Friends of the ABC

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A meeting of the Friends of the ABC

The Friends of the ABC (French: Les Amis de l'ABC) is a fictional association of revolutionary French republican students featured in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. In French, the name of the society is a pun, in which abaissés (the "lowly" / "abased"), is pronounced [abese], very similar to A-B-C ([ɑ be se]). Their members represent a wide variety of political viewpoints, ranging from communist agitation to advocacy for democracy to supporting the levellers and more, but on 5 June 1832 they all join the popular insurrection known as the June Rebellion and organize the construction of a massive barricade. Hugo brings them into the narrative when Marius Pontmercy, one of the novel's principal characters, attaches himself to the group without becoming one of them. With their fight led by Enjolras, all of the members of the group die during the rebellion.

Characters Jean Valjean and Gavroche both also fight with the student rebellion, with Valjean barely making it out alive and Gavroche passing away. The central story is also told in the musical version of Les Misérables.

Role in the novel[edit]

The Friends of the ABC is a reference to the historical Society of the Rights of Man. Hugo comments on the Rights of Man society in the novel, describing the many spin-off sub-groups in Paris and elsewhere:[1]

The Society of the Rights of Man engendered the Society of Action. These were impatient individuals who broke away and hastened ahead. Other associations sought to recruit themselves from the great mother societies....Then the Society of Equal Workingmen which was divided into three fractions, the levellers, the communists, the reformers. Then the Army of the Bastilles, a sort of cohort organized on a military footing...The central committee, which was at the head, had two arms, the Society of Action, and the Army of the Bastilles...A legitimist association, the Chevaliers of Fidelity, stirred about among these the republican affiliations. It was denounced and repudiated there...

In Paris, the Faubourg Saint-Marceau kept up an equal buzzing with the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, and the schools were no less moved than the faubourgs. A cafe in the Rue Saint-Hyacinthe and the wine shop of the Seven Billiards, Rue des Mathurins-Saint-Jacques, served as rallying points for the students. The Society of the Friends of the A B C affiliated to the Mutualists of Angers, and to the Cougourde of Aix, met, as we have seen, in the Cafe Musain.

Members[edit]

  • Bahorel – A dandy and an idler from a peasant background, who is known well around the student cafés of Paris. Has studied law for 11 years.
  • Combeferre – "The Guide". The right-hand of Enjolras who accompanies and corrects him. A medical student who is described as representing the philosophy of the revolution.
  • Courfeyrac – Courfeyrac is "the Centre" of the Friends. He is loyal, honourable and warm, and is Marius' closest companion.
  • Enjolras – "The Chief". The leader of the Friends of the ABC. A resolute and charismatic youth, "capable of being terrible", devoted to progress. He is described as feminine and chaste.
  • Feuilly – An orphaned fan maker who taught himself to read and write. He is the only member of the Friends who is not a student but a workingman.
  • Grantaire – Grantaire has no interest in revolution but stays out of admiration for his friends, or more specifically, because of his love for Enjolras. Despite his cynicism, he eventually declares himself a believer in the Republic, and dies alongside Enjolras.
  • Jean Prouvaire (also Jehan) – A Romantic with knowledge of Italian, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and an interest in the Middle Ages. He is also a poet, and goes by Jehan because it fits better into his poetry. Quiet, shy, yet intrepid.
  • Joly – A malade imaginaire student of medicine. He is described as the happiest of the Friends, and has the habit of touching his nose with the tip of his cane, which shows he has a sagacious mind.
  • Lesgle (also Lègle, Laigle, L'Aigle [The Eagle] or Bossuet) – The oldest member of the group, Lesgle is the son of a man who was granted a post-office by Louis XVIII. He is considered to be notoriously unlucky, and started balding aged twenty-five. He studies law and stays with Joly more often than not. Lesgle is the first Friend of the ABC to meet Marius.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Les Misérables, Volume 4, Book First, Chapter 5.