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Monday, June 03, 2013

Barricade Boys Week - Guest Post By Amy

"We get over the walls and we make fun of the government.  That's all."
~Gavroche, chapter II, "Corinth," Saint-Denis, Les Miserables

Feuilly, Courfeyrac, Jehan, Joly, Gavroche, Combeferre, and a random revolutionary
played by Jamie Muscato, who doesn't have a name so I've fondly nicknamed him Pierre
Note from Eva: Amy's blog - Yet Another Period Drama Blog
When Eva asked me to guest post for her barricade boys week, I didn't hesitate to say yes.  I never need an excuse to talk about Les Miserables, and as for going on and on about the barricade boys... well, is the Popemobile Catholic?  The real question was which one I should focus on.  My first instinct was Enjolras--then Combeferre--then Courfeyrac--then Jean Prouvaire--then I started (figuratively) tearing my hair out, because HOW could I EVER choose just ONE? 

But as soon as I started agonizing over which to pick, the answer came like a gunshot.  "'Present!' cried a cheerful voice. And at the same time with the ball, Gavroche tumbled into the barricade."

Gavroche was my favorite character, hands down, when I first read the brick back in January 2012.  He still holds a special place in my heart, whether it's the sassy gamin of the book, the swaggering little kid with an adorable Cockney accent of the musical concerts or the blend of both in the 2012 movie.  (Daniel Huttlestone is a wonder, peoples.)  I count Gavroche as one of the barricade boys--or les Amis, or the revolutionaries, or the insurgents, or Enjolras and Co., or whatever you want to call them-- without a second thought, even though he's technically not included in Hugo's list of the Friends of the ABC.

Gavroche is fabulous, and here's why.  (Prepare for an onslaught of Gavroche stuff from the brick, the stage musical AND the movie--and I do hope I don't confuse you too much.  I'm going to treat them all as if they're one, because though some of the brick characters may have lost a little something (or gained it) in the transition from book to musical (and musical to movie), Gavroche remains the same no matter what.  Minor details here or minor details there, he's still the same fighting pup, and you're still going to bawl your head off when he dies.

(Oh, yeah, SPOILERS.  This kid dies.  So does practically everyone else.  I'll give you a minute to get used to that and then we'll move on.)

Adam Searles, 10th Anniversary Concert (the first portrayal I saw)
Gavroche runs the city of Paris, and don't you forget it.  From the first moment he bounces onstage in the musical, he's asserting himself and letting everybody know exactly what's what.  "How do you do, my name's Gavroche.  These are my people, here's my patch."  In the movie, he does this while sticking his head into some posh guy's carriage, a scene that never fails to make me crack up laughing, because the LOOK on the guy's face is priceless.

Daniel Huttlestone and some random actor, 2012 film
Gavroche even thumbs his nose at Javert, which is not something that you ought to do if you value your safety, but of course Gavroche's smart enough to do it after Javert finishes his big solo and has left the stage.  "That inspector thinks he's something, but it's me who runs this town, and my theater never closes and the curtain's never down!"  

But the way he struts around the city as if he owns the place (which he totally does) isn't all about him-- cocky though he may be, Gavroche is anything but selfish.  He gives his woolen scarf to another beggar child, though he's freezing cold himself, and when he meets two little boys wandering alone through the streets, he takes them in and cares for them in his elephant-statue residence.  (Unbeknownst to him--or them--they are actually his little brothers.)
And assuming, through his slightly bantering superiority, a tone of softened authority and gentle protection:  "Momacques, come with me."  

"Yes, monsieur," said the elder.  

And the two children followed him as they would have followed an archishop.  They had stopped crying. 
~chapter II, "Corinth," Saint-Denis, Les Miserables
Robert Madge, 25th Anniversary Concert

Gavroche's role in the revolution is more clearly defined in the musical than in the book-- in the musical, he's the tagalong little brother who wants desperately to be included (in any possible way) in what the big kids are doing.  "Listen! Listen to me!  LISTEN, EVERYBODY! ...General Lamarque is dead."  The announcement of Lamarque's death is his first big part in the revolution, the moment when he gets to show off and share a piece of news that even Enjolras didn't know yet.  And boy, does he make the most of it.  (Except in the movie, when Courfeyrac does the talking for him.  Gack.  Shut up, Courf.  We love you, but shut up.)

More on Courfeyrac in a little bit.  Let's fast-forward to the barricades (after we pause for just a minute to appreciate the tiny bit in the movie that shows Gav waving a flag from his elephant during "Do You Hear the People Sing?"  I'll let you guess whether or not I screamed when that happened.)

At the barricades, Gavroche is again determined to be involved.  He's one of the insurgents, yes he is, and will not take no for an answer.  When the cannon begins battering the barricade, he shrugs and tells Enjolras that he authorizes him to give the National Guard a dose of pills.

Speaking of Enjolras, the way he sasses Enjo is kind of adorable.  And the way Enjolras gets mad and sasses back is even more adorable.
Still, he was furious at his pistol without a hammer.  He went from one to another, demanding: "A musket? I want a musket! Why don't you give me a musket?"
...Enjolras shrugged his shoulders.  "When there are enough for the men, we will give them to the children."
Gavroche turned fiercely, and answered him: "If you are killed before me, I will take yours."
"Gamin!" said Enjolras. 
"Smooth-face!" said Gavroche. 
~chapter IV, "Corinth," Saint-DenisLes Miserables

He gets his musket, by the by.  When he denounces Javert, "that big fellow over there," as a spy (in a fabulously nonchalant song that basically thumbs his nose at Javert and anyone who might underestimate a little kid), he waits for the furious barricade boys to tie up Javert, then takes Javert's musket.  (It's not loaded, unfortunately, but that's beside the point.)

Samantha Barks and Daniel Huttlestone, 2012 film
Both the musical and the movie leave Gavroche's relationship to Eponine ambiguous--the book doesn't hesitate to tell us that she's his big sister, but the musical and the movie leave us guessing.  In the concerts, Gavroche only watches Eponine's death from afar, showing no more sadness than he might have done if any random girl from the streets had gotten herself killed on the barricades (not to imply that he's being callous).  In the stage production I saw (25th Anniversary US tour), he bursts in on "A Little Fall of Rain" with no idea of what's going on, but when he realizes that Eponine's dying he runs straight to Grantaire and buries his face in Grantaire's shirt.   (Did I mention the big brother/little brother relationship between R and Gav in the US tour?  Well, I should have.  Because it is stinking adorable.  Also tearjerking. But then pretty much everything in the second act is tearjerking.)  In the movie, a scene was scripted in which Courfeyrac asks Gavroche, "Are you all right?"  Gav replies simply, "That was my sister."

I'm still mad at Tom Hooper for cutting that.

Lea Salonga, Michael Ball and Adam Searles in the TAC
When the dawn comes and Enjolras realizes that they're the only ones left, that the people did not rise, that they've been abandoned to die on their pitiful wall of furniture, he offers the others a chance to go back.  To give it all up.  To return to their families.  In the brick, Combeferre steps forward and goes into a three-page litany about dependent families who will be heartbroken, deprived of their livelihoods if their breadwinners don't return to them.  It's a passionate speech and one that endears Combeferre to the reader even more than he already is (in the passion of the moment, he forgets that his own mother is waiting at home for him to come back--and of course he doesn't, THANK YOU VICTOR HUGO), and I was really hoping it would find its way into the film.  But it didn't.   In the stage musical, Grantaire brings the others back into the spirit of things with a reprise of "Drink With Me."  "If I die... I die with you."  But this didn't make it into the film either.  

Instead, Combeferre and R gave Gavroche the spotlight.  Yep, the eleven-year-old rallied the group and reminded them all of what they were fighting for.  "Do you hear the people sing, singing the song of angry men?  It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again..."  Did Gavroche know that they didn't stand a lick of a chance against cannons and soldiers?  Maybe.  Did he care?  Nope.  (Pardon me a moment, there's something in my eye.)

My siblings know the drill when we listen to the Les Mis Complete Symphonic Recording on Pandora together.   We skip "Lovely Ladies" and "Master of the House," but everything else is fine and dandy-- until The Second Attack, that is.  I'll let it play up to a point, but my sisters and brothers know full well that as soon as Enjolras shouts, "No, no, Gavroche, don't you dare!  Someone pull him down at once!" that anyone who gets in my way as I lunge to snap off the radio risks life and limb.  We do not listen to the last part of that song.  Ever.  (Though I will watch the movie scene... bawling...)

Braden Danner, 1987 Original Broadway Cast
See, the insurgents ran out of ammunition during the second attack.  Marius volunteered to go out into the streets and raid the bodies for more bullets, but Enjolras wouldn't let him.  Valjean offered to go, seeing as he was older and was ready to die, but as they were arguing, Gavroche slipped past everyone and sneaked out into the street.  In the movie, Combeferre was the first to see him out there.  It's debatable whether his panicked shout-whisper of Gavroche's name was kept quiet in order not to alert the National Guards, or whether he was trying to keep Courfeyrac from knowing what was going on.

Because in the movie, Courf and Gavroche are best buddies.  Courfeyrac's first appearance is as Gavroche's piggyback carrier in "Look Down," and they stick together until the end.  It's the brotherly relationship shown in the stage musical between Gav and R, only more so.  And when Courfeyrac realizes that Gavroche is coolly risking his neck under the soldiers' guns-- cockily singing a reprise of "Little People," no less-- Combeferre and Bahorel have to physically restrain him from plunging over the barricade.  "Someone pull him back!" Courfeyrac screams as the first bullet hits, and Combeferre wrestles Courf to the ground as Gavroche pulls himself back to his feet, grimacing as he forces out the last line of his defiant song.  "So you'd better... run for cover... when the pup... grows..."

He never finishes it.  Courfeyrac, breaking free of the others and tearing around the corner of the barricade, is two seconds too late.

Fra Fee and Daniel Huttlestone, the first and last
of their scenes together in the 2012 film

If you think the way you're crying right now is ugly, you ain't heard nothing until you hear Courfeyrac's sobbing in that scene.  

(This is probably not the time to share the fun fact that Fra Fee almost killed Daniel Huttlestone in the filming of that scene-- as he carried Gavroche back into the barricade, he stumbled on a loose stone and Gavroche went flying.  Courf only just managed to get his hand under Gavroche's head before he cracked his skull on the cobblestones.  Les Mis is fraught with danger, peoples.

...Oh, wait, I DID just share that fun fact.)

When I read that chapter in the brick, I hated Victor Hugo for a long time afterwards.  I've forgiven him since then (I mean, after all, he created all these wonderful people in the first place, even if he did kill most of them later on) but when I first read the brick I was furious with him for slaughtering my favorite character.  I still don't see why Gavroche had to die.  If Jean Valjean can lift a vegetable cart, surely he could have carried Marius with one arm and Gavroche with the other as he plowed through the sewers. Right?  Better yet, Enjolras could have survived too, and then he could have carried Gavroche and given Valjean's back a rest.


Moving on.

Gavroche's importance to the other barricade boys isn't overlooked.  When the army captain pleads with the revolutionaries to give up and go home and spare their own lives, Enjolras shakes his head.  "Let us die facing our foes, make them bleed while we can..."
Combeferre squeezes a tearful Courfeyrac's shoulder.  "Make them pay through the nose..."
Courfeyrac grips Combeferre's hand.  "Make them pay for every man."

The object of that line is clear.  Every man, not every child.  Gavroche was just as vital to the cause of the revolution as any of the other insurgents.  It was for him and for the children like him that they were fighting, wasn't it?  So that they could grow up in a world that was free.  
"In the future no man shall slay his fellow, the earth shall be radiant, the human race shall love.  It will come, citizens, that day when all shall be concord, harmony, light, joy, and life; it will come, and it is that it may come that we are going to die." 
~Enjolras, chapter VIII, "Corinth," Saint-DenisLes Miserables
[no, I don't agree with Enjo's humanistic philosophy, but nevertheless this is a beautiful quote]

Finally, when Javert comes to look over the battlefield (how are the mighty fallen!) he stops over the line of corpses where Gavroche lies.  He looks down at the child's body for a long moment, then takes something off his coat as the background instrumentals softly play "Bring Him Home." And it's not just any line that plays as Javert leans down to place the Medal of Honor on Gavroche's tiny vest.  "He's like the son I might have known, if God had granted me a son..."

I like to think that Javert saw a little of himself in the swaggering gamin who sassed him in front of a bunch of gun-toting schoolboys (the ultimate in humiliation for an officer of the law).  Because he was from the gutter, too, you know, once upon a time.

Annnnnd that's pretty much all I have to say about the bravest of them all.  Bravo, little Gavroche. You're the top of the class.

Also.  So that you don't exit this post in a complete puddle of tears (here's hoping you do a little bit better than I did, anyway), I leave you with this picture and hope the ensuing cuteness will dry your tears.

At least a little bit.

{{almost all pictures from the 2012 movie were taken from the lovely site lesmiserablescaps}}


Miss Dashwood said...

Thanks so much for posting this, Eva! I have basically nothing else to say, having said it all in the post, so I'll just subscribe to comments and take my leave. :D

Jennifer S. said...

Well, I was told that reading this would make me feel better. I'm doing my best not to sob at the moment. Maybe because I'm a mom with little boys (excuse me for calling them little boys but even when they are taller than me they will still be my babies) I really love Gavroche. Don't even talk to me about when Javert pins his medal onto Gavroche. I totally lost it - we're talking loud sobs in front of my children.
This is a beautiful post beautifully written.

Anonymous said...


Amy, you wicked, WICKED GIRL!!! Making me cry my eyes out.... (And the last picture didn't help... especially when I knew that all of AT's beautiful, beautiful hair was gone....)

Besides all the tears it caused me, great post, Amy! Loved it!!


Anonymous said...

Ha. I forgot something. : )

Amy, there was SERIOUSLY a scene when Gav tells Courf that Ep was his sister?! WHOA. That definitely goes on the Reasons I Don't Like Tom Hooper list.


Anonymous said...


He's so wonderful. And perfect. And sassy.

I don't think I have ever quite forgiven Victor Hugo for killing Gavroche.

Molly said...

Well done, Amy! I
I wanted desperately to watch the clip, but I wanted to wait and watch it for the first time when I see the movie. Go Gavroche!

Eponine Castleonacloud said...

I cant tell you how HAAAAAAAAPY i am to find someone who totally loves Gavroche like me! He is absolutely the best boy in the movie!like,well, yeah! he just is! i mean, who else would be? (ducks enjo fans)
I cried most when Javert pins the medal on Gavroche. sob,sob.

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