Enjolras at a meeting of the Friends of the ABC
|Created by||Victor Hugo|
|Aliases||Apollo, Antinous, Orestes|
Enjolras (French pronunciation: [ɑ̃ʒolʁas]) is a fictional character who acts as the charismatic leader of the Friends of the ABC in the 1862 novel Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. In both the novel and the musical that it inspired, Enjolras is a revolutionary who fights for a France with more rights for the poor and oppressed masses, ultimately dying for his beliefs in the June 1832 rebellion.
Enjolras is described as "a charming young man who was capable of being terrible" and as "Antinous wild". He is said to have the appearance of a seventeen year-old girl, with "long fair lashes, blue eyes, hair flying in the wind, rosy cheeks, pure lips, and exquisite teeth".
Political and moral
Enjolras is a republican, whose views are significantly shaped by the Montagnards of the French Revolution. The "divine right" of revolution that he expresses is said to go "as far as Robespierre,":563 and Hugo declares that "in the Convention, he would have been Saint Just.":563 His social philosophy is influenced by that of Jean-Jacques Rousseau; whom he declares himself to "admire,":576 in particular by Rousseau's Social Contract.
Late in the novel, Enjolras "come[s] to accept... the transformation of the great French Republic into the immense human republic,":1029 and speaks of a "revolution of the True" that will "light up the whole human race.":1030 In the same speech, he seems to draw a religious parallel, declaring the barricades of the failed 1832 uprising to be a place where "day embraces night, and says: I will die with thee and thou shalt be born again with me.":1031
Though he embraces violence as a necessary means of revolution, Enjolras also abhors it: upon executing a member of the insurrectionary mob (Le Cabuc) who has murdered a householder, he declares that while "what [Le Cabuc] did is horrible... what [he, Enjolras] has done is terrible... I have judged myself also, and you shall soon see to what I have sentenced myself.":966 "Death," he says, "I use thee, but I hate thee.":967
Enjolras is continually described as "chaste". In a chapter entitled, "In Which Will Be Found the Name of Enjolras' Mistress," it is suggested that Enjolras' only "mistress" is "Patria. Patria is the Classical idealization of homeland.:1049
The Friends of the ABC
Enjolras is the leader of Les Amis de l'ABC (the Friends of the ABC), a group of radical French republican students. In the original French, the name of the group is a pun: "ABC" is homophonous with "abaissé," the "abased people." Thus Hugo writes that the society had "as its aim, in appearance the education of children; in reality, the elevation of men.":561
On 5 June 1832, the Friends of the ABC become involved in the June Rebellion that arises during the funeral of Jean Maximilien Lamarque, a popular critic of the monarchy. Enjolras takes command of a barricade they construct in the Rue de la Chanvrerie, overseeing its fortification and defense. Shortly following this, a test of leadership arises: the murder of a local householder by Le Cabuc, an insurrectionary at the barricade, leads Enjolras to execute Le Cabuc, though he deplores the act and declares that "[i]n the future no man shall slay his fellow.":967
The first assault on the barricade by the National Guard fells the red flag that signifies revolution; when Enjolras calls for volunteers to raise the flag, an elderly bibliophile called Mabeuf undertakes the task and is killed in the process. Enjolras, moved by his courage, takes the bullet-torn coat from his body and raises it as the barricade's new flag.
When Gavroche Thénardier identifies one of the barricade's defenders as the police spy Javert, Enjolras is prepared to trade his life for that of ABC member Jean Prouvaire; however, the execution of Prouvaire causes Enjolras to decree Javert's execution. (Javert is later spared by Jean Valjean.)
By daybreak on 6 June, Enjolras comes to understand that the uprising has failed, and the barricade has been abandoned. The revolutionaries agree to defend it nevertheless; however, Enjolras argues that it is unnecessary for all to die, and insists that some few men escape disguised as Guardsmen. Following this, aware that he and all those others who remain will die, he delivers a vast speech envisioning the future made possible by their sacrifice: a future filled with liberty and peace. "[T]he hours in which we live... is a gloomy hour, but of such is the terrible price of the future," he says; "[o]h! the human race shall be delivered, uplifted, and consoled! We affirm it on this barricade.":1031
An extensive assault on the barricade results in the deaths of almost all of its defenders. Enjolras is cornered by Guardsmen in a nearby tavern, and throws aside his weapon, prepared to be shot. He is joined in his last moments by Grantaire—a cynic and drunkard who is said to believe only in Enjolras. Though Grantaire has previously scoffed at republican ideology, he declares himself a republican and offers himself for execution alongside Enjolras. The two die hand in hand in the same volley.
The character of Enjolras was a source of inspiration to French anarchist Louise Michel. Michel, who would become known for her role in the Paris Commune, often signed herself as "Enjolras," both in her published work and in her personal letters—including to Hugo himself.
Since the original publication of Les Misérables in 1862, the character of Enjolras has appeared in a number of adaptations in various media based on the novel, such as books, films, musicals, plays and games.
Enjolras in the musical
Enjolras is featured in the Les Misérables stage musical. The musical omits much of the political background of the Friends of the ABC and the June Rebellion; it also presents Marius and Enjolras as being much closer friends than they are in the novel. Though many of the events at the barricade feature in the musical, Enjolras is shown as dying while raising the red flag atop the barricade, a conflation of his death with the death of Mabeuf.
- Hugo, Victor. Les Misérables (English language) (p. 642). Everyman's Library.
- Hugo, Victor. Les Misérables. Trans. Charles Wilbour. New York: Modern Library, 1992.
- Robb, Graham. Victor Hugo: A Biography. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1997. p. 457
- Michel, Louise. Red Virgin: Memoirs of Louise Michel. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1981. p. 51
- Enjolras (Character) at the Internet Movie Database
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- Enjolras (Character) at the Internet Movie Database
- Search for Enjolras at the Internet Broadway Database
- Enjolras at broadwaylesmis.com