Masterpiece Series of Les Mis. Each week on this blog, I did talk about each episode, and what happened. This post will focus on what my overall opinion was.

Major Spoilers:

In my opinion, I felt like this series needed more than six episodes. The last two episodes felt rushed with two subplots. I wished the series could have spent more time on the romance between Marius and Cosette and the Uprising. Those were speed up too quickly just to fit everything in- those are my favorite subplots that happen in Les Mis: the love triangle and the uprising.

What I do love is that the series focused much more on backstory. This series was not based on the musical- it was more book based- even though some things I saw never happened in the book or musical.

We were able to see what happened to Fantine before Felix (Cosette’s biological father) abandoned her- we saw her when she was truly happy. It makes her story much more heartbreaking- not only did we see Felix leaving her, but we also saw Fantine leaving Cosette in the hands of the Thenardiers. Seeing those two elements puts much more pain into her storyline- after all, if you know Les Mis, you do know how poorly the Thenardiers treat Cosette. It was harder for me to watch the “Lovely Ladies” scene in this version- I felt more uncomfortable with it- the scene always made me uncomfortable, but this one was more intense. I actually do love the fact that Azelma is in this series- she is one of the Thenardier children after all.

Thinking of Thenardiers, at the beginning of the series, it starts at the Battle of Waterloo, which helps clear up the fact that Les Mis does not take place during The French Revolution. It does show Thenardier “rescuing” Marius’ father- that scene is important to Marius’ backstory. When it comes to the Thenardiers’, you saw how abusive they really are-when you first saw them, it does appear as if they are “good” people, but after Fantine left them, you eventually saw Azelma and Eponine mistreating Cosette. You saw Cosette being abused at a much deeper level. You saw Gavroche in their house- now you know he is their son. You saw them falling into poverty. This version made me hate the Thenardiers even more- seeing just how poorly they treat Azelma and Eponine- right when Cosette left, we saw a scene with one of their daughters being treated as a servant- so we do realize that if Cosette wasn’t there, both daughters would have treated the same way.

Back to Jean Valjean- in the musical, you have an idea of how prison affected him. What this version is able to do is show you how poorly Toulon really is. You saw that Valjean did believe that love can’t change a man- that was before he was forgiven. You saw multiple scenes of Toulon, and you saw them affecting Valjean at a much deeper level- so you can understand better why he left prison as man with so much anger at society- because of his days in prison. Now one thing never made sense- one plot point never happened- in this series, he fired Fantine- well, in the book, it was a woman foreman who fired Fantine. I did not understand that change.

At the same time- I can now understand why Javert believes “once a criminal always a criminal”- he says Valjean that he was born in jail and that his parents were criminals, and that he learned to hate them- I never really understand that viewpoint- now it makes sense.

Now, I would like to talk about the love triangle. It actually showed a side to Marius that we never get in the musical- a side that shows up only in the book: it is a part of him that makes him complex. This does start when he was a child- you saw his grandfather raising him to believe his father hated him, which he eventually realized wasn’t true. That is what soon led to him having this political conflict- that side is what made him complex-one of the reasons why I love him as a character. Many people say he is annoying and a jerk- but I disagree: yes, even from the book, I never saw him that way. Marius still is a revolutionary- not at first- he is not close to the revolutionaries here- which I did expect- still sticking close to the book.

The love triangle was subtle in the book, and it is in this series, but I did feel like the romance was rushed. I love Marius and Cosette as a couple- but I felt like the series could have spent more time on their relationship. They only had like one scene in the Gardens and two in Rue Plumet- this was before the barricade- wish there was more of them. As far as Eponine goes- I am glad this series focused on what her life was like outside of Marius more than the unrequited love. They do show the unrequited love-yes, but we got several scenes that showed her life outside of him. I knew it was there for all the scenes she had with him (since I saw the musical and read the book), but the first scene she made it clear was right after she led him to Rue Plumet-That was when I realized she was in love with him. The love triangle still feels rushed- even though it still stays subtle like the book- but it is too rushed. Marius and Eponine’s relationship is closer to being acquaintances here- which I was expecting due to knowing this series was following the book. Just like in book, Eponine sacrificed her life for Marius at the barricade, and Marius stayed with her. In both the book and musical, I believe Marius is still this kind, sweet, compassionate, brave, and romantic revolutionary.

Cosette- you have a lot more sympathy for Young Cosette. You actually saw how abused she is. As she gets older, I am glad you saw how overprotected and sheltered she. It does make sense- for starters, Valjean is an ex-convict and is trying not to be recaptured and Cosette means everything to him. What I do love in this series is that it shows Valjean raising Cosette.

Another subplot that I felt is too rushed is the uprising. I love Enjolras and the students. All the uprising events take place in the 5th/6th episode- so much had to happen in those episodes for the story to finish. You already saw a bit of uprising in the 4th episode, but you only got introduced to Enjolras and the students. The 5th episode is more about planning and the beginning of the uprising, but had to end with Valjean leaving for the barricade- I thought that was odd. I wanted more time with them- it was like it was quick action before the uprising even started. The musical makes it always clear who Enjolras is, but at times in the series- I kept on forgetting- you are supposed to always knew which one of the group he is. Literally in the 6th episode after Valjean released Javert, the final battle began- that was too rushed to get there.

Conclusion:

I thought it was a wonderful way to watch Les Mis. I still had moments I was in tears- some of those were moment I was expecting to cry during- “A Little Fall of Rain” for instance. I still think this series needed one or two more episodes. I wished some moments were not rushed- the uprising and romance was too rushed. The 5th and 6th episode were extremely rushed at the start just to fit everything. Some moments happened way too soon- as in should have happened later- reasons why there should have been more than six episodes.

Les Misérables-Episode 3

I have finally watched episode three in the Les Misérables series. It is interesting how you can match scene with song. Below I will talk about this episode.

Major Spoilers:

This episode starts where the last episode ends. Fantine is weaker now, and thinks that Valjean is getting her child. Valjean is actually saving an innocent man from getting imprisoned. They have convicts in the case, and they all believe this innocent man is Jean Valjean. The real Valjean proves it is him by saying markings he knows they have, and then turning to Javert. He does go to his factory asking if that woman came for Cosette, and she did not.

Fantine does die in this episode. She does figure out that Cosette isn’t there. Javert is there, and does tell Fantine the truth about Valjean- that he is a thief, and she dies from the shock. That is exactly how she dies in the book. She does not get to know if Valjean is going to raise her child or not- unlike the musical. Valjean, being recaptured, escapes once again, to find Cosette.

Cosette is treated even worse in this series. Madame Thenardier beats her and yells at her. You really get to see just how despicable and abusive those Thenardiers really are. When Cosette first meets Valjean, she does not know if she can trust him, but when he says he will not hurt her, she does trust him. He realizes the full extent of how Cosette is treated- he sees that Cosette is a servant. He ends up buying her a doll, and ended up buying her time to play.

A lot of this episode is focused on Valjean raising Cosette and being a father for the first time. You see other things happening like the moment when The Thenardiers’ inn fails, Javert chasing Valjean/Cosette (this is when they end up in Convent), and you do see the Thenardiers beginning to treat Azelma like a servant. So you realize, that if Cosette wasn’t there, the Thenardiers would have treated their daughters just as poorly. When Javert first visits the Thenardiers’ inn, he does recognize Thenardier as a scoundrel. There was no time jump into 1832 in this episode- that isn’t going to happen until the 4th episode.

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2019/04/24/les-miserables-series-episode-2/

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2019/04/16/les-miserables-series/

Les Misérables Series-Episode 2

This week, instead of watching the six part mini series on the regular Sunday, I had to watch it on Monday night. It was because of Easter Dinner- my family came back close to the end of the episode. Due to not knowing when my family was going to get back, we recorded the second episode. The first episode ended with Jean Valjean releasing he needed to change his ways to become a better person and Fantine left with Cosette what they are supposed to do now that Felix left them.

Major Spoilers:

This episode starts on Fantine. We now have an older Cosette- about three or so. Fantine is looking for work. Fantine’s only light in the world is her daughter. They end up at the Thenardiers’ inn- so now another character is introduced- Madame Thenardier. We see her being loving to both Eponine and Azelma. I actually love how Azelma is in the series- in the musical, the only Thenardier children they show is Eponine and Gavroche, but they did have five children. Eponine and Azelma are outside swinging and playing- it seems to Fantine that she can trust the Thenardiers with Cosette. It does look like she is abandoning Cosette, but she isn’t- she still loves her daughter. As she leaves, the Thenardiers still seem like they are loving.

Back to Jean Valjean. He has a prosperous company and is now mayor. You can see his past haunting him. That is most clear when Javert arrives. Everything that Javert said- a number of things, I am like that was exactly that character would say. Javert questioned Valjean a number of times it seemed- like he seemed to notice that Valjean was hiding something- don’t forget Valjean is Monsieur Madeline at this point. When Valjean said a certain line- Javert said did something in your past make you come to that conclusion. There was the cart scene that made Javert wonder if Madeline was Valjean. This series goes deeper into Valjean and Javert’s dynamic and deeper into the complexity of Javert- a character I struggle to find common ground with and understand.

Fantine does ask for a job in his factory, and it seems like things are going well for her. The Thenardiers do increase her salary, and she still trusts them. Well, what does one of the factory women do? Find out her little secret by following her and listening to one of the letters the Thenardiers have sent- which leads to her being fired. I was surprised it was Valjean that dismissed her- that is not like him- in both book and musical- it was a foreman person who fired her, not Valjean- I remember that. I know what is going to happen, which I don’t want to watch. After being fired, that is when she hears about Cosette being deathly ill- which leads to the beginning of the whole “Lovely Ladies” scene. It is the worst I have seen that scene played- you see all the tools they use before the cutting of hair and the teeth pulling, and then while the action happens, you hear her pain. After the teeth pulling, her mouth is bloodied- all of that is harder to sit through. All of that happens before becoming a prostitute- which is the order it happens in the book. When she becomes a prostitute, no one wants to take her because of what she looks like now. She has become sickly, and you can tell because you see blood when she coughs- you know.

This episode actually shows Gavroche- the Thenardiers actually use his name. It actually tells you that he is related to them- the musical or musical film does not tell you that he is a Thenardier. The musical only tells you about Eponine- not about Gavroche. You see their abuse further- you saw how abusive Monsieur Thenardier can get- in the musical, in the early scenes, you only saw the nature of Madame Thenardiers’ abusive side, not Monsieur Thenardiers’ abusive side- you don’t see that until 1832. You saw Eponine and Azelma throwing things at Cosette- so in one scene, these three girls were playing together, and now that is lost. So you slowly are starting to get an idea of the environment the Thenardiers’ daughter are going to be growing up in considering what you saw in this episode.

It did go back to Marius and his grandfather. His grandfather has taught him to believe his political views. Marius is still a child, and has been believed both Napoleon and his father are traitors. You saw Marius see his father on his deathbed- so in this series, Marius saw that happen as a child- which I believe happened at a later age in the book.

I got emotional again, which was at the “Lovely Ladies” scenes. I was kind of shaking at times. It was very very hard to watch all of that. Usually it is a bit easier. I was crying seeing all of that unfold. That is the hardest scene to watch in the musical.

This episode left you at a cliffhanger- Valjean heading to turn himself in when someone was believed to be him, Fantine in the hospital quite weak (hoping to see Cosette again) and Valjean did ask a factory worker to get Cosette and take her to the hospital (which we don’t know if that will happen). I believe I know what is going to happen towards the beginning of the third episode. I hope at the end of the 3rd episode or the middle of that episode, there is a time jump- after all there is a lot going on in 1832.

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2019/04/16/les-miserables-series/

Les Misérables Series-Episode 1

What is it like to see Les Misérables without the music? Les Misérables has a six week series, but without music. I was thinking, I don’t know how I can watch Les Misérables without the music. After all, I had been watching Les Misérables with the music for six years now. Then again, I had the book, and when a scene came on that resembled a song, I did not play the song. It was Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables that the musical came from. Yesterday, I watched the first episode- since I only knew the musical film and the stage show, I had no idea what the order of scenes would be and had no idea if I would be affected in the same way the musical affects me.

Major and Minor Spoilers

Right away, I knew how different this series was going to be different. It starts at the end of The Battle of Waterloo- that would mean the first character you would be introduced to would be Thenardier. This episode gives you a backstory to Marius- it was Thenardier that unintentionally saved Marius’ father from the Battler of Waterloo. In the musical, you never saw Waterloo or Marius’ father. You never knew about Marius’ grandfather and the conflict between Marius’ father and his grandfather- that is an important part of Marius’ backstory. You got to see that Marius’ grandfather did not want Marius’ father in Marius’ life.

You got to see that life in the prison was affecting Valjean even deeper. The prison was terrible. You saw them working for more days, and the guards yelling at them. You understood why prison made Valjean a harsh and angry man when he left. The musical only shows a snippet of that- at least in this version, you understood it much much better. When he visits the bishop, he did say to him that he does not believe that love could change a man. He still was angry at society. It has that scene in the book where he stole a coin from a young boy- this is when he realized he truly messed up, and that he needed to change.

Even with Javert, you got to explore more of his backstory. The only thing I learned of his backstory in the musical is that he was born in jail. I did not know anything else. In one scene, Valjean saved a prison guard. Javert questioned him, and he explained to Valjean that he was born in jail, and that his parents were criminals-that now makes sense why Javert believes that “once a criminal always a criminal”. He was born to criminals and in jail. So Javert learned to hate them- now that logic makes sense.

Now with Fantine- like the other characters, backstory. You got to see her when she was truly happy. You saw her before she was abandoned. You got to see her living life and loving Felix, the one who would be Cosette’s biological father. This episode ends with Fantine holding baby Cosette wondering what they are supposed to do now that Felix left them.

Since there was no music, I had no idea how I would react. I cried and got emotional- which is my same reaction in the musical. I had gotten so emotionally connected to Les Misérables- the plot and characters. I feel like next week is going to be harder to watch.

Non-Survivors I love in Musicals

What do I mean by the non-survivors? These are the characters who die in musicals. So this will be SPOILER HEAVY. I used to think a character death would not be memorable, but I learned my lesson.

  1. Enjolras and the students
  2. Gavroche
  3. Eponine
  4. Fantine
  5. Jean Valjean
  6. Don Quixote
  7. Angel
  8. Mufasa
  9. Kim

It was Les Mis that taught me that I can love a character death. I love more characters who survive than characters who don’t survive. A lot of that it because I can’t think of more. Death in musicals are not EASY to watch, but you have to understand WHY they had to happen- all of these deaths had to happen. Yes, character death is sad, and you are heartbroken because you loved the character. The only way they will continue to live is in you.

How do you feel about character death?