Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Defending Enjolras

That post title was basically an oxymoron.  Why would anyone need to defend Enjolras?  He's awesome, right?

...Apparently not.  I have heard quite a few people say that they don’t like Enjolras at all.

At first I was just like, "Ha!"  But...several of those people made really good arguments against him, so I decided to write a post defending him.  (That's the only reason.  Seriously.  I would never write a post simply to fangirl about Enjolras.  Got it?  Okay, we can go on. :D)

One of the biggest arguments most people seem to have against Enjolras is that he admires and looks up to Robespierre.  Why didn’t he pick Washington or someone like that?
Three words: Robespierre is French. 

Enjolras loved France - and the French Revolution.  I don’t know why…keep in mind that a) he wasn’t alive when the French Revolution happened, and b) perhaps he thought that the French Revolution had a good beginning and just needed to be improved on.  That’s my theory, anyway.
Also, perhaps Victor Hugo merely meant that Enjolras’ place in the June Rebellion was the same as Robespierre’s in the French Revolution- Enjolras was the instigator, the encourager, the leader. 
Besides all that…can you seriously imagine Enjolras trying to be a dictator like Robespierre?  Really?  As far as I know, he doesn’t particularly hate aristocrats.  He wants everyone to be equal and happy.  It’s  basically an impossible dream, but a noble one.

If Enjolras had really been like Robespierre, he wouldn’t have tried to send all the people he could out of the barricade.  He wouldn’t have tried to trade Jehan’s life for Javert’s.  Robespierre sent his closest friends and allies to the guillotine; Enjolras shielded them all with his body as they ran into the wine shop.  

Enjolras died a heroic death with Grantaire. (In the movie and book, anyway.  In the musical, he just dies on the barricades while waving a flag, which is still pretty awesome.)  He forgave Grantaire at the last.  He might have admired Robespierre, but he was still his own person. 

Another thing people don’t like about him is that they say he’d be infuriating if he lived today.  This is true- a typical conversation with Enjo would probably go something like this:
YOU: Hi.  Want to go out for lunch?
ENJOLRAS: I’m busy.
YOU: Want to go to the movies?
ENJOLRAS: I’m busy.
YOU: Want to go to the zoo?
ENJOLRAS: Enough talk!  I have a revolution to plan!
…Yeah.  He probably wouldn’t be especially pleasant to talk to.  But even Victor Hugo admitted that.
“One would have liked to fight under the one [Enjolras] and to march behind the other [Combeferre].”
-Chapter I, “The Friends of the ABC,” Marius, Les Miserables

Enjolras was never interested in social activities or anything of that sort; he had one purpose and he stuck to it.  He was meant to be the leader, not the friend.  He was vulnerable at times, and he probably needed Combeferre during those times, but during the rest he was the untouchable guy.  The fact that he wouldn’t be a very nice person to spend time with doesn’t mean he’s not a hero.

“Enjolras was a charming young man, who was capable of being terrible. He was angelically handsome. He was a savage Antinous. One would have said, to see the pensive thoughtfulness of his glance, that he had already, in some previous state of existence, traversed the revolutionary apocalypse. He possessed the tradition of it as though he had been a witness. He was acquainted with all the minute details of the great affair. A pontifical and warlike nature, a singular thing in a youth. He was an officiating priest and a man of war; from the immediate point of view, a soldier of the democracy; above the contemporary movement, the priest of the ideal. His eyes were deep, his lids a little red, his lower lip was thick and easily became disdainful, his brow was lofty. A great deal of brow in a face is like a great deal of horizon in a view. Like certain young men at the beginning of this century and the end of the last, who became illustrious at an early age, he was endowed with excessive youth, and was as rosy as a young girl, although subject to hours of pallor. Already a man, he still seemed a child. His two and twenty years appeared to be but seventeen; he was serious, it did not seem as though he were aware there was on earth a thing called woman. He had but one passion--the right; but one thought--to overthrow the obstacle. On Mount Aventine, he would have been Gracchus; in the Convention, he would have been Saint-Just. He hardly saw the roses, he ignored spring, he did not hear the carolling of the birds; the bare throat of Evadne would have moved him no more than it would have moved Aristogeiton; he, like Harmodius, thought flowers good for nothing except to conceal the sword. He was severe in his enjoyments. He chastely dropped his eyes before everything which was not the Republic. He was the marble lover of liberty. His speech was harshly inspired, and had the thrill of a hymn. He was subject to unexpected outbursts of soul. Woe to the love-affair which should have risked itself beside him! If any grisette of the Place Cambrai or the Rue Saint-Jean-de-Beauvais, seeing that face of a youth escaped from college, that page's mien, those long, golden lashes, those blue eyes, that hair billowing in the wind, those rosy cheeks, those fresh lips, those exquisite teeth, had conceived an appetite for that complete aurora, and had tried her beauty on Enjolras, an astounding and terrible glance would have promptly shown her the abyss, and would have taught her not to confound the mighty cherub of Ezekiel with the gallant Cherubino of Beaumarchais.”
-Chapter I, “The Friends of the ABC,” Marius, Les Miserables

Enjolras is a really fierce guy.  When I first read the brick and listened to the musical, I didn’t think that he was very true to life.  He seemed to be way too perfect.  But then I reread the book and listened to the musical again, and I found Enjolras to be very realistic.  He is flawed- his devotion to his cause can cause him to be callous or even ruthless to other people, and he’s not very sympathetic about other people’s problems.  If people have a life beyond the revolution, well, too bad for them, in his opinion.

But…I feel compassion for him too.  His family didn’t care much for him and he never had any use for love.  He’s given up as much as Sir Percy has- and more.  Percy has his wife’s love and the support of his friends- and he has God.  Enjolras has no one.  He’s probably never been told of God’s love, and nobody else has ever loved him.  And yet…instead of being angry and bitter, he focuses all the love inside of him on his homeland.  He focuses on France.
Sir Percy gives up his comfortable home, his reputation and his safety.  Enjolras does exactly the same.  The only difference is that Enjolras has no one to help him through hard times but Combeferre.  

Enjolras gave up everything that he had for his cause, but he stayed brave and strong up until the last, ready with a smile and a handshake for anyone who supported him, awing even the soldiers who despised him.

“At length, by dint of mounting on each other's backs, aiding themselves with the skeleton of the staircase, climbing up the walls, clinging to the ceiling, slashing away at the very brink of the trap-door, the last one who offered resistance, a score of assailants, soldiers, National Guardsmen, municipal guardsmen, in utter confusion, the majority disfigured by wounds in the face during that redoubtable ascent, blinded by blood, furious, rendered savage, made an irruption into the apartment on the first floor. There they found only one man still on his feet, Enjolras. Without cartridges, without sword, he had nothing in his hand now but the barrel of his gun whose stock he had broken over the head of those who were entering. He had placed the billiard table between his assailants and himself; he had retreated into the corner of the room, and there, with haughty eye, and head borne high, with this stump of a weapon in his hand, he was still so alarming as to speedily create an empty space around him. A cry arose:
"He is the leader! It was he who slew the artillery-man. It is well that he has placed himself there. Let him remain there. Let us shoot him down on the spot."
"Shoot me," said Enjolras.
And flinging away his bit of gun-barrel, and folding his arms, he offered his breast.
The audacity of a fine death always affects men. As soon as Enjolras folded his arms and accepted his end, the din of strife ceased in the room, and this chaos suddenly stilled into a sort of sepulchral solemnity. The menacing majesty of Enjolras disarmed and motionless, appeared to oppress this tumult, and this young man, haughty, bloody, and charming, who alone had not a wound, who was as indifferent as an invulnerable being, seemed, by the authority of his tranquil glance, to constrain this sinister rabble to kill him respectfully. His beauty, at that moment augmented by his pride, was resplendent, and he was fresh and rosy after the fearful four and twenty hours which had just elapsed, as though he could no more be fatigued than wounded. It was of him, possibly, that a witness spoke afterwards, before the council of war: "There was an insurgent whom I heard called Apollo." A National Guardsman who had taken aim at Enjolras, lowered his gun, saying: "It seems to me that I am about to shoot a flower."
Twelve men formed into a squad in the corner opposite Enjolras, and silently made ready their guns.
Then a sergeant shouted:
"Take aim!"
An officer intervened.
And addressing Enjolras:
"Do you wish to have your eyes bandaged?"
"Was it you who killed the artillery sergeant?"
Grantaire had waked up a few moments before.
Grantaire, it will be remembered, had been asleep ever since the preceding evening in the upper room of the wine-shop, seated on a chair and leaning on the table.
He realized in its fullest sense the old metaphor of "dead drunk." The hideous potion of absinthe-porter and alcohol had thrown him into a lethargy. His table being small, and not suitable for the barricade, he had been left in possession of it. He was still in the same posture, with his breast bent over the table, his head lying flat on his arms, surrounded by glasses, beer-jugs and bottles. His was the overwhelming slumber of the torpid bear and the satiated leech. Nothing had had any effect upon it, neither the fusillade, nor the cannon-balls, nor the grape-shot which had made its way through the window into the room where he was. Nor the tremendous uproar of the assault. He merely replied to the cannonade, now and then, by a snore. He seemed to be waiting there for a bullet which should spare him the trouble of waking. Many corpses were strewn around him; and, at the first glance, there was nothing to distinguish him from those profound sleepers of death.
Noise does not rouse a drunken man; silence awakens him. The fall of everything around him only augmented Grantaire's prostration; the crumbling of all things was his lullaby. The sort of halt which the tumult underwent in the presence of Enjolras was a shock to this heavy slumber. It had the effect of a carriage going at full speed, which suddenly comes to a dead stop. The persons dozing within it wake up. Grantaire rose to his feet with a start, stretched out his arms, rubbed his eyes, stared, yawned, and understood.
A fit of drunkenness reaching its end resembles a curtain which is torn away. One beholds, at a single glance and as a whole, all that it has concealed. All suddenly presents itself to the memory; and the drunkard who has known nothing of what has been taking place during the last twenty-four hours, has no sooner opened his eyes than he is perfectly informed. Ideas recur to him with abrupt lucidity; the obliteration of intoxication, a sort of steam which has obscured the brain, is dissipated, and makes way for the clear and sharply outlined importunity of realities.
Relegated, as he was, to one corner, and sheltered behind the billiard-table, the soldiers whose eyes were fixed on Enjolras, had not even noticed Grantaire, and the sergeant was preparing to repeat his order: "Take aim!" when all at once, they heard a strong voice shout beside them:
"Long live the Republic! I'm one of them."
Grantaire had risen. The immense gleam of the whole combat which he had missed, and in which he had had no part, appeared in the brilliant glance of the transfigured drunken man.
He repeated: "Long live the Republic!" crossed the room with a firm stride and placed himself in front of the guns beside Enjolras.
"Finish both of us at one blow," said he.
And turning gently to Enjolras, he said to him:
"Do you permit it?"
Enjolras pressed his hand with a smile.
This smile was not ended when the report resounded.
Enjolras, pierced by eight bullets, remained leaning against the wall, as though the balls had nailed him there. Only, his head was bowed.
Grantaire fell at his feet, as though struck by a thunderbolt.
-Chapter XXIII, “The War Between Four Walls,” Jean Valjean, Les Miserables

Enjolras lived bravely and died heroically.  His life was cold and dark, yet he was unafraid.
That is why I consider Enjolras a hero.  He’s not an ideal gentleman like Mr. Knightley.  He’s not a dashing Englishman with a flippant smile on his lips and purpose in his heart like the Scarlet Pimpernel.  He’s a boy who did the best he could.  In the end, isn’t that what counts?

“They were schoolboys, never held a gun,
Fighting for a new world that would rise up like the sun.”
-“Turning,” Les Miserables

If you're sniffling like me (perhaps I'm getting a cold...), then please go and watch this.  The utter awesomeness of it should cheer you up.

{Most of the lovely pictures on here are from the great site lesmiserablescaps.  Thanks!}

Annnnd that's my defense of Enjolras.  Thanks for reading! :)
-Miss Jane Bennet


Ivy Miranda said...

Wow! Very well written! You really know your history and your reading materiel to make a good and successful argument.

I always liked Enjolres too and no, he's not the romantic like Marius, he's the soldier and the leader.

Thanks for your comment on my 'defense post!' Jane Foster is to awesome to get all the petty hate from people.


Miss Jane Bennet said...

Thanks! I used to...erm...intensely dislike Enjolras, so I know how the other side thinks. :D
Jane was and is my favorite character- I was thrilled to finally find someone who shared my opinion. I seem to like Janes, don't I...;)

Eva said...

OH MY GOODNESS. This post is AMAZING! It *perfectly* summed up Enjolras and did an excellent job of defending him. I was getting the sniffles too ;)

And you, m'dear have just earned yourself another blog follower. Me. I don't follow blogs willy-nilly but this post (and some of your previous ones) have made me follow yours :)

P.S. I've noticed that your header doesn't fit the top of your blog - if you want, I could help you with your blog design. Just email me at and we can work out the details :)

Miss Jane Bennet said...

Thanks so much! I'm glad you enjoyed this post.
I would LOVE some help with this- it's impossible to get my pictures/background to fit and everything. My previous background was even worse...thanks for the offer. I will definitely be emailing you.
Thanks for following! :)
-Miss Jane Bennet

Alexandra said...


That was SO AWESOME. *cheering*

Miss Dashwood said...

Ohmygoodness, I LOVED this post! Seriously, this was amazing. Why haven't I followed your blog yet? *follows* Good grief, I loved it to itty bits. You expressed everything I feel about Enjolras so strongly... nicely done, Emma! :D And the pictures you included of my favoritest Enjo didn't hurt the post in the least. Ehehehehehehehehe. :D

Miss Jane Bennet said...

WOOHOO, two comments! *cheers louder than Alexandra*
You guys would definitely be good company for Jane Austen. :)

Thank you! *bows* Thanks for following! :)
By the way, I hope you didn't mind the comparison to TSP...

Miss Dashwood,
Thankyouthankyouthankyou!! I do get very enthusiastic about Enjolras...

In a recent post, I listed my 'dream cast' for Les Mis- the actors I like best in each role. Aaron was on it...:D

Thank you both for commenting! :)

Anonymous said...

Yes...... Good ol' Enj. He's my favorite Barricade Boy EVAH. And this post totally reinforced that! Thanks for the awesome post!! : D


Miss Jane Bennet said...

Enjo is actually my second- or third-favorite Barricade Boy...but I love them all, so yeah. Thanks and you're welcome! :D
By the way, I enjoy your blog. :)

Sydney Summers said...

I very much agree! It makes me sad when people say they dislike Enjolras. Enjolras is very brave and noble, at least in my mind!
Very lovely post!:)

Miss Jane Bennet said...

Thank you! It makes me very sad too...but I used to dislike Enjolras, so I guess I can't complain. I love your profile picture- Amanda Seyfried is my favorite Cosette.
Thanks for commenting and following! :)

Eva said...


I just nominated this blog post for Best of the Month (you can read more details about the whole thing here -

Miss Jane Bennet said...

WOW. Thanks so much, Eva! :)
-Miss Jane Bennet

Elizabethany said...

Great post Miss Jane! My thoughts exactly. I could never tell from the book whether he believed in God or not.....I know that the revolutionaries of the 1790's didn't ....but I hope so. Enjolras is not a bloodthirsty man in the book.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. Thanks! And please check out my review of Les Mis, I saw it recently and it was AMAZING.

Livia Rachelle said...

I know my comment comes waaay late, but I just noticed this post on your side bar.

I read the book (unabridged) the December before last and have seen neither musical nor movie (although I was given the movie as a gift this past Christmas). I was under the impression that Enjolras shot his brother in the barricade battle. It could have simply meant is brother as countryman but I assumed that the officer meant his real brother. Hugo might have meant it to go either way, and I wondered what everyone else though.

Freedomlover16 said...

So I rediscovered this awesome post now ;) I really thought I commented on it months ago, but I guess I never did =P

Thank you so much! Enjolras for me has always been a super relatable character-- and also, very eye-opening. I was involved in Generation Joshua in high school, and I was (and still am I must confess) that single-goal driven "all for the republic!!!" person... Alright, this is not much of a reflection because I still am this way. Usually I'm the leader of my little group of friends, land up going on rambles about the future "when all citizens shall be treated equally! all lives protected!" (and they somehow put up with me still), and land up rolling my eyes when somebody falls in love or gets a "ring by spring." When I read Les Mis, Enjolras was a very eye- opening character for me, I was a bit annoyed with how similar we are (both ENTJs also) so I confess I didn't like him at first because of that... but the more I read, the more I liked him not because of anything other than I could see myself-- he spoke to me in a way Cosette, Valjean, Javert, Marius, Eponine and the others did not. Don't get me wrong- I love all of the Les Mis characters and how they are written, I could actually see my friends in some of them! Hugo really had a great graspe on human nature because I can probably point out somebody in real life for each of them. But Enjolras was my character, as some girls were going off with their Marius-- I have always been an Enjolras, just sitting here with my Social Contract ready to give a ramble to the next friend of mine who doubted the future... I'm really thankful that Hugo created him, because this way I can actually see my faults, and it gave me a better understanding of others.

Ahh!! Forgive, this comment is getting as long as the Brick itself i'm afraid!

As for the religion, I'm pretty sure he believed in God because of all the times he mentions "God the great high priest" in his speeches. The Summit on the Horizon of the Barricade speech confused me for a while- at first it seemed like he was talking about earth, then it switched to heaven pretty quickly. These are in the unabridged Brick I have, I think its kind of cool that the barricade scene represents so much a political fight for liberty (and the Les Amis political views are quite vague, I did a little study on it and created my own political headcanon) and also perhaps its a spiritual warfare thing? Anyway, sorry about this long comment citizen!