Let's talk about Éponine

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Marianne
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Re: Let's talk about Éponine

Postby Marianne » Tue Feb 02, 2010 11:22 pm

That would be Consuelo. Long but very entertaining--the sequel has quite a bit of Sand waxing philosophical, but Consuelo is marvellous.
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.
- George Sand, Les sept cordes de la lyre

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MusicalTwin
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Re: Let's talk about Éponine

Postby MusicalTwin » Wed Feb 03, 2010 12:49 am

You both have really interesting points there. I agree: people tend to pass over the abuse that takes place because it's not explicit. And to pick up the topic of the connection between the errands and prostitution: today one might even concider the pure act of doing these errands (getting to the peoples' homes, handing them the letters, begging for support in that way) as "prostitution". Let alone the possibility of that "at whatever cost" thing. Sure, it might have occurred that some people would donate more or at all with the help of a little complaisance / courtesy (I don't know which word fits best here) of hers. Whereas the question is whether the people she delivered letters to would really want some ragged wretch like Éponine to convince them in that kind of way that their donation was worth it. ^^
I agree on her 'Parnasse relationship as well. I picture it unlikely that he would actually corner the poor girl in the middle of the night in a deserted side alley and literally rape her, using violance and all that. It's like MmeBahorel says:
She is permitting herself to be used however he wants, possibly because he's hot and because the good graces of Patron Minette are the only thing keeping the Thenardier family from all rotting in jail because her father is really crap at this. It's prostitution rather than rape, in that there is consent on the basis of potential gain.
Well, I think it remains to be left open whether she really thought he was hot but the thing with the Patron Minette being well-disposed towards Thénardier and is family is certainly an element.
I'm not entirely sure whether she really could easily disappear into any other slum quarters (if I got it right what you meant by that). No doubt she wouldn't, even if she could have. But seriously: I wonder if Thénardier would have let such a profitable way of "income" such as her just elope. Would he? I mean... wouldn't he at least try to get her back? But anyway, I still agree that she really doesn't want to (on one hand because of her sister and mother and on the other hand because of her father's cycle of psychological abuse).

Of course it's a fact that the upbringing of children then was somewhat different from today and that a fustigation here and there was kind of "common practice". And indeed, there are other kinds of (physical) abuse than a thrashing. I'd totally count the window incidence as such, too. Oh and heck yeah, Thénardier's abuse regarding his daughters is pretty darn well utterly profit driven. These fanfics where he uses to hit them because he's just that 'mean kind of guy' are really not plausible. Sure that may have happened as well here and there. But in general Thénardier's whole person is so profit driven that most of his actions are caused by these very same intentions. That's why I'm so doubtful whether he would really not mind if Éponine would abscond being such a profitable girl (but like I said: maybe I got it wrong how you meant it).
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Re: Let's talk about Éponine

Postby MmeBahorel » Wed Feb 03, 2010 2:08 am

I think it's possible because of Azelma. If Éponine were to run away, she would not be worth the trouble to get her back because she's obviously a pain in the ass and thus less useful than Azelma, the completely biddable one still at home. Pissed off that she's gone? Yes. But to exert more effort into getting her than in proving that he never needed her at all? I'm not so sure.

Because he still has a victim. He still has Azelma, who will do anything he asks, including breaking the window with her bare hand. She doesn't talk back the way Éponine does. She's only a year younger than Éponine and thus is perfectly old enough to be "enticing" in the same way.

I think one of the most depressing parts of the book, in a sense, is how Thenardier is still using Azelma after his wife and Éponine are dead and he's been dropped by Patron Minette. He cannot function alone - he needs someone biddable. It's pathetic, really. But I also think he's that sort who would never go begging to a subordinate because his self-respect wouldn't allow it. To go after Éponine would be to admit to her that he needs her, wants her, after he's been saying for years she's a worthless piece of shit and who else will put up with her? That he's only putting up with her, and the scraps of praise are few and far between. To go after her would be to admit that he was full of shit. That his actions in themselves, no matter how pissed off and physically violent, would amount to begging her to come back and stick around. Plus he could never trust her again because she's run off once before. Better to instead hold his wife and Azelma even closer.

If Éponine were the only child, then I think things would be different from what I've outlined as possibilities. Possibilities only, I should say. Just to clarify.

(oh, and the other thing on prostitution - it's generally not about penetrative sex, I think it's that Éponine would suck off a guy, while a lot of women, even prostitutes, wouldn't. Or replace with a different sex act if oral sex wasn't seen as utterly horrific in France in this period. In the US around 1900, male prostitutes often received straight clients who were just looking for oral sex because this was an act that many female prostitutes would not even provide, it was so stigmatised. Also possibly a power thing, as some guys get off on having someone completely under their control, which Éponine is. It's not about general sexytiemz like a man would have with his wife or mistress, in which physical attraction ought to play some role. It's something that's really utterly creepy.)
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Re: Let's talk about Éponine

Postby Ulkis » Wed Feb 03, 2010 4:41 am

Thanks, Marianne.

But I also think he's that sort who would never go begging to a subordinate because his self-respect wouldn't allow it.


I don't know if in the end Thenardier has any self respect at all. If Azelma had left him in the end he'd probably just end up going back to jail because he wouldn't know what to do and the police would probably end up picking him off.

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Re: Let's talk about Éponine

Postby Marianne » Wed Feb 03, 2010 11:34 am

MusicalTwin wrote: today one might even concider the pure act of doing these errands (getting to the peoples' homes, handing them the letters, begging for support in that way) as "prostitution".


WTF? No. Prostitution is the exchange of sex for goods or services. If there's no sex, it's not prostitution. Begging, solicitation, harassment, yes. Prostitution, no.

I'm not entirely sure whether she really could easily disappear into any other slum quarters (if I got it right what you meant by that). No doubt she wouldn't, even if she could have. But seriously: I wonder if Thénardier would have let such a profitable way of "income" such as her just elope. Would he? I mean... wouldn't he at least try to get her back? But anyway, I still agree that she really doesn't want to (on one hand because of her sister and mother and on the other hand because of her father's cycle of psychological abuse).


Considering he barely even seems to recognize her or give a shit in the rue Plumet robbery, and hasn't seen her since he escaped from prison...
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.

- George Sand, Les sept cordes de la lyre

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Re: Let's talk about Éponine

Postby Beezer » Thu Feb 18, 2010 5:13 pm

This is a facinating thread. By far the most intelligent, thoughtful discussion of Éponine I've ever witnessed. I agree with so much of what Marianne, MmeBahorel, et. al. have said that I'm left without any original points of discussion to contribute.

I was inspired to dredge of my old (old, old, OLD) fic from FF.net and see how much I'd embarassed myself by playing into the the old fanon traps. Some of it was really lame, but even years later I find myself pretty pleased with the how I wrote her in this one http://www.fanfiction.net/s/1401572/1/The_Day_Before. (Useless, unfinished piece of drivel that it is.) It even has a thinly veiled reference to old Eppie giving out BJs. How insightful!

I've always been a little put off by the boppers, but I was probably guilty of overcompensating with a Misery Sue.

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Re: Let's talk about Éponine

Postby MusicalTwin » Fri Feb 19, 2010 12:02 am

Beezer wrote:I've always been a little put off by the boppers, but I was probably guilty of overcompensating with a Misery Sue.

I might be partly guilty of that as well. :P But hey... rather Misery Sue than bopper, right?! :wink: :lol: Well, but actually technically I wasn't a real Misery Sue fan as well, so... ah, what does it matter? ^^ xD

I'm going to take the time to read your fanfic. I'm quite excited about it. *g* I'll let you know what I think. 8)
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Re: Let's talk about Éponine

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Sun Feb 21, 2010 4:52 am

Wow guys, you really have said a lot here. I am speechless.

As it was, I was reviewing my old fanfics, particularly "A Thenardier's Redemption" http://www.fanfiction.net/s/3448111/1/A_Thenardiers_Redemption...yes it's that insane AU revolving around the premise of a successful 1832 revolution. And to date, the longest example of the awful crack pairing of Éponine/Enjolras.

I have to say that was one of the more interesting (and complex) Éponine characterizations I've ever done. I had to remember that Éponine had other things in her life besides pining for Marius (surviving the streets, dealing with her siblings, Patron-Minette, etc).

Of the Éponine fanfic cliches, the one I hate most is having Éponine and Cosette actively resent each other because of Marius. Sure, Éponine hid the letter that Cosette wrote to Marius, but this doesn't qualify as actual hatred towards Cosette, but more of extreme possessiveness towards Marius. And sure, Éponine is hinted to be jealous of Cosette's good fortune (check the Gorbeau House scene in the Brick), but she's not going to do actual damage to Cosette because of this. So in almost every fic I wrote that had Éponine and Cosette in the same room, I had the two girls be wary of each other initially, but I do not see any reason for at least Cosette to not reach out to Éponine.
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Re: Let's talk about Éponine

Postby lesmisloony » Sun Feb 21, 2010 10:37 am

I've always preferred stories where--if they have to interact at all in 1832--they get along.

Then again, what I'm saying is that I support femmeslash... and maturity... and femmeslash.
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Re: Let's talk about Éponine

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:15 pm

Femmeslash? Hm, I do wonder if Éponine would be okay with that (if it didn't involve desperation and a paying female client).

I've realized that one thing the book and the musical agree on is this: Éponine is a girl with very few real friends/allies. She doesn't seem to have any close female friends, and it seems as if the only *significant* people in her life who are also close to her age are her sister, Montparnasse, and perhaps Marius. Maybe given this, Éponine would not be so aversive to female company, even if that person happened to be Cosette.
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Re: Let's talk about Éponine

Postby Ulkis » Tue Feb 23, 2010 4:40 pm

I think Cosette's overwhelming feeling towards Éponine would be pity. And Éponine would hate that. I can't see them catfighting, but I can't see them being friends either.

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Re: Let's talk about Éponine

Postby Beezer » Tue Feb 23, 2010 7:33 pm

MusicalTwin wrote:I'm going to take the time to read your fanfic. I'm quite excited about it. *g* I'll let you know what I think. 8)


I look forward to hearing your thoughts. :)

---

I can't really see femmeslash happening. I don't think Cosette is anywhere near sexual enough to even have it on the radar. In fact, with Cosette's extremely religious upbringing she'd probably be horrified to find any feelings of that kind manifesting themselves toward another woman. Éponine would probably do just about anything for the right price, but I can't see Cosette ever being party to a tryst with Eppie for any reason.

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Re: Let's talk about Éponine

Postby MmeBahorel » Wed Feb 24, 2010 12:39 am

I disagree sort of. In that because of her upbringing, Cosette seems less likely to be able to associate what she does feel with "sin". Because of the utter removal of romantic love, and the fact that she does leave the convent at 14, if something were to happen before Marius, I'm not sure she'd recognise it for what it is. I don't know that she'd have enough ideas to parse "lesbian attraction" if she hasn't been getting the fun novels after she leaves the convent. It's easy enough when one sees male/female couples, hears other girls talk about "when I'm married, my husband . . .", but I'm not sure that, unless she were full-on lesbian (and then we definitely have to consider what her thing with Marius is), she could figure out that "feelings for girls" and "feelings for boys" are both the same *and* sinful. Because you're permitted things with girls, like holding hands and kissing, that you aren't with boys.

Now, after she's married, if she suddenly discovers stronger feelings for a girl than for her husband, then I would agree, but it's the whole "cheating on husband - and with a woman! - even if only in my head" thing. Because she has a context now, a set of "feelings for boys" and "feelings for girls" that are permissible.

But I also think that, except for when I write crackfic, you're right about Cosette not being sexual enough to really care. (Same with Marius, too, really.) Also, Cosette is attracted to shiny things, and Éponine, not so shiny. Plus might come with hints of nasty memories that have been repressed. I don't see it happening unless as utter crackfic.

I wonder if Éponine would see it as a little awkward but way easier than anything else she's had to do for her father. Lesbian sex, I mean. Of course, now I'm picturing Thenardier sending her to beg off Diana Letheby, and what Éponine would think of wearing a strap-on. (Damn, why do I get crackfic plotbunnies?)
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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Re: Let's talk about Éponine

Postby Marianne » Wed Feb 24, 2010 10:45 am

Agree with MmeBahorel, and present this quote as evidence (from the awkward Hapgood translation):

Cosette did not know what love was. She had never heard the word uttered in its terrestrial sense. On the books of profane music which entered the convent, amour (love) was replaced by tambour (drum) or pandour. This created enigmas which exercised the imaginations of the big girls, such as: Ah, how delightful is the drum! or, Pity is not a pandour. But Cosette had left the convent too early to have occupied herself much with the "drum." Therefore, she did not know what name to give to what she now felt. Is any one the less ill because one does not know the name of one's malady?

She loved with all the more passion because she loved ignorantly. She did not know whether it was a good thing or a bad thing, useful or dangerous, eternal or temporary, allowable or prohibited; she loved. She would have been greatly astonished, had any one said to her: "You do not sleep? But that is forbidden! You do not eat? Why, that is very bad! You have oppressions and palpitations of the heart? That must not be! You blush and turn pale, when a certain being clad in black appears at the end of a certain green walk? But that is abominable!" She would not have understood, and she would have replied: "What fault is there of mine in a matter in which I have no power and of which I know nothing?"


She doesn't even know what love is, let alone Scandalous Sapphic Passion. I think that if you got her entangled in a sapphic passion, the "but it's wrong!" problem wouldn't rear its ugly head until much later.

Also, Cosette is attracted to shiny things, and Éponine, not so shiny. Plus might come with hints of nasty memories that have been repressed.


Actually, I think this is one area where Cosette's upbringing might affect her: I can easily picture her reaction to Éponine not being "you abused me as a kid" but "I forgive you for abusing me as a kid," with a generous side helping of "there but for the grace of God go I."
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.

- George Sand, Les sept cordes de la lyre

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Aurelia Combeferre
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Re: Let's talk about Éponine

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Wed Feb 24, 2010 4:35 pm

Nice points there again. It's funny how this thread suddenly turned into a discussion of not-so-hetereosexuality...

But about Éponine again...and this time her relationship with Montparnasse.

Rereading the Brick has convinced me that to a large degree, Éponine's relationship with Montparnasse is something she got into voluntarily. I think there's a lot more between them than the fanon cliches of Thenardier whoring her out to Montparnasse, or Montparnasse just using her for sex...

Case in point: Of all of the members of Patron-Minette, Montparnasse is the one that Éponine addresses in the most familiar manner during the Rue Plumet incident ("How goes it with you?" in the MacAfee-Fahnestock translation). If Montparnasse was just another client of hers (unwillingly), she might have addressed him as Monsieur. But the familiarity they have with each other suggests otherwise: holding hands (and him warning her about his lingre), her begging him not to go through with the robbery (because he is a good boy, in her own words!).

Case in point 2: Montparnasse somehow seems to be almost part of the Thenardier family in a weird way---something which I doubt the rest of Patron-Minette could ever do. And it is strongly suggested that Éponine could be part of the reason for this connection. For one thing, Gavroche is practically on joking terms with the boy, which does suggest that somehow Montparnasse is more than just a business acquaintance to the family. Thenardier does not seem to be overly surprised when Montparnasse fails to show up at the Gorbeau house ambush on Valjean. The explanation that Parnasse is having a chat with Éponine somehow seems to be acceptable enough to Thenardier. And Mme. Thenardier does not react aversely either to this fact. I forgot where it is, but I think Hugo also describes Montparnasse as being almost like Thenardier's son-in-law.

I could imagine Éponine and Montparnasse as being sweethearts or lovers out of convenience. They're a 19th century case of the "it's complicated" relationship: together but maybe not dating in the conventional sense?
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