Tragedies of the Les Mis Characters

Yes, yet another Les Mis post. Today I decided to talk why each of the characters in Les Mis have something tragic about them.

Major Spoilers:

Jean Valjean- sent to jail and punished for five years just because he stole a loaf of bread to save his sister’s son and in total served 19 years due to multiple escapes. Has to serve his life as an ex-convict and faced injustice. At the end, he ended up dying, but with Cosette, his adopted daughter and Marius, his now son-in-law by his side.

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Javert- was born inside the jail, his tragic flaw is that he sees the world in black and white and believes “once a criminal always a criminal” and he thinks it is his purposes to recapture Valjean after he broke his parole. Did not know how to show love, mercy, or forgiveness or receive it. He built his principles wrong and strictly follows the law and eventually commits suicide.

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Fantine- her lover abandoned her living her to raise her daughter, but it is dangerous knowing you have an illegitimate child so she left Cosette in the hands of the Thenardiers not knowing how poorly they were going to treat her. Fired from Valjean’s factory unfairly by the foreman, turned to prostitution to care for her child and later died, but she got to die knowing her child will be care for since Valjean promised he would raise Cosette

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Monsieur and Madame Thenardier- their inn went bankrupt and fell into extreme poverty

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Eponine- was raised to be a thief and criminal, unloved, abused, and neglected by her parents, living in extreme poverty and dealing with unrequited love from Marius, the only good thing in her life. Ended up dying after being shot, but got to die in the arms of the man she loves.

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Cosette- had a horrible childhood because the Thenardiers abused her and treated her like a servant. At the end of the show, she lost her father and even though she lives, she still had tragic things happen in her life. She only has Marius left in her life.

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Marius- faced loads of trauma at the barricade. He was the only survivor of the barricades. He first lost Eponine and later would loss the rest of his friends. At the end of the show, all he has is Cosette.

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Enjolras, Gavroche and Students-all lost their lives fighting for what they believed in. Gavroche is kicked out of his family at a very young age (he is Eponine’s little brother), but loved by the students

By seeing that each of these characters have faced tragedy in their life shows just how human Les Mis is. Many of them died and some of them have a very dark life or lost everything important to them. So these characters are very real because of what they had to face in their life.

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Dressing Up as Rizzo and Eponine

This year, I ended up dressing up as two musical characters, who are Rizzo from Grease and Eponine from Les Mis. My excitement for dressing up as these two characters was different. Even my knowledge of them is different as well. Below I will talk about these characters and why dressing up as them had a different nature when it comes to them.

Rizzo was a character I dressed up yesterday. The thing with Rizzo is that I don’t know her that well. She is the leader of the Pink Ladies at Rydell High. I want to say that she is tough and complex. I only had to buy the button up pink shirt and some iron-on letters to make the jacket. I dressed  up as Rizzo because yesterday’s homecoming theme was Bulldogs on Broadway. My club decided to focus on the musical, Grease. Because Sandy was taken, I had no choice but to dress up as one of the pink ladies and decided to do Rizzo despite the limited amount of knowledge I have about her.

Then I had a lot more fun dressing up as Eponine. Eponine, between the two, is the girl I know the best and who I love the most. Eponine is the complex, courageous, loyal, tragic, streetwise, unloved, lonely and strong teenage daughter of the Thenardiers. Her parents horribly abuse her and they dragged her into the criminal world. Her life is dark and she is so alone in life and does not know what it is like to feel loved. She meets Marius one day, who she falls in love with love so deeply. Marius is the first and only person to show her kindness, which is why she loves him the way she does even though Marius loves Cosette. She would do anything for Marius to make sure he is happy, which is why she responds to her unrequited love the way she does.

Eponine’s costume took more pieces than Rizzo’s. I got all of my pieces at Goodwill the same trip. The dirt color I found in a makeup kit I got for my stage makeup class for one semester. I loved dressing up as Eponine and getting dirty. I had to look like I was covered in dirt because Eponine is living in poverty. I dressed up as Eponine because I attended a Les Mis party.

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Rizzo had the cleanest look between both girls. That is because Rizzo is not living in poverty unlike Eponine who is. It is interesting though that I dressed up as one character from a musical comedy and another character from a musical tragedy. Eponine is more meaningful to me than Rizzo because of the meaning Les Mis has to me. Eponine’s main song is “On My Own” and Rizzo’s main song  is “There are Worse Things I Could Do”

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My View on Tragedy in Literature

I decided to talk about my view on the genre of tragedy. I will start by talking about my high school view of tragedy and then talk about my college view of the genre.

My high school view of tragedy was very negative. It was when I first discovered the genre when it comes to theatre. When I heard the word tragedy, I automatically assumed the genre was pure sad and nothing else. So each time I knew we were reading a tragedy in high school, I ignored it and told myself tragedy does not belong in theatre and told myself I will never love a tragic show.

My college view of tragedy has this kind of split view. In a way, I have a negative view of the genre, but at the same time have a positive view of the genre. It was December of 2012 when I saw the movie of Les Misérables for the first time not knowing it was going to be tragic. So while watching after the first death, I realized Les Mis was a tragedy and I was like tragedies do not belong in musicals. I did not know how to respond so I was quite shocked and confused that I wasn’t paying fully attention. By the end of the movie, I had no clue if I liked it or not, but started researching the musical anyway.

Then 2013 comes along and I decided to watch that movie musical a second time. That was when I realized there was something special about Les Mis. I was able to calm down and tell myself that it is a good musical. I honestly wanted to know why it made me feel uplifted so I dug even further and finally found the answer. I realized it was a tale of hope, compassion, forgiveness, love, humanity, sacrifice and redemption. I realized tragedies are not pure sad like I once believed. But instead can be filled with so much joy and hope. So after telling myself I will never love a tragedy,  Les Mis proved me wrong. Another sad musical I love is Rent and it has this incredible message of living in the moment and living your lives in love.

maxresdefaultSo where does this negative view of tragedy come from? Well, I can be very particular of the genre. Some sad movies and plays are pure sad and those are the kind of movies and shows I do not want to watch. I had one very bad experience with a sad play. I saw #8 in Spring of 2015, which I was required to watch. It was a play about the Holocaust and a  family winning a lottery to escape through a truck. But I was way too uncomfortable watching it that I wanted to leave. They showed pictures from the camps, the ushers were dressed as Nazis. It just was too much to handle and I do not want sad shows to be pure sad and just not have a break. I was so uncomfortable that I wanted to leave after act I, but I had to stay. The second act made it hurt even more. By the end, I called my mom right away and I was crying. So my negative view comes from the fact that I am not that much of a tragedy fan and can be particular about which ones I watch.

Dear High School Self

Dear me in High School,

You will be quite surprised later in life. You honestly were close-minded to certain things that you realize would have been a big mistake. It is so true.

You never wanted to take Psychology or Sociology and that sounds really odd. I am saying that because you already had the interest in both of them. I am saying that because me as a college student know that Sociology is the study of the interaction among all people and Psychology is study of the mind, which helps you to understand people better. You already were interested in helping people living in poverty in high school and that is connected to both subjects. You were already asking people questions relating to both Psychology and Sociology.

Now you will be quite surprised by this. You made a big mistake when it comes to tragedy in high school. You first discovered it in ninth grade through Romeo and Juliet. You never knew tragedy was part of theatre until high school. You will learn that tragedy is way more than sad. The only reason why you were close-minded to that genre because you thought it was just as world of sadness and no more. Each time you read a tragedy, you ignored it and pushed it far back and thought it didn’t belong in theatre. Honestly, you should have discovered that there are tragic musicals in high school. In high school, you discovered Les Mis in 2009 and West Side Story in either 11th or 12th grade, but it didn’t cross that either of them are tragedies.

You will realize after you graduate high school that tragedy is not even what you think it is. A tragic musical actually will make a big impact in your life and that musical is called Les Misérables and that one is very tragic. Through that musical, you will realize that you shouldn’t have treated tragedy as poorly. I understand it is easy to just say you will hate tragedies because it does sound like just a sad genre. But you will realize tragedy is not just a world of pure sadness. Les Mis does not have that kind of nature and same goes for Rent. Both carry an inspiring message and both are home to positive emotions. Les Mis has an underlying spiritual theme and is a tale of hope, love, compassion, forgiveness, sacrifice, humanity, and redemption. So I am telling you that tragedy shouldn’t have been ignored in high school.

Later in life, you will grow so much. You were able to discover your strong spirit in those years, but throughout college years, that strong spirit will grow and will be challenged. Through things like Martin Luther King Service Day, Campus Civitan, The Gathering, Fall Break, 12 Hour Prayer, and the Bristol Pilgrimage, you will discover your strong spirit is much stronger than you believed. You will realize there is so much to discover within you. Your love of musicals will eventually turn into a passion. You will  have some pitfalls in your life, but try to know how to get back up.

What are some things you would tell your high school self?

Confusing Parts About a Musical

While I get older, the world of musicals gets quite complicated. In this post, I will talk about of the most confusing parts that exist in the world. I will even include the confusing parts that happened to me as the musical journey continued.

First thing is loving a character and having no clue why. That has happened and it would be nice to know why I love them in the first place. Fiyero is a character that has been part of my life since 2006. I have loved him for quite a while, but honestly cannot pinpoint exactly why I love him. When you first meet him, he doesn’t care much for school and he appears to be quite rude. He ends up part of a love triangle in Wicked complete with Elphaba and Glinda. I cannot believe I have loved him for so long, but cannot seem to analyze him so I feel there is still a lot to discover about him since sometimes I feel like I still don’t know him that well.

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There have been characters where I used to not be able to pinpoint why I loved them, but eventually discovered why I loved them and one of those characters is Eponine Thenardier. The second time I saw the movie musical of Les Mis, I noticed I loved the character of Eponine and that time I could not pinpoint why I fell in love with her. But over time as I got to know her more and more, I finally understood why I love Eponine. I love her due to her complexity, bravery, loyalty, and loving nature. Too bad I still cannot pinpoint why I love Fiyero because he has been part of my life much longer than Eponine has been part of my life.

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The second confusing part about the world of musicals is love triangles or anything around that nature. No matter what happens, you cannot satisfy every single character in a love triangle because one will always end up with unrequited love. Unrequited love probably is the most complicated part about a love triangle and it is complicated that two characters love the exact same person because in a love triangle it can consist of either two boys loving one girl or consisting of two girls and one boy. The ones I am referring to are the ones from “Phantom of the Opera”, “Les Mis”, and “Wicked”.

The love triangle that is the hardest to understand is the “Phantom of the Opera” love triangle even though it isn’t the most complex love triangle. The most complex love triangle belongs to “Wicked”, but I grasp that one better than “The Phantom of the Opera” love triangle due to how well I personally relate and connect to Elphaba.

The “Wicked” love triangle was my first exposure to them. I always knew “I’m Not That Girl” was a sad song. I was only in middle school when I first saw Wicked and in a lot of ways, I still feel like that 12 year old whenever I see the musical. By high school, I already understood the complexity and emotional side of musicals. I knew “Wicked” was home to a love triangle. In high school, I knew that love triangles provide an interesting emotional texture.

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However through the “Les Mis” love triangle”, I realized I didn’t fully understand love triangles. Through “On My Own”, I discovered that unrequited love is heartbreaking, which changed my perspective on love triangles. I cannot believe I am confessing this, but it took at least a year until I understood that “On My Own” was heartbreaking. “On My Own” was key to understanding that “I’m Not That Girl” was not just a sad song like I once believed, but heartbreaking. I think a big reason why “On My Own” helped me understand love triangles more is because no one in Wicked’s love triangle has a story that revolves around unrequited love.

But in “Les Mis”, one of the character’s stories revolves around unrequited love. “Les Mis” has Eponine. Eponine has to spend her entire storyline having to struggle with the fact that Marius is not going to love her back. The song, “On My Own”, is much stronger and more powerful than “I’m Not That Girl”. At the moment literally before “I’m Not That Girl”, Elphaba just found out moments before that she loved Fiyero so there isn’t room for the song to be fully heartbreaking. Love triangles are quite difficult to understand and can take quite a long time to understand. Of all love triangles, it is the “Les Mis” one that I have grasped the best, which was key to understanding the “Wicked” one even though the “Les Mis” one is less complex.

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But in Eponine’s case, “On My Own” is much stronger because Eponine’s love for Marius is stronger than Elphaba’s love for Fiyero. In Eponine’s situation, Eponine loves Marius so much because he is the only person in her life who shows her kindness. But after Marius fell in love with Cosette, Eponine shows true love towards him. By the time “On My Own” happens, you already know how much Eponine loves Marius. So it took a more serious and stronger form of unrequited love to understand unrequited love from a less extreme form of unrequited love. “Wicked” would be the less extreme example of unrequited love, but the crazy thing is that the “Wicked” love triangle is even more complex thanks to a plot twist that happens.

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This is a third confusing part about musicals, which happened to me in 2012. Growing up, I was the person who believed all musicals were happy because it was all I had known. I didn’t realize that what I believed was not true. In 2012, my parents took my sister and I to see the movie of Les Mis in December of 2012. After the first death, it hit me that Les Mis is a tragedy and I didn’t even know how to respond and I was so shocked and confused. I was thinking “wait a second, Les Mis is a tragedy” and “musicals are not supposed to be tragic”. By the end, I had no idea if I liked it or not, but must have been moved by it due to just researching it over time.

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So over time, I learned to see beyond the heartbreak in Les Mis. I decided to research why the ending makes me feel uplifted. I realized that the story is about hope, love, compassion, forgiveness, humanity, sacrifice and redemption. I soon learned that even though Les Mis is a tragedy, it fits nicely into the world of musicals because musicals are known to be emotional. Les Mis taught me that heartbreak is a musical emotions so it was helpful that I learned that sad was a common emotion through the happy musicals. Tragedies no longer are confusing to me in the world of musicals and seeing musical through the eyes of them made it easier to spot negative emotions in new musicals.

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The fourth confusing bit about musicals belong to the emotions. The musical emotions are so complicated because there are so many layers and each musical has a different emotional nature. Even your love for a musical shapes what the emotional nature is. If you don’t love a musical, it is a bit difficult to feel the emotional nature that naturally beings to a musical. There are five main musical emotions, which are excitement, love, joy, sad, and heartbreak.

The negative emotions have been going through drastic changes lately. The negative emotions are the ones that do not grow as quickly as the positive emotions and they are weaker than the positive emotions. That is due to the fact that the negative emotions are not in every single musical and there also has to be appreciation of the songs that are home to the negative emotions where they are strong enough to create an impact. It is a bit hard to fully appreciate and even invest in them if you do not like either the show you saw them in or if you have a hard time falling in love with characters or the same thing in the plot as well. Due to heartbreak being in the mix, it makes the negative emotions really hard to describe.

From musicals like “Music Man” and “Singing in the Rain”  to musicals like “Les Mis”, that is a wide range of emotions. “Music Man” and “Singing in the Rain” are mainly home to positive emotions because those two shows don’t have enough complexity or conflict to be home to the negative emotions in the score.

But when would you say the negative emotions truly begin in musicals? I would say maybe a show like “Sound of Music”. Not everyone can strongly feel its complexity or even its negative emotions either. But two years ago when I saw “Sound of Music” live, I remember during “Edelweiss” feeling sad at one point, which happened at a very odd point in the song. It happened in between the time when the Captain stopped signing and when the children began. I teared up for the rest of it. So in a way, a show like “Sound of Music” is where I would say the negative emotions begin.

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So far, the strongest point of sad has been “Les Mis” and I don’t think that is ever going to change. “Les Mis” is quite a powerful musical and has taught me that I didn’t fully grasp the negative emotions up. All I realized growing up was that I was just beginning to understand musical emotions. At one point in my “Les Mis” journey, I was surprised that some musical songs happen while a character is dying like “A Little Fall of Rain” or “Come to Me”. Of all musicals, “Les Mis” seems like it is home to the most musical emotions.

So understanding musical emotions is very complicated. Each musical has a different emotional nature. The negative emotions are home to a wonderful blend of complexity, vulnerability, and fragility. The sad and heartbreaking songs tend to be some of the most beautiful musical songs in existence like “On My Own”, “This Nearly Was Mine”, “I Dreamed a Dram”,  “Your Eyes”, “Somewhere”, etc are all beautiful songs and it is very easy to appreciate loving feeling the negative emotions if you fall in love with the sad songs.

So far, of all the musicals I love, “Wicked”, “South Pacific”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Man of La Mancha”, “Sound of Music”, “Newsies”, “Phantom of the Opera”, “Rent”, and “Les Mis” are all home to positive and negative emotions when it comes to the score. What is crazy about this list is that only one of those is not home to heartbreak, but only sad it seems. In a lot of ways, the negative emotions are more complicated than the positive emotions. The positive emotions are very easy to fall in love with, but the negative emotions are much harder to fall in love with because the negative emotions hurt and there are so many levels of the negative emotions in existence.

“Les Mis” showed me that the negative emotions have a lot of potential in them. Growing up, I have never been able to notice the tiny details of negative emotions and I never spent my time analyzing them. I feel like musical emotions will keep on getting more and more complex over the years due the fact that I will continue getting older with new life experiences and new shows will continue entering my life. But I love the complexity that show up in musicals because it shows I have a bigger understanding of what a musical is capable of. I know I talked a lot about musical emotions, but in a way, musical emotions are the most confusing part about a musical.

 

 

Parallels in Musicals

Yesterday, I talked about why musicals rely on each other. This post is kind of similar, but this post I am going to be talking about parallels that you can find in musicals.

One parallel is “Memory” and “I Dreamed A Dream”. These two songs are from Les Mis and Cats. “Memory” is sung by Grizabella in Cats and “I Dreamed A Dream” is sung by Fantine in Les Mis. Both songs are heartbreaking songs and reflect on the past. Both Grizabella and Fantine do not have very good lives at all so in both of these songs, they think about the past and realize just how worse their lives have gotten. In my opinion, “I Dreamed A Dream” is a stronger song and part of that is due to the fact that I have a stronger emotional connection to Les Mis

Without “I Dreamed A Dream”, I never would have realized “Memory” is a heartbreaking song. I did see Cats when I was in elementary school, but have no recollection of seeing. However, I do remember I always loved the song “Memory”.

Another parallel is between “On My Own” and “I’m Not That Girl”, two unrequited love songs from Les Mis and Wicked. They are both heartbreaking songs and without “On My Own”, I never would have realized “I’m Not That Girl” is heartbreaking, but at least I knew the song was sad.”On My Own” is about Eponine’s unrequited love for Marius and “I’m Not That Girl” is about Elphaba’s unrequited love for Fiyero.

In my personal opinion, “On My Own” from Les Mis is stronger and more heartbreaking than “I’m Not That Girl” from Wicked. The thing with Elphaba is that literally just moments before she sings “I’m Not That Girl”, she realizes that she loves Fiyero and as a result, the song does not have room to be fully heartbreaking and her story doesn’t revolve around unrequited love, but instead her friendship with Glinda. In my opinion, this song goes beyond the unrequited love. One of her lines is “I wasn’t born for the rose or pearl” and through those lines, you realize that Elphaba doesn’t think that she is good enough for Fiyero because she is green  and outside of that line, she realizes that her best friend, Glinda, also loves Fiyero and that line is part of why “I’m Not That Girl” is an insightful song. In this song, you need to be quite vulnerable, but at the same time you need to keep some innocence alive due to who Elphaba is at this point in the story.

“On My Own” is stronger and more powerful than “I’m Not That Girl” and as a result you feel even more heartbroken. Unlike Elphaba’s story, Eponine’s story revolves around her unrequited love for Marius. There is a big reason why she loves him so much. Outside of Marius, Eponine’s life is extremely tragic and heartbreaking. Her parents are the Thenardiers, who don’t even love her and horribly abuse her. She was raised to be a criminal and all she saw was darkness growing up. She was completely left to fend for herself on the streets. So in this burst of light, Marius entered her life and for the first time someone treated her with kindness. Because Marius is literally all she has in life, it explains why she loves him so much. She literally will do anything for the one she loves.

In “On My Own”, Eponine accepts the fact that Marius will never be hers, but she still decides to stick by his side no matter what. In my opinion, this song goes beyond the unrequited love. One of Eponine’s lines is “without a home, without a friend, without a face to say hello to” and you do realize just how empty her life is and another line is “a world full of happiness that I never known” and this shows just how unhappy she is and how her life has gotten even worse over the years. Those two lines shows just how insightful the song is.

Besides the “On My Own” and “I’m Not That Girl” parallel and the “Memory” and “I Dreamed a Dream”, there are other parallels in the world of musicals. Musicals vary so much in storyline, character, melodies, and emotion. It is crazy how one musical song can help you understand another musical song.

When Uneventful Things Happen

Sometimes in life, some things happen that are out of our control or happen unexpectedly. Sometimes these times lead to dark times or its a surprise you did not see coming. However those times are worth it even when you enter a period of darkness.

When something bad happens in life, just remember that the situation is only temporary and is a part of life. Bad times sometimes do not make sense at all, but try to make something out of it. It is important not to let those times tear you down and lead you on a kind of downward spiral. Sometimes, the dark times in life can last months or even years, but sometimes those times are an excellent time for growth. Those times can truly hurt you, but don’t let it get to you.

However, there are some good times in life that happen out of the blue. You might end up loving a movie or genre you didn’t think you would appreciate. Those can be quite confusing as well and sometimes you are trying to make sense of that. Life is quite a mystery, but everything happens for a reason.

Both good and bad things have happened in my life that were quite unexpected. Back in high school, I did not even want to take Spanish, but the moment I started learning it, I was hooked. I don’t know why I thought I would hate it, but it is my minor now. I even was so close-minded to both Psychology and Sociology and ironically I already had the interests of both. I was asking my parents questions relating to both subjects not knowing my questions were a part of those two subjects. I decided to take those two classes in college and I ended up liking both and ultimately decided to major in Sociology.

Even the genre of tragedy was a problem spot for me. I first discovered the genre in high school and the genre did not even make sense to me. I automatically associated them with sad and nothing else. I told myself that they don’t belong in the world of theatre and literally pushed them back and ignored them for several years. That was a big mistake I made. Than Les Mis entered my life and I realized that the genre of tragedy isn’t as bad as I once believed.

Sometimes the beauty of life is to expect the unexpected. I learned to appreciate classes that I believed I would strongly disliked. I learned to appreciate a genre I thought I would never find appreciation for. I love those kind of moments that happen out of the moment, which actually are not even a bad time in life. It is hard to understand life at times, but life is beautiful, but so fragile.