MmeBahorel wrote:he has renounced (I think this is important) the world in favour of the revolution. It's calling, like to the priesthood, not just a general dorky interest that takes over your life. A preference for Augustine as the model, not "insert pious-from-birth saint here".
Yes! Such an important point. I think that Enjolras has fallen victim to changing ideas on sexuality. Early readers would have made the connection between chastity and purity, and Enjolras's very conscious identification of himself and his colleagues as the "the priests of the Republic." But readers post Freud would have seen his celibacy in a different light - no longer an indication of purity, chastity for readers from about the 1920s onwards (often with a very sketchy grasp of the underlying psychological theories) became an indication of sexual repression. Far from commendable, it becomes a character flaw.
You can see this evolution in the biographical interpretation of certain historical figures - Elizabeth Siddal goes from early accounts where she appears as a pure Pre-Raphaelite muse who chastely does not sleep with Rossetti until marriage, to being seen in the 20s and 30s as a sexually repressed woman whose refusal to give into natural urges is a blight not only on her own life, but as stifling her husband's creativity.
So Enjolras manages to acquire another character flaw - he's frigid! Gasp! Particularly in contrast with the free-wheeling sexuality of some of his friends (I'm looking at YOU, Courfeyrac!). Good thing Hugo emphasises his virility, or we'd have yet more of the wimpy Enjolrases out there, rather than merely frigidly prudish.
I don't think the idea that he never-ever kissed anyone save a corpse is meant to exactly be seen as normal behaviour, but originally it must have read as a poignant indicator of character (and perhaps one born to be the revolutionary priest that he is?). As it stands now, though - again, with readers filled to the brim with pop-psychology - you're almost left picking which strain of psychosis this indicates. "Just lie down on that couch over there, Enjolras, and tell me...did you also torture small animals as a child?"
I think it is easier to identify with the more humanly flawed, like Courfeyrac and Joly (and you know Courfeyrac can do no wrong in my eyes - I'd like to write a bio: Billiards, Bullets and Belles - the Life of a Student Insurgent in Paris, 1827 - 1832
...I love your diabolically energetic vision of him). If we're not active slackers, we've met or can easily imagine those who are. I've met radicals of all shades and worked for years in politics, and known quite a few charismatic leaders, but I've never met an Enjolras. On the other hand, I've met Courfeyracs, Bahorels, Feuillys, Combeferres etc (never as cool, naturally).
Interesting, too, that the nasty whip-cracking Enjolras doesn't send his message to Joly...if this is because, as Grantaire suspects, it is because Joly is ill, does that mean Enjolras is giving him an out - at least for the funeral? Not really living up to his image as a hard taskmaster there, is he? I do wonder if, after his barricades-as-place-for-intoxication-not-drunkeness line that Joly and Bossuet decided to avoid breathing in his direction for a couple of hours until they sobered up a bit. Heh - I've always loved that the location for the Barricade of Sobriety was chosen by three-sheets-to-the-wind Bossuet. Reminds me a bit of Michael Collins kicking off his participation in the Easter Rising by pouring the supplies of porter they found at the GPO down the drains, declaring "They said we were drunk in '98 - they won't be able to say that this time." By the end of the Rising, though, when it had all gone to hell, he and a mate found a bottle of brandy and managed to write themselves off.
I also like Enjolras' relationship with Gavroche, too...okay, it's not exactly "C'mere you little tyke while I tousle your hair affectionately", but there is a rather cute rapport that the two seem to have...and even a respect. Also arguing against Dour Enjolras are the touches of wit and humour - sending Joly out to feel the pulse of the medical students, for example. He does seem to place some value on humour, as he plans on including it in his speech, it seems. No guffaws, obviously, but he's not entirely po-faced it seems.