Mar. 28th, 2014

thjazi: Sketch of goofy smiling Enjolras (Default)
[personal profile] thjazi
Wow it's really quiet around here.

Uh.

So.

HOW ABOUT HUGO SHIFTING OVER ALMOST ALL HIS RADICALS TO BEING STUDENTS, WHAT'S UP WITH THAT.


(it's either that or I start trying to talk about Communion Meal parallels between dinner at the Bishop's and breakfast at the Corinth which is admittedly my current focus but I'm not sure how to even launch into that)


(if this were Tumblr I could tagnatter as I flee but it's not so BALL'S IN YOUR COURT GEN)
thjazi: Sketch of goofy smiling Enjolras (Default)
[personal profile] thjazi
--- takethewatch wrote:
> hi there, i have a LM question that i was going to ask on tumblr but then
> i thought hey people are trying to get this dreamwidth thing going i will
> ask over there instead. and although i am flailing cluelessly around this
> website (what are things? does one have Friends here? where does one
> say things? what does one say?), "private message" seems pretty straightforward
> so i am pretty confident i can at least manage that.
>
> so my question is a follow-up to the reply you posted about Bahorel and
> Jehan's death. you had offered (perhaps tongue-in-cheek) to expound at
> length about these two and their interactions in the text. well, i would
> be VERY interested to read such a discussion. Because I just sort of assumed
> that this was a fanon-only pairing, and while I love it very much, it seems
> so unlikely, with their very different personalities (especially in the
> Brick description, where Jehan is so soft and Bahorel isn't given cute
> hobbies like knitting). I mean obviously there isn't an explicit torrid
> romance between them in the Brick I'm not looking for that, but it would
> be gratifying to know that these two were more than two dudes who happened
> to be in the same group and maybe spoke to each other once or twice. So
> I would very much like to know more about connections between them in the
> text, so maybe if you're looking for something to post about to the community
> page, that could be something?

THANK YOU FOR ASKING FRIEND THANK YOU SO MUCH
YES I WOULD LIKE TO TALK ABOUT MY ROMANTICS, that was not an idle invitation!

OKAY so this is actually one of my favorite sets of characters in the text BECAUSE of how SNEAKY the narrative/structural relationship between them is.

Like you note, they don't have any big scenes together (much less an explicit torrid romance oh my gosh I am cracking up)(ANYWAY), in fact they don't directly speak to each other even ONCE. So what's a nice canonfan like me doing with a zeppelin like this?

The answer is JUXTAPOSITION AND CONTEXT.

The first is the easiest thing to get from a pure close-reading. In Back Room of the Musain, the 'camera' moves from the conversation Bahorel's leading (tight pants ahoy!) to Prouvaire's enthusiastic monologue on what gods might be available to worship (context there, SO MUCH CONTEXT, I'll get to it). And then there's the mentions from others, and in the text: Aside from the introductions, Bahorel and Jehan are ALWAYS named together in Amis Assemble countdowns. In Enjolras and His Lieutenants, Enjolras issues them their assignments in tandem (and somewhat thematically linked assignments at that!), and when Enjolras is thinking of his friends' strengths later he thinks of them immediately after each other and in perfect contradiction: Bahorel's smile, Jean Prouvaire's melancholy. You know who else he links that consistently? BOSSUET AND JOLY (who also get the similarly themed assignments!). Courfeyrac directly talks to two people about Marius' lovesickness: Prouvaire and Bahorel. And, of course, they show up to the emuete together, and are both lost in the first attack.

This isn't saying they're inseparable; they're super-separable! Prouvaire gets his poem and his death scene. Bahorel gets the whole relationship with Gavroche, and HIS death scene. But those are reflections of each other, because EVERYTHING EITHER OF THESE TWO DO reflects the other one-- Laughter and Melancholy; the Best Possible Clay for the Devil and Above All, Good; the adoption of the future and the hymn to memory and the past; the gunshot-quick death in the heat of action and the slow solitary death beyond all hope of action. Even their minor conversations and quirks play off each other, though I'll save that rundown for some other time.

The point is, while they're definitely NOT front-and-obverse, existing only on condition of each other, they ARE Complimentary Contrasts, Divine and Profane, studying the stars and tearing up the streets, and in Romantic terms that's Much Sublime, So Ideal, wow.

As to them being friends, well, we have them *coming to the barricade together*, always mentions by their other friends together, etc. There are also indicators of common interests in the text that might have been more apparent to people who lived through the 1820s, or were fans of Romantic lit at the time in general-- they both get the flaneur descriptor, there's the hint of it in the mention of them both dressing oddly, in Jehan's medievalism and Bahorel's stated hatred of Bourgie theater...basically, anyone who went through the era and was paying close attention would probably have twigged on that these two were both Romantics. It's the equivalent of having a group of friends set in the present day where one calls themselves Aragorn and one goes on an unprompted rant about how Marvel and DC are HACKS, man, webcomics are where it's AT; they don't have to be talking about exactly the same thing,anyone who's in fandom culture would know they both just shouted ONE OF US, ONE OF US. As to them being friends on a deeper level despite the considerable differences in personality-- well, sometimes the contrasts and compliments really do align just right. People are complicated, things happen. Sometime people are just friends because they are.

And they were.

Here's the more specific out- of-book context, though I suspect everyone on the comm right now knows it, it might be useful to someone later?: Bahorel and Prouvaire are based PRETTY DIRECTLY on Petrus Borel and Gerard de Nerval, two of Hugo's friends from the height of the Petit-Cenacle/Bouzingot days. Bahorel's scarlet waistcoats? Borel(he apparently ACTUALLY CLAIMED THEY WERE RED FOR THE BLOOD OF POLISH PATRIOTS, because Borel was A GIGANTIC DRAMA LLAMA). Prouvaire's speech about gods? Nerval. Prouvaire confounding God and Progress? Nerval again; Hugo even lays that one out in the text! Bahorel's peasant background and ludicrously supportive family? Borel again.

Now I doubt this all would have been anything the average reader would have picked up on-- the names are changed to protect...well, probably someone, after all, and however much of a scene the Cenacle/ Bouzingot gang may have been making in the 1820s-mid 1830s, that was an entire generation gone by the time Les Mis hit the stands. But I'm also pretty sure that it was one of those "If you know, you'll know" things-- Jehan's whole speech about gods and a lot of Bahorel's general everything echo very specific anecdotes from Gautier's memoirs, so clearly Hugo wasn't the only one remembering them, and there were a solid number of the old crew still kicking about-- all of them, in fact, except Nerval and Borel, the first to die (in 1855 and 1859, respectively).

...and then get fictionalized to be the first to die AGAIN, Because Hugo.


So yeah, there's connection! And like I said: I AM HAPPY TO EXPLAIN IN EXCRUCIATING DETAIL.XD Hang on, I'll post my Brick!club (over)analysis of their intros in 3.4.1 :P

(much thanks to Tumblr users Hernaniste, EdwardDespard, Barricadeur, TenLittleBullets, Darthfar, etc, who oh so kindly showed me the entrance to this rabbit hole I've since fallen down, DO YOU LOT KNOW HOW MUCH TIME I'VE SPENT READING ABOUT THESE DORKS OF AGES PAST AT THIS POINT, IT'S DREADFUL . Also, dear Dreamwidth spellchecker: FRENCH NAMES ARE HAPPENING NOW, GET USED TO IT.
thjazi: Sketch of goofy smiling Enjolras (Default)
[personal profile] thjazi
(Slightly (very very slightly) edited reblog of my Brick!club post on Bahorel's intro For Future Reference)


“Bahorel had figured in the bloody tumult of June 1822, at the time of young Lallemand’s burial.”

I’d like to pause right here and thank fandom for helping me appreciate what an absolute wheelbreaker of an opening line that is. Here we are traveling along, talking about very important but somewhat abstract things, the rights of citizens, the rights of nations, the patterns of personalities, and suddenly BRUTALITY BLOODSHED BETRAYAL and this guy was in the middle of it, personally involved. Anyone who’s read my freaking out about the Lallemand Thing (which, btw, 1820 not 1822. I…choose to see this as a typo. A 150 year old typo.) knows that *I* was about ready to booze and riot when I learned about it, and I AM PHYSICALLY INCAPABLE OF EITHER ACTION. Surely some of the original readers of the story would have remembered the days when it happened, and even more would have heard about it as a fairly relevant event— it was only about as far from Les Mis’ publishing date as, say, Kent State was from today (43 years), and it is not THAT hard to find people who can still tell you how they felt watching that happen, or people who grew up with parents who watched it happen, and told them about it. So the first thing we’re told is that this guy was in the middle of that disaster, and wow, depending on your politics at this point that’s gotta make you think he’s either carrying some righteous trauma or get you ready to go establishment-fury Gillenormand style—

and then the NEXT line is that THIS IS A TOTALLY FUN GUY. Good natured, good humored, good tempered, or well intentioned, depending on your translation—hangs OUT with a bad element maybe, but brave and generous and open-dealing and just buckets of fun. Some unpleasant tendencies, maybe, but he takes them so far they’re actually sort of great (and if duty and honesty and modesty can all be vices when taken too far, then it’s not outlandish to think carelessness and prattle and shamelessness can be virtues in excess going the other direction, is it?)The kind of guy you don’t want your daughter to go out with maybe (though you might understand if she did[1]) but you wouldn’t be upset to know your son was friends with him. A laugh riot and—and oh, an actual riot. LOTS of Actual Riot, apparently. Lots of VERY INTIMATE acquaintance with riots. And revolution. And the sheer physical acts involved in that. Forget philosophy and logic, this guy is TEARING UP PAVING STONES, SMASHING WINDOWS, DEMOLISHING, RIOTING.. None of the Amis are more specifically dangerous than Bahorel, none even approach his level of implied and stated violent action (or action, period. Bahorel is made of verbs.) This, right after Courfeyrac’s warmth and centredness— RIGHT after that, and for a reason.

Because Courfeyrac is Like Tholomyes through schooling and environment, but is AT HEART a good person— the soul of a paladin. Bahorel is basically NOT GOOD PEOPLE, not by ANY count. In person and environment he’s bad news. He keeps bad company, as might be said of Courfeyrac, but he’s got no particular inherent nobility— at least, not apparently. He is MADE to be used by the devil* . He’s described as a “creature” in half the translations, a “ mortal” in one, a “being” — forget being a GOOD man, he’s not even called a man! And yet all his vices turn to virtues, his commitment to his cause is unquestionable, he is beyond a doubt a constructive force—and what he builds highlights why he isn’t a villain. Because what Bahorel BUILDS, in place of all the things he tears apart, is connection, community. He’s the one connecting the group to others— not Feuilly, not even Courfeyrac. He’s the one, the ONLY one, with parents who expressly think well of their son— he has taught to respect him. That can be read as an intimidation, or a con, or as an honest respect between adults, but it is the ONLY parent-child relationship in all the Amis— the only biological parent-child relationship in THE ENTIRE BOOK, I think— that specifies both true, ongoing interaction AND mutual acknowledgment, with no mention of disdain on either side. He brags about his family roots, he revels in his current community, he MAKES his community, holding it together now and building out towards the future. For all his violence and aggression, Bahorel isn’t scary or repellent; he challenges as invitation, prompts and needles and encourages friends and strangers and new blood to NOT be afraid, to embrace action, to come together, join join join, while being dead set on maintaining individual expressionism.

I’ve harped on this before, I WILL NO DOUBT DO IT AGAIN, because this is a HUGE issue— the question of whether humans behavior is decided by environment or internal nature is still going strong and comes up in pretty much every philosophical system sooner or later. Les Miserables, once again, always, puts all its chips on the squares for Humanity, for love and connection, being the deciding factor. It’s a decision, AND it’s a question of environment— and it transcends both of those. A rough man in rough company becomes a hero when he reaches out to others and helps bring others together— say, that does sound a little familiar in this book, doesn’t it?— even while a smooth, proper sort in the best circumstances (hello, Gillenormand) can become destructive, parasitic, when he chooses to close himself away from the world and start severing those connections.

In a story that never stops calling people to reach out, Bahorel engages, in spirit and on the surface. Other people have written on what a great turn of phrase “rash waistcoats and scarlet opinions” is, so I’ll skip that—but I can’t let it go without discussing, there’s SO MUCH in this line. For one: despite Courfeyrac’s dandyism-by-implied-association and Joly’s cane, Bahorel and Jehan are the only ones in the group to have their clothing explicitly mentioned AS PART OF THEIR INTRO**. In both cases, these are people who definitely DO NOT FIT in general society,the dedicated flaneurs of the group— Jehan wandering in his flowers, Bahorel roaming his streets, both of the in society but observing it from an interior distance. In this they both specifically echo the gamin. Jehan’s only said to dress “ badly” , but it comes in with all the other descriptors highlighting his awkwardness, his shyness, his blushing— all the things that put him visibly apart and, in Jehan’s case, seemingly contradict his essential courage (although any real thought would point out that it takes a LOT of courage to stand out in the world when you are a shy, blushing, awkward sort of person). Bahorel’s waistcoats, though, apparently enhance what people would think his most obvious traits are—his violence, his physicality, his aggression— aggression that is essential to his connecting with others. We see him using it as exactly that later,and even now, it’s expressly linked to his opinions. The waistcoats are dialogue, they are considered, even if they are rash. He uses shock and outrage as his feint, to move in and get a better opening to pull things apart— streets, governments, ideas. Like a good stage magician, everything about Bahorel’s presentation announces exactly who he is, exactly what he’s about, exactly what he’s going to do— and invites people to watch closely and be amazed when that’s exactly what happens.

Yet I’ve never seen anyone say they thought Bahorel was intimidating or scary (dismiss the character as dumb or find him hard to write,yes, but that’s another thing…). I’ve been reading reactions to this chapter for a couple of days, and the general reaction to Bahorel’s introduction is pretty much LOL with a side order of Oh, YOU. Because he’s funny! Honestly and knowingly and purposely funny, with his filking and his melodramatic reaction to the law school, and his bluster. There’s something almost childish about it, really— a specific kind of child. In his studies he saw subjects for ditties (turns superstition into doggerel and sings them) , in his professors opportunities for caricatures (introduces caricature into all epic pomposities)—that’s the sort of thing a little kid would do, right? He carries himself to be funny. He enjoys life. And it is disarming, if you’ve forgotten the beware in Parvulus (3.1), if you don’t realize he looks on, ready to laugh; ready too, for something else.

A penetrating turn of mind, and more of thinker than he seemed— a thoughtful witness of our social realities and human problems.

He comes in with the memory of death and betrayal of the future by the present. He is the bond with what will take shape later, not just the tragic adventure we’ve been warned about but everything, 1830, 1848, on and on and on.

He thinks himself carefree.
He is not.



[1] Gross gender assignments brought to you in keeping with the 19th century

**Translation Things**
* I am very Not Okay with this line being changed in Rose.

**Unless you’re reading Denny, in which case, I’m just so sorry.

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