Analysis of Eponine

Major Spoilers:

Eponine is a character I have a special love for.

-1823

We first meet Eponine at the Thenardiers’ inn. The Thenardiers, who Cosette is lodging with, are Eponine’s parents. At the time the Thenardiers horribly abuse young Cosette while spoiling their daughter, Eponine. Eponine appears to be living in a loving family. The money that the Thenardiers receive from Fantine is used to spoil Eponine and is used to help the inn. At the time, their inn is in danger of going bankrupt. In the next scene, we learn that the Thenardiers are in fact pickpockets and we start to get an idea of the kind of environment Eponine is going to be growing up in. Soon after Valjean takes Cosette away, Eponine starts becoming horribly abused, neglected, lonely, and unloved.

-1832

This is when we start to get to know Eponine the most. The Thenardier family has become bankrupt and they are living in extreme poverty. They basically dragged Eponine into the criminal world and Eponine’s life has become even worse. In addition, Eponine has fallen in love with Marius unrequitedly. It becomes clear during the Robbery that Eponine does not want to  get involved in her family’s schemes even though she is a Thenardier. She would rather be faithful to Marius than being involved with the schemes that her father and his gang are involved in.

For some reason, Eponine has not fully developed her parent’s ways, which might have something to do with Marius. Eponine is quite brave and despite being a Thenardier, she still is able to fall in love. She has never received love from anyone. In one scene, Eponine realizes that Marius has fallen in love with Cosette and that is where this love triangle comes from.

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Eponine realizes that her life and Cosette’s life have literally switched places. She remembers Cosette. She realizes how much better Cosette’s life has become. Cosette is living in a loving family and is not living in extreme poverty. But with Eponine, she is living in extreme poverty and was dragged into the criminal world by her family. Cosette has fallen in love with Marius and Marius has fallen in love with Cosette. The switch that happened between Cosette and Eponine is very intriguing.  It is one of the most interesting parts of Les Mis.

Marius does in fact ask Eponine to find Cosette for him because he knows she is streetwise due to her family’s schemes. She reluctantly agrees because she realizes it will make him happy. Throughout her entire story, everything she does is for Marius and it becomes clear how much she loves Marius despite the fact that Marius doesn’t love her. She risks her life several times for Marius.

Another time she does a favor for Marius is during the Attack at Rue Plumet. Marius and Cosette have just confessed their love for each other and Thenardier and his gang arrive and try to rob Valjean’s house. Out of love for Marius, Eponine stands up against her father and screams to alert Valjean. At this point, Thenardier basically disowns his daughter. Eponine is basically left to fend for herself on the streets. There is more to Eponine’s life than the unrequited love for Marius.

Considering how much she loves Marius, she disguises herself as a boy to join the revolutionaries at the barricades in order to assist Marius. Marius recognizes her and sends her away with a letter to Cosette. Eponine still cannot believe that Marius still cannot see that she loves him. In “On My Own”, it becomes clear to Eponine that Marius will never love her and she finally accepts the situation that she is currently in.

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Previously (stage show), Valjean has warned Eponine not to return to the barricades, but she doesn’t listen. She returns just to tell Marius she did the favor for him. But as a consequence, she gets caught in the crossfire and becomes fatally wounded herself. Despite knowing that she is dying, she still has the strength to climb down the barricades to find Marius.

The first thing Marius asks is if she saw Cosette and this might seem like Marius is being a jerk to her, but he really isn’t. He has no clue that Eponine is dying from a gunshot wound especially because Eponine is hiding it from him. He soon finds out after she collapses in his arms. Marius tries to get help, but Eponine stops him. Eponine would rather die in Marius’ arms than die when it comes to the law. She is just happy that Marius is there. Marius is literally the only person in her life that has ever showed her kindness.

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Marius is devastated that Eponine is dying because she means a lot to him and sees her as this little sister in a way. He thinks it is too soon for her to leave, but he decides to be compassionate to her till she dies. He offers her peace and comfort and stays brave for her till the end. Even Marius knew how dark and horrible her life truly was. After she dies, the first thing Marius says to the students is “Her name was Eponine. Her life was cold and dark, yet she was unafraid”. That shows how brave and fearless Eponine is despite how horrible her life was. The students decide to fight in her name because she was the first to die on the barricade.

Eponine is quite an interesting character. There are two things that are key to Eponine’s character. The first is that she belongs to the Thenardier family and the second is her love for Marius. You would think she would grow up to be just her parents, which means to be selfish, greedy, and to even want to be involved in a life of thieving. But Eponine knows that her parent’s way of living is not right. That is one of the most interesting parts about Eponine is how she does not become like her parents and that is quite a miracle. I still think that has something to do with Marius. I think Eponine loves Marius so much because of the kindness that he shows her. He is the only person who does offer her kindness even though he doesn’t love her romantically, but he loves her like a friend.

She chooses to be faithful to Marius and that drives all of her actions in Les Mis, which might seem like one of her weaknesses, but in reality it actually is a strength. Her love for Marius is what keeps her thriving even though it eventually leads to her death on the barricades.

As a matter of fact, dying in Marius’ arms is the happiest moment of life. I don’t know why, but Eponine’s death is my favorite death scene in all of Les Mis. There is something special about “A Little Fall of Rain” and I feel devastated that one of my favorite characters is dying, but I also feel happy because I am seeing Eponine happy for once in her brief life. You do feel bad for Marius during that scene as well.

Next analysis is for the Thenardiers, Eponine’s parents.

Analysis of Fantine

Fantine’s story is very heartbreaking and tragic.

Major Spoiler

We first meet her during “At the End of the Day”. She is working at Valjean’s factory and the other factory workers have grown suspicious of her. At one point in the song, a factory woman sees her with this letter and steals it from her. The letter says that her daughter, Cosette, is seriously ill and needs money as soon as possible. But the heartbreaking part is that the letter is a hoax sent by the Thenardiers in order to scam her out of money. When Fantine was younger, she was quite naive and she had an affair with this man named Tholymés and they have a child together, but he completely abandons her and Cosette is about two or three at the time. Knowing that it would be hard to get a job with an illegitimate child, she left Cosette in the hands of the Thenardiers.

Fantine has no clue that the Thenardiers are horribly abusing her daughter. Fantine and this factory woman get into a fight and Valjean arrives. Valjean asks the foreman to break it up. The factory workers confess that Fantine has a child and demands that she be fired. She ends up getting fired and Fantine becomes even more desperate. Her dreams are broken and she is devastated. She knows she somehow has to still provide for her child and make sure she is paid for and she really believes that her daughter is actually dying, but that is not even true. After being fired, Fantine blames Monsieur Madeline (AKA Valjean) for her being fired and she starts to have a dislike towards him, but Valjean has no idea that she was just fired due to having an illegitimate child.

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At the docks, Fantine ends up selling her locket, her hair, and becomes a prostitute in order to provide for her daughter. At this time in France, women were not given many opportunities in the job world and it was dangerous to be known you have an illegitimate child. Right after Fantine becomes a prostitute, an abusive customer harasses her and in self-defense, she attacks the man. Javert is there at the scene and plans to arrest her because she attacked the man and only sees her as this prostitute. Fantine even tells him that she has a child, but even after that fact, Javert still shows her no mercy. Valjean sees the whole scene take place and intervenes to prevent Fantine from being arrested.

Fantine confesses to Valjean that she was fired from his factory. Out of mercy, Valjean has Fantine taken to the hospital because she has fallen seriously ill. Valjean feels guilty that Fantine was fired from his factory and wants to make up for it. On Fantine’s deathbed, she is still worried about her child and still cares. She doesn’t know what will happen to her child once she dies. Valjean agrees to Fantine that he will raise Cosette as his own and this decision allows Fantine to die in peace and comfort.

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Fantine’s downfall wasn’t even her fault. Her downfall was due to society. She was abandoned by her lover and that was where her downfall actually begins. At the factory, it was the factory worker that demand she be fired. Fantine’s story shows how mistreated women were in nineteenth century France. Everything Fantine does is done out of love for her child and she is truly a mother.

As a matter of fact, Fantine was based off of reality. Victor Hugo saw a prostitute being harassed and that prostitute was about to be arrested, but Hugo intervened and prevented the arrest. That is when Hugo began to wonder what if this prostitute had a child and that was where the character of Fantine was inspired from.

Next analysis is for Cosette

Analysis of Javert

Major Spoilers

-1815

In Les Mis, Javert is the antagonist. We first meet him in the very first scene. Javert is that kind of antagonist that is hard to get to know. He overlooks the prison where Valjean was. The two automatically have a strong hatred towards each other. Javert believes that “once a criminal, always a criminal”. He strongly believes Valjean will always be a criminal and does not feel like Valjean will change his ways. Javert follows the motto throughout the entire musical.

-1823

Valjean has broken parole and it becomes Javert’s main duty to recapture Valjean and send him to prison for life and this obsesses him. Coincidentally Javert becomes policeman at the same town Valjean (AKA Monsieur Madeline) became mayor of. Javert does suspect that Monsieur Madeline is in fact Jean Valjean. In one scene, we discover that Javert is not capable of compassion or mercy. Fantine just attacked a man in self-defense and he was planning to arrest her for six months just because she attacked the man and because she is a prostitute. Javert ignores the fact that she is seriously ill and that she even has a child. Even when Monsieur Madeline intervened, Javert still shows Fantine no mercy. In the runaway cart scene, that is when Javert begins to suspect that Monsieur Madeline is Jean Valjean. The strength that the mayor shows when lifting the cart reminds Javert of the strength of Jean Valjean and tells Monsieur Madeline all of this. We get a bit of Javert’s background during the confrontation number, which happens after Fantine’s death and soon after Javert discovered Jean Valjean. We learn that Javert was born inside a jail, which means he was raised around criminals. He sees the world in black and white and always believes he is doing the right thing. He does not even see Valjean’s transformation at all and still believe that Jean Valjean will always steal.

-1832

Years pass again and Javert has lost information about where Valjean is. He is now policeman in Paris. Even in 1832, Javert’s main goal throughout the story is recapturing Valjean. It is through Stars where we discover what Javert’s views are when it comes to the law. Javert strictly follows the law and sees it as his religion in a way. Due to his views in the law, it makes him blind to fact that convicts can raise above their background and can change.

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Javert decides to act as a spy during the uprising and pretends to be on the student’s side and says he is going to spy on the enemy. But he gets caught by Gavroche and the students capture him. This is when Valjean’s and Javert’s paths meet again. Valjean arrives at the barricades to protect Marius and the two meet again. The students give Valjean the duty to execute Javert and that is what Javert expects Valjean to do. But Javert is surprised when Valjean decides to let him go and even forgive him. He finally is able to come to his senses and realizes his mistakes, but even this act of mercy that Valjean shows Javert still does not allow him to show compassion or even forgiveness.

This is when Javert’s life comes crashing down on him. Javert has one last opportunity to capture Valjean, which is when Valjean emerges from the sewers with a wounded Marius and surprisingly Javert lets Valjean go. Javert is really struggling at this point. He understands now that Valjean has changed, but due to his views on the law, he feels like Valjean should be sent to prison. But he also feels like that isn’t right because Valjean is capable of mercy. Due to his internal struggle, Javert commits suicide.

Javert is that kind of character that is so hard to get to know. Even though I don’t like Javert, I still think he is one of the most complex and most interesting antagonistic characters in musical theatre. For the longest time ever, I never seemed to actually care about Javert even his fate. But when I saw the show in the West End, I finally felt something for the character especially during the suicide scene, but I still don’t like him. I usually am the kind of person who dislikes antagonists.

He really is not a villain like so many people think. He just has this very strict view of the world and sees the world in black and white. He feels a void in his heart when it comes to mercy, compassion and forgiveness. His world comes tumbling down on him when Valjean challenged Javert’s way of thinking. When Javert saw that Valjean has changed, Javert is quite confused. He sees the law as his religion and strictly follows it. He does not even seem to care that Fantine has a child and only sees her as this prostitute and does not believe her story when she tells him about the child. He cannot even receive the forgiveness or mercy that Valjean shows him. Javert is one of the most well written antagonists through musicals.

Tomorrow is Fantine.

Analysis of Jean Valjean (AKA 24601)

Major Spoilers:

-1815

In Les Mis, Jean Valjean is the protagonist and one of the most complex characters in the world of musicals. At the beginning of Les Mis, you discover that he stole a loaf of bread to save his sister’s dying son. Before Valjean was sent to prison, he was a humble and good person. But when he was sent to jail, he spent five years for stealing a loaf of bread and fourteen years for trying to escape, which gives him a total of nineteen years in prison. In this scene, we discover Jean Valjean’s strong dislike towards Javert. This experience hardened Valjean into a harsh, angry, and hateful man and he lost touch of his conscience and forgot who he really is.

Jean Valjean left prison to be on parole forever. He quickly found out that society treated him cruelly because he is an ex-convict and never gave him a job, place to sleep, and food to eat. All of this hardened and angered Valjean further. Jean Valjean shows the injustice that convicts face when they leave prison. At this point, it doesn’t seem like Valjean will change.

Valjean’s fate soon changes once he meets the humble, forgiving, and loving bishop. Out of everyone, the bishop was the only one who would welcome Valjean. The bishop gave him a place to sleep and food to eat. But Valjean was desperate and ended up stealing the bishop’s silverware. Valjean was caught and was sent back to the bishop’s house and the bishop covered up for Valjean and said that the silver was a gift and gave Valjean the silver candlesticks. Valjean knows that he is guilty of stealing the silver and does not clearly understand why the bishop did what he did. The bishop wants to help Valjean head on the right path and gives Valjean’s soul to God. The bishop was able to teach Valjean the ways of the Lord and forgave Valjean. Valjean eventually had an epiphany and realized he needed to change and become a better person even though it means breaking parole. The bishop shows how much one person can directly impact another person’s life.

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-1823

Years pass and the transformation of Jean Valjean has begun. He was able to change his name to Monsieur Madeline, but unfortunately Javert become policeman in the town Valjean was mayor of. Besides mayor, Valjean also owned a factory where this woman, Fantine works. We first see Valjean during this time period after Fantine gets into a fight with this other woman, but Valjean asks the foreman to break up the fight. The stage show does not make it clear why Valjean decided to not help settle things in this scene. But according to the movie, Valjean became distracted by the sight of Javert and asked the foreman to settle things. Discovering that Fantine has an illegitimate child. she was fired from her job. Valjean has no idea that Fantine has a child and that she just got fired and Fantine blames Valjean for this.

Three scenes later, Valjean makes an amazing impact on Fantine’s life. Fantine was harassed by an abusive customer and in self-defense, Fantine attacked the man. Valjean was present at the time this took place. Javert wanted to sentence Fantine for six months in prison, but Valjean insisted that she be sent to the hospital instead especially because Fantine has fallen seriously ill at this point in the story. Valjean feels guilty that Fantine was fired from his factory after he discovers the truth about Fantine.

Right after this, Valjean rescues a man whose cart fall on top of him. Javert witnesses this and begins to suspect that Monsieur Madeline is in fact Jean Valjean. One of the greatest things about Valjean is his incredible strength and the book compares Valjean’s strength to the strength of four men. Javert confesses that the “real” Valjean has been found and is about to be sentenced to life in prison. This gives Valjean a dilemma because he could either turn himself in or not. He is mayor and owner of a factory and if he says he is Valjean, he will abandon tons of workers and it will affect his status as mayor. But Valjean knows what it is like to be in prison and feels the innocent man’s pain and agony. He decides to go with the second choice and confess that they caught the wrong man and that was a difficult decision, but the right decision.

On Fantine’s deathbed, Valjean promised to her that he would raise her child, Cosette, as his own. This shows that Valjean is learning how to show concern and compassion towards others. Right after Fantine dies, Javert arrives and tries to arrest Valjean, but Valjean wins and was able to rescue Cosette from the evil Thenardiers.

At this point, Valjean did believe that Cosette was deathly ill due to what Fantine, Cosette’s mother, told him. As a matter of fact, he saw that Cosette was being terribly abused. He discovers that when he finds the little girl in the woods collecting water at night. He was shocked to learn that this was the little girl he was looking for. Even though Cosette barely knew Valjean, she immediately trusted him. Valjean took Cosette back to the Thenardiers and insisted that he take Cosette away, but the Thenardiers insisted that Cosette is better in the hands of them, but Valjean saw through their lies and knew the truth about Cosette.

Cosette was the first person in Valjean’s life after prison that he loved. Cosette had such an impact on Valjean’s life even though it will be tough raising Cosette as he is still on the run from Javert. Valjean rescued Cosette from a terrible fate and raised her to be loving and charitable.

Yes, he may be overprotected and he might shelter Cosette a bit too much, but he is an ex-convict. Valjean’s love for Cosette shows that love can truly change a person. Before Cosette, he did love his sister and nephew before he was sent to prison, but he forgot how to love after being released. So through Cosette, Valjean learned to love again and she is another person that had a huge impact on Valjean’s life.

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-1832

Years pass and Cosette, now 17, has lived under the care of Valjean for nine years. She has one of the best fathers. Through Valjean, Cosette’s life changes as well. When the two meet, they were both broken people and they were healed through their love for each other. Valjean became Cosette’s adopted father through unexpected circumstances. As much as Valjean loves Cosette, he never once had the courage to tell Cosette about the darkness of his past. The Thenardiers try to rob Valjean twice: the first being during the Robbery and the second during the Attack at Rue Plumet.

The second time, Valjean was warned when Eponine screamed to alert Marius, Cosette, and Valjean. Valjean was convinced that Javert has found out where he lived and he made the decision to take Cosette to England, but he has no idea that his daughter has now fallen in love with a young revolutionary student named Marius. It is tough because Valjean still has to live the life of an ex-convict.

Later on in the show in act two, Valjean discovers that Cosette has in fact fallen in love with Marius through a letter that Eponine delivered to him. He soon leaves and it is not made clear in the stage show why Valjean leaves after he reads the letter and what he is planning to do. At this point, we don’t know if Valjean plans to save Marius or not. Valjean does not want to rescue Marius in a way because that risks losing Cosette forever or he can actually go to the barricades to protect the one that his adopted daughter loves. Due to how much Valjean loves Cosette, Valjean makes one of the most difficult decisions ever.

We later learn that Valjean arrives on the barricades and I think he went out of love for Cosette in order to protect Marius. Enjolras does not trust Valjean, but after Valjean warns them of some army people, Enjolras learns to trust him. Valjean was given the task of executing Javert, but Valjean decided to let Javert go and shows Javert mercy and forgiveness. Valjean even shows that people can learn to forgive their enemies, which shows through this scene. Valjean realizes that the students and Marius have a slim chance of surviving the uprising and he prays to God to save Marius.

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During the actual uprising, Marius became seriously wounded and fell unconscious, which forces Valjean to carry Marius through the sewers. He did this because he wants to save the man that his adopted daughter loves. If it wasn’t for Valjean, Marius would have died at the barricades.Valjean decides to confess to Marius the truth about him being an ex-convcit and it is not made clear why Valjean makes this decision. Valjean does not attend his daughter’s wedding in order to protect her due to his ex-convict status.

Because Cosette is now out of Valjean’s life, he feels completely broken. He is now dying due to a broken heart. He almost died alone. But at the wedding, Marius discovers that Valjean was his savior at the barricades and learns of Valjean’s current location and takes Cosette there. Marius confesses to Cosette that Valjean is in fact a saint because he saved his life. Valjean does eventually confess that he is dying and decides to give Cosette a note, which tells her of his wounded, broken and dark past. Even though Valjean dies, he accepts it and dies in peace and comfort due to being with both Cosette and Marius.

Valjean is the kind of character that teaches you how you can raise above your background and that you can become a better person. Valjean lives through the example set by the bishop throughout his life. Valjean represents injustice that convicts fact once released. Valjean does seem like the kind of person that isn’t capable to change, but through the act of one person, Valjean truly learned the importance of mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and kindness. Valjean learned about love through the child, Cosette, and it is very hard for him to let her go. Not only does Valjean represent injustice, but he also represents change. He once was filled with so much hate, bitterness, and anger, but he learned to become compassionate, forgiving, kind, good, and even saintlike. He helped save Fantine (even though he couldn’t save her life), Cosette, and Marius.

Tomorrow is Javert.

The Thenardier Family

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.

Possible Spoilers:

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.

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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.

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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 knew about her fierceness, toughness, and bravery she shows.

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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.

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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.

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