I will be singing Éponine Thénardier’s songs from “Les Misérables” a musical adapted from the book by Victor Hugo on 5th and 6th October 2013 in the Stockport Plaza and Buxton Opera House with the Tideswell Male Voice Choir.
I wanted to dig a little deeper into the character and try to understand the situation that she found herself in. Here is what I have found out so far about Éponine and Marius’ story:
Éponine’s parents, the Thénardiers ran their own business as innkeepers whilst she was a young child, during this period they were successful she was pampered and spoilt. They took in Cosette at the age of three when her mother, Fantine, unmarried and abandoned by her lover is left to fight for their survival. At first Cosette and Éponine play as friends but over time the Thénardiers start to mistreat Cosette and make her wear rags and work in the Inn until her freedom is purchased by Jean Valjean. Eight years later, the Thénardiers Inn goes bankrupt and the family find themselves broke so they move to live in Paris.
Whilst in Paris, Éponine became a wretched adolescence, prematurely ageing due to living in poverty. She falls helplessly in love with her neighbour, Marius.
Marius was raised by his rich grandfather, a fierce supporter of the Monarchy. His grandfather was a mean old man, in his 90’s, who told Marius’ father, a Colonel in Napoleon’s army, that Marius would be disinherited if he attempted to make contact with his son. Marius is told to write to his father once each month but his grandfather never gives the replies to his grandson. When Marius turns 18 his grandfather instructs him to visit his father but he arrives seconds after his death. Marius discovers a note from his father instructing his son to help Thénardier if possible because the Colonel believed he saved his life at Waterloo.
Marius is told by a church warden that his father regularly hid in church during Mass to catch a glimpse of him and the truth about his grandfather. Marius starts to look up information about his father, he learns he is highly decorated and begins to hero worship his dead father. He argues with his grandfather and moves out refusing help, his grandfather sends him money but Marius mails it back, his aunt living with the grandfather keeps the money. Marius begins his studies as a lawyer but descends into poverty; despite this he finishes his studies.
During this time Marius often goes to the Luxembourg Gardens where he regularly sees Cosette, who moved to Paris following her rescue from the Thénardiers, he slowly falls in love with her.
Éponine first meets Marius at his apartment in the tenement they both live in. She attempts to give him a begging letter off her father who now goes by the name Jondrette. To impress him she demonstrates that she can read and then writes a sentence, ‘the police are here’, to show her literacy. She opens up to Marius about her hard life; he feels pity and gives her five francs. Éponine leaves to present her next begging letter to a local philanthropist and his daughter; they turn out to be Jean Valjean and Cosette. When they visit the Thénardiers, Marius sees them and begs Éponine to give him their address.
Eponine tells Marius where to find Cosette and he visits her home. After six weeks of secret meetings they fall in love but Jean Valjean shatters their bliss when he announces he and Cosette are leaving for England. Marius goes to Cosette’s house but she has fled with Valjean, advised by a voice (Eponine) that his friends are waiting for him, he goes to the barricade hoping to die.
Disguising herself as a young boy, Eponine goes to the barricade and during the ensuing battle she saves Marius’ life by placing her hand and body in front of the musket of a soldier who was about to shoot him. Marius is distracted by the fighting all around him and threatens to blow up the barricade to scare away the advancing troops. He hears Eponine call to him; she is fatally shot aged just 17. With her last breath she confesses her love for him giving him a letter. The letter reveals the whereabouts of Cosette.
After reading this tragic account of unrequited love and the terrible change in circumstances suffered by Eponine and others in this sad tale. I want to try to understand a little more about the time in which the character would have lived. If you have any extra information or posts about France in the 1830’s and 1840’s that you could direct me to reading I would really appreciate it.
Here is a recording of my performance from Gawsworth Hall on 11th August.