To Saint Jolras and others:
I'm afraid I gave the wrong impression! Perhaps I've been too long absent from these circles, that I can't assume others will take my real fondness for the character as a given. The bit about the leading others to their deaths etc was the least sympathetic reading that I could muster up. I was hoping that others would help me address it; I wasn't trying to advocate or ascribe to it. Yeah, the title's an eye-grabber, but that's because I'm in search of a more complete response to the tyrant trope than I've seen us produce. Plus, it's got people talking.
But to get to the meat of it -
The lack of a moment of explicit consent from the non-ABC fighters is what I find the most troubling. Even if the workers and the boys from Aix and all the rest are somehow associated with the group, we don't know how the leader (and in what capacity?) of the Amis gets the unwavering life-and-death power over the goings-on. Sure, no one contests the execution, and that can be seen as the moment he takes charge - but I maintain that there has to be something kinda inhuman about the surety with which he
is the one who suddenly swoops in with the gun for me to be comfortable with it.
Please never apologize for your English!
I still think we have to take a lot about the openness of his leadership on trust. We know "he's influenced by Combeferre," but being slowly tempered by a close friend over the course of years can't really be equated with free discourse. Now, I'm really really really not saying that he would stifle dissent! Again, that's the Cimourdain route and that's emphatically not him. But we know that more from Hugo's description of his character than from what we see of his actions. I argue that this trust in his goodness has a fundamentally otherworldly base.
Bless your existence. Especially the following:
if he is indeed a police spy, then shooting the guy is a deliberate action to push this cell beyond revolt and into a full scale riot against the populace. This happened a lot, or at least it was perceived to happen a lot. Everyone present, and Hugo's readers, would know this, as it was a constant contention of the radical left. The spark has to be stomped out immediately, before it spreads, as a cell like this is a powderkeg.
Useful useful useful. Everyone and their dog knows you're the queen of political theory stuff (and here's my assent to your reign, long may it last), and all your comments are accordingly great.
However, we can't help but see Enjolras from our own time. I don't think he has anything like a modern equivalent since we no longer have that same take-to-the-streets tradition - but our political instinct is to be wary of the man with the dream and the pretty speech and the gun. It can't be a coincidence that I don't think I've ever seen a Russian member of the fandom who's partial to the guy (although I'm more than open to counterexamples!). Trying to discuss this in any depth probably demands waaaaaay more literary theory than I know, but suffice it to say that if I as a 21st century lady am going to like a character, I want to be able to provide a
for my contemporaries who have their real doubts about him.
So maybe this discussion's as good as over. But first: what do we make of the strange silence at the end of Enjolras' speech in "Quel horizon..."? It's disconcerting, the way he keeps moving his lips as no one dares applaud. I've actually heard someone propose that he's undergoing some sort of mental breakdown, indicating Hugo's wariness of the strength of his idealism. I absolutely disagree with this interpretation - but can't explain it without again turning to the image of him as a primarily religious figure. I see it as the moment where he does traverse that revolutionary apocalypse, going from the tomb to the coming dawn where no one else can yet follow. He's speaking words from another reality, so human language fails him. What is it, if not glossolalia from beyond the grave? Is there any way to make sense of the eeriness otherwise?
Here's a strong endorsement of this religious interpretation from "Les morts ont raison..." (my lazy and rough transl): the men who fight in the true revolution "give their life as a pure gift for progress; they accomplish the will of providence; they perform a religious act." Ils font un acte religieux! Now, Hugo also says in that chapter that the French Revolution was an act of God. We know that it was undertaken by flawed humans, not angel-priest-saint-soldiers. However, Hugo never has a single character so fully embody that first, great revolution as fully as Enjolras embodies its continuing tradition. Thus, if the movement of progress is God's movement, Enjolras as its unfailing voice and eye and sword needs to be God's actor.
Am I...even making sense here? I think my point is that (at least for me, and you're free to disagree, etc etc etc)
a) I see Enjolras' unfailing authority as coming from his practical coexistence with a divine ideal.
b) Since Enjolras is Hugo's character preaching Hugo's religion in Hugo's book, I can unflinchingly accept him as a true prophet of the true faith, and I really love him for that.
c) However, as soon as I step back from the novel, the entire premise of a one true oracle for the one true revolution is a bit uncomfortable to my 21st century mind.
I think I can therefore hold out for the proposition that his actions are potentially problematic but definitely right within Hugo's narrative. Is that fair? I swear I really do like the guy!
Oh, and to close out - yes, Saint Jolras, I do think we should feel sorry for the soldiers who die under their idiot commander because they haven't yet been converted by the light of the ideal. Enjolras cries. Why shouldn't we?