thjazi: Sketch of goofy smiling Enjolras (Default)
[personal profile] thjazi posting in [community profile] les_miserables
--- 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?

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 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.
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Let's all be miserable together!

May 2014


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