I've been thinking a lot lately about the whole Orestes/Enjolras and Plyades/Grantaire parallel. Here are my ramblings on the topic....sorry if I'm pointing out the blindingly obvious here!
Starting at the beginning - the name "Orestes" means "one who can conquer mountains" - this is consistent with Enjolras. One who *can*, who has the power, to accomplish great deeds, but ultimately doesn't really.
Although the myth changes a bit from poet to poet, the gist of Orestes' life story is as follows:
As a descendant of the ill-omened house of Atreus, Orestes was doomed to a tragic end from the beginning. Born to the King and Queen of Mycenae, Orestes was their only son, and seemed set to have a charmed life. But, after his father, Agamemnon, left to fight at Troy, his mother, Clytemnestra, sent him and his sister off to live with their royal, paternal cousin Plyades, leaving her free to pursue an affair with her brother-in-law. Thus, Orestes was raised with Plyades, and considered him to be a brother. There is some considerable doubt whether this was a platonic relationship, or whether it evolved into a homosexual one. *I'm* inclined to believe that it was - the Ancient Greeks are notorious for homosexuality, and such a relationship would have been taken as only natural. Both are athletic, virile young men. According to the social customs, they would have been viewed too young to marry, but there was no prohibition on homosexuality as a way of relieving passion before marriage. And besides, seeing their later interactions, I think a homosexual relationship best fits the situation.
But I digress. So - while Orestes is off with Plyades in Phocis, Agamemnon comes home at last. Clytemnestra's not happy - not only does this disrupt her affair, but Agamemnon also has a new mistress in toe, the Trojan princess Cassandra. Clytemnestra, shall we say, doesn't react well to this open betrayal, even though she's done the exact same thing, and murders both Agamemnon and Cassandra on the night of their return.
Roll the clock ahead 8 years - Clytemnestra and her lover are now ruling Mycenae, and Orestes is now a 20-year-old young man. His sister, Electra, encourages Orestes to return home, avenge his father's death, and claim his birthright, erasing the shame from their family name. Orestes, accompanied by his dear friend/lover Plyades, returns home. However, at the vital moment of killing Clytemnestra, Orestes second-guesses his decision. Plyades urges him on, and gives him the steel to carry out the deed.
The rest of the story from here is, I think, pretty well known - Orestes is driven mad with guilt by the Furies over his deed.
Thus, we see that Orestes' main role is that of an avenger, a warrior and a champion - but one who is ultimately destined to fail as a result of one of their crimes. Enjolras' comparison to him is extremely fitting. Enjolras *is*, or at least earnestly desires to be, the champion of the people - the morally abased, those who are no longer able to defend themselves, whatever the reason. Thus, in this analogy - Clytemnestra/her lover are the leaders of France who have committed grievous crimes against the people. Agamemnon represents the people, who need a champion to defend their rights. Enjolras is Orestes, the ultimately good-hearted avenger who is forced to commit serious crimes in the name of his cause. And Grantaire is Plyades, the largely static character who nonetheless provides his friend/lover with the strength to carry out the climactic deed.
I'm going to expand a bit on Orestes and Plyades' relationship, though. For example, throughout his madness, Orestes is not abandoned. Plyades follows and cares for him wherever they go, beyond all borders of the known world. For example, when they came to rest at an unfamiliar plain, Orestes is seized by a fit of madness. Plyades defends Orestes from an advancing band of native soldiers, and wipes away the foam (from his mouth?), tends his body, and covers him with his own cloak. These actions are not just those of a boyhood friend - these are the selfless ministrations that spring from genuine, sincere love.
Further on, throughout their adventures, it is determined that one of the two will be put to death, and the other will convey a letter to Mycenae. Both refuse to leave, saying that if he can safe the life of his friend, he will have saved his own life.
Now, we know that the relationship that exists between Enjolras and Grantaire is, on the surface at least, significantly less loving. Plenty has been said/written on their glorious, crazy, dysfunctional, love/hate relationship, so I won't even try to expand on that. All the same, for one reason or another, an extremely deep bond exists between the two, whether they like it or not.
In my mind, Hugo was experimenting a bit with the relationship between Plyades and Orestes. If Plyades was to somehow betray Orestes, how would their relationship adjust? Their friendship runs too deeply for it to be cut off altogether - but their camaraderie can no longer exist as it once did. Maybe Grantaire and Enjolras were friends as children, only for Grantaire to betray Enjolras in adolescence, causing them to grow apart, and Enjolras to despise Grantaire for that betrayal? In the deleted quarry scene, Enjolras declares that Patron Minette are his brothers, not his friends - they are *too* morally abased to disgrace him or his cause by joining in the fight. Working with the above view of events - could Enjolras view Grantaire in the same light, as a brother, but no longer his friend?
Anyways, there are my ramblings on the topic. Sorry if this post makes no sense or is redundant, I'm dead tired, but I just can't fall asleep until I get this out.