Fascinating comments! I love all the analysis!
One "what if" fanon invention about Éponine especially annoys me: that if by some chance she was still alive after the barricade, she and Cosette would meet and Cosette would forgive her. I was outraged when I first saw this. Forgive Éponine for what
, exactly? For loving Marius? For being so messed up that she gave him the push to join the revolt? Wanting to die and take him with her is certainly messed up, but if Éponine owes an apology to anyone, it's to Marius himself and not to Cosette. I personally believe that she does not owe anyone an apology. Given the above discussion of Ophelia parallels, Ophelia doesn't owe anyone an apology for going mad or for committing suicide. Éponine shouldn't have to apologize for her messed-up life. Just picturing the scene makes me think back to Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame, where, as Wikipedia summarizes it, "Quasimodo comes to accept that Phoebus and Esmeralda are in love, and he gives them his blessing. The two encourage him to leave the cathedral into the outside world, where the citizens hail him as a hero and accept him into society." No, Disney, that's not how life works and that's not how people work. Are we supposed to like Quasimodo more because he accepts that Esmeralda is with Phoebus? And gives them their blessing
? Forget about being accepted by society! I feel like the made-up Éponine apology scenario is just as bad.
Also, with the Eponine-Marius relationship in the book vs musical, the adaptation seems to make Marius a more complex character at the expense of Éponine's complexity. For one thing, Marius is actively involved in the uprising before and during his brief contact with Cosette, and is torn between his love to the girl and his loyalty to his friends and his cause. He comes to the barricade by himself, and Éponine follows him dressed as a man because she thinks that this is the only way he will ever notice her - if she would heroically distinguish herself at the uprising. She thinks he sees her only as a lower class citizen, not a woman (and barely a friend), so she tries to become that which he values most to get some form of his attention. This way, Marius gets the more complicated internal struggle, while Éponine's role is beautiful but simple. In the book, Marius lacks initiative, and just wants to die, and Éponine arranges for him to come to the barricade. She doesn't have any illusions about the success of the revolution, or she's too deep in her own despair to believe in any kind of future. She knows they are going to die. She welcomes this death, but before she goes, she tries to make Marius hers in the only way she can. The desperate-for-love theme is still present, but it's overlapped with the extent to which Éponine is messed up (emotionally, socially, due to internal flaws and external influences, etc. You guys went over this very thoroughly in this thread!). Here, Marius' character becomes as flappy as a paper towel, but Éponine is much more complex.
collectingbees wrote:For me, Éponine reminds me so much of Coyote and Brer Rabbit, in that you never really know what she's going to do next, that she walks that fine line between hero and villain. Instead of using her brute strength, which she has none of, she uses her wits-despite how she appears, everything is very clearly planned out and very deliberate. She bends morality as she sees fit,just like Coyote and Brer Rabbit. They might not always be on the side of the angels, but you're still rooting for them, and I think the same goes for Éponine.
That's a fine description. That's actually a very fine description. *applauds*
And yet another note on Éponine fanon: in many cases she chooses
to allow herself to go through whatever humiliation and pain she has. It's true that her choice is between the devil and the deep blue sea, and she feels obligated to do many things out of circumstances, but it's not like she can't stand up for herself. She's tough, and she would have no qualms about it if she chose to do so. She's strong and clever: she had the whole gang at bay on Plumet street, unarmed and alone. She's independent - Thenardier can't live without an assistant, but she seems to get along quite fine. So making her the struggling victim of inflicted suffering is illogical, and cheapens her character. It takes Éponine, with her own strength and initiative, and makes her into a victim.
Rose In Misery wrote:
collectingbees wrote:Point: I think that Éponine has been dealt a huge disservice by the musical, and this disservice was deliberate.
She has definitely been done a disservice by the musical, as you so rightly said. The songs she gets to sing are lovely but I do feel like cringing at half the things she says e.g. "every word that he says is a dagger in me".
I agree that the musical has done her a disservice, and I cringe at the "little bit of rain" song, but I think that "every word that he says is a dagger in me" is actually a very decent line- and not entirely uncanonnical. Remember what happens when she says it - Marius looks at her, and finds joy in her presence - but only because she brought news of Cosette. I think that if Éponine was a bit more poetic, and if we would get a glance into her thought, she may very well have thought something akin to this line every time Marius would show signs of noticing her and then reveal that he only does so because of Cosette.
Anyways, fascinating thread, and fascinating character! Éponine is among my favourites. Now that I think of it, many of my favourites from various novels tend to be the villain-hero type of people, and I always insist that they are still "heroes" despite the, hmm, negative results of their actions. I think that what separates a villain from a misguided or messed up hero is the backstory and intention. Many people do not agree with me, saying that these characters had flaws that could have been fixed but weren't, and as a result the tragic hero faces downfall etc, and it's mainly their own fault. Sure, it's their fault, but at the same time I feel like you can't really blame them once you look at things from their perspective. I tend to be a tad overprotective about such characters just because they get a lot of dislike or scorn for (in my opinion) being normal humans with abnormally bad luck and lives.
C'est tellement mystérieux, le pays des larmes. ~Le Petit Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry