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Characters: Les Misérables
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Main Characters

    Jean Valjean 

Jean Valjean/Mayor Madeleine/Ultime Fauchelevent

The lead character, a convict who spent nineteen years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread and repeatedly trying to escape. After getting his parole ticket, Valjean steals two candlesticks from the Bishop of Digne but is allowed to take them with the promise he uses them to make something of his life. Several years on, Valjean becomes the guardian of young Cosette after making a promise to her mother Fantine.

  • The Atoner: After his encounter with the Bishop, Valjean spends the rest of his life trying to make up for his criminal past.
  • Badass Bookworm: He becomes exceedingly well-read in his later years.
  • Badass Grandpa: Aging hardly diminishes his Super Strength — he's in his fifties by the time he adopts Cosette, a rescue that involves plenty of running through Paris and wall-climbing. His strength does go near the end of the story, however.
  • Being Good Sucks: Repeatedly sacrifices his own happiness to do what's right, whether it's denouncing himself to prevent an innocent man from going to prison in his place, saving the man his daughter loves even though it means he'll lose her, or confessing his criminal past to Marius and withdrawing from Cosette's life for her protection.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The two candlesticks he steals from the Bishop of Digne lead him to turn his life around.
  • Consummate Liar: In a way, coupled with his Messiah tendencies. He becomes a successful town mayor for eight years and lives with Cosette for another nine without anybody (save Javert) suspecting it's all an alias and he was an ex-convict.
  • Criminal Doppelgänger: Played with. Champmathieu is also an ex-convict, but unfortunately for everyone involved, he is mistaken for Valjean.
  • Death by Despair: Valjean takes to his deathbed when Marius takes Cosette from him. It is averted when Marius and Cosette track him down to apologize and reunite with him.
  • Disease Bleach: In the novel, his hair turns completely white after he decides to turn himself in to the police.
  • Doting Parent: To Cosette. He promises her mother that she would never want for anything, and he delivers.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Wears a French National Guard uniform to cross the barricade.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After all the trials Valjean goes through throughout the novel and musical, he finally dies surrounded by Marius and Cosette.
  • The Everyman: His story of redemption is meant to be relatable to everybody, hence his name.
  • The Fettered: In his later years he draws strength from virtue.
  • Good Is Not Dumb: Although he's a near-Messianic Archetype and grew up in poverty, he's very intelligent. Although the Thénardiers think he's this.
    "Thank you both... For Cosette/ It won't take you too long to forget."
  • Heel Realization/Heel-Face Turn: Has one when Bishop of Digne lets him go with the candlesticks — struck by the Bishop's act of forgiveness, he repents and becomes a good man.
  • Iconic Outfit: The national guard uniform he wears to get in to the barricade in the musical.
  • I Have Many Names: To take directly from Wikipedia's page, "Jean Valjean: a.k.a. Monsieur Madeleine, a.k.a. Ultime Fauchelevent, a.k.a. Monsieur Leblanc, a.k.a. Urbain Fabre, a.k.a. 24601, a.k.a. 9430."
  • Meaningful Name: As stated above, "John's as good as any other John." His alias, Madeleine, is derived from Mary Magdalene (Marie-Madeleine), the repentant sinner.
  • Messianic Archetype: He's kind, generous, forgiving, loving, self-sacrificing, etc. In the musical, Fantine and Fauchelevent both tell him directly that he comes from God, and Fauchelevent and Marius both call him 'a saint'.
  • Must Make Amends: All the time. Nearly every action he makes post-Bishop of Digne is to atone for his criminal past.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: After he steals the bishop's silver after the latter showed him mercy. In the musical, the song even opens with (and is titled) "What have I done?" and continues with "Sweet Jesus, what have I done?"
  • Overprotective Dad: He's very protective of Cosette, as he promised Fantine he'd care for her. Although this is a bit justified considering Marius is practically a stranger bent on wooing her.
  • Parental Substitute: To Cosette, per his promise to Fantine to care for her.
  • Prisons Are Gymnasiums: Thanks to Working on the Chain Gang, his time in prison gave him tremendous strength.
  • Secretly Wealthy: Has around 600,000 francs hidden in a forest. They don't call him "the beggar who gives alms" for nothing.
  • Self-Made Man: As Madeleine, becoming a rich man and factory owner (and eventually mayor) from next to nothing.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In many of the English language films, if they end around Javert's suicide.
  • Super Strength: He's very strong. After seeing Madeleine lift a cart, Javert begins to suspect he's Valjean as Valjean was the only person he ever knew who was that strong. (He's right, of course.)
  • What You Are in the Dark: Early in the story, Valjean actually has a chance to send someone else in his place to jail due to a case of mistaken identity, but he could never live with such a decision.
  • Wife Husbandry: Seems to consider doing this for a split second at one point. Probably fortunately for all involved, the idea just as quickly Squicks him out. Some adaptations play this up a little more, particularly the 2000 TV miniseries, whose Valjean is generally agreed to be a huge creeper by fans.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: He believes himself safe in his new identity as Madeleine, only for Javert to make the whole thing crumble and put Valjean in front of the terrible choice of going back to prison or letting an innocent go to prison in his place.
  • You Are Number Six: Javert refers to him by his prison number name, usually "24601".

     Javert 

Inspector Javert

Inspector Javert is a guard in the prison Jean Valjean is released from, who later joins the Paris police force. In the musical, he infamously makes it his life goal to track down Valjean, but in the original novel he is really no more dedicated to catching Valjean than to dealing out justice to any other criminal. In fact, he runs into Valjean several times through pure coincidence and fails to recognize him.

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: While not overly unattractive, Javert is said to look like a "dog son of a wolf", and according to Hugo, he has a flat nose accompanied with enormous nostrils and thin, pinched lips that, along with his furrowed brow and thick sideburns, give him a permanent visage of 'unyielding, cruel authority'. Some of the most well-known adaptations have had Philip Quast, Anthony Perkins and Russell Crowe play the role.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Hugo gives few subtle hints in his description of Javert's past which suggest he might be part Romani, but since the subject of his parentage is never mentioned again, it's debatable whether it is canon or a case of Lost in Translation
    'Javert had been born in prison, of a fortune-teller, whose husband was in the galleys. As he grew up, he thought that he was outside the pale of society, and he despaired of ever re-entering it. He observed that society unpardoningly excludes two classes of men,—those who attack it and those who guard it; he had no choice except between these two classes; at the same time, he was conscious of an indescribable foundation of rigidity, regularity, and probity, complicated with an inexpressible hatred for the race of bohemians whence he was sprung.'
  • Antagonist in Mourning: In the anime, Javert visits Valjean's grave when he dies.
  • Badass: How do you think he became one of the most well known police officers in France?
    • Badass Baritone: Quite literally, since his role in the musical is played by either a baritone or a bass-baritone.
    • Badass Beard: Or Badass Muttonchops, depending on the adaptation.
    • Badass Boast: In the anime, when Javert arrests Thénardier for the second time, he practically vows that if the latter breaks out of prison again and again, he will just send him back until he repents.
    • Badass Longcoat: Owner of a very nice black trenchcoat, and is the terror of criminals everywhere.
  • Born Lucky: It's mentioned that he has tremendous good luck. This is part of the reason why criminals are so afraid of him.
  • BSOD Song: "Javert's Suicide."
  • Character Exaggeration: In the musical, Javert is completely obsessed with finding Valjean, while in the novel, it is more about his loyalty to the law.note 
  • Characterization Marches On: In the anime, Javert overcomes his belief that no one can change and aids Marius when Thénardier tries to blackmail him.
  • Character Tics: Javert has a very strange laugh/smile, which contorts his face in a frighteningly feral way. Also, his penchant for snuff.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Especially in the book, though he sneaks a few lines into the musical as well.
  • Determinator: Taken to the Implacable Man trope in some versions of the book.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Javert goes undercover to destroy the revolutionists, but is ratted out when Gavroche sees through his Paper-Thin Disguise.
  • Driven to Suicide: After Valjean spares his life twice in a row, Javert becomes confused by his enemy's kindness and his own beliefs, leading him to take a plunge into the Seine.
  • Face Death with Dignity: When he is found out by the students he is calm. When he is about to commit suicide, he is not.
  • Freudian Excuse: The reason for Javert's extremely harsh black and white worldview and his complete inability to relate to other people. The trope is very interestingly used in Javert's situation, as he was born in prison the child of a prostitute and a thief, but completely rejects the idea that circumstances rather than evil nature can explain crimes, possibly because, since he raised himself from the gutter with his integrity and dedication, he can't see why any good person in dire straits wouldn't be able to do the same.
  • Friendly Rivalry/Worthy Opponent: Apparently, with Gavroche in the 2012 film. Gavroche asks Valjean to spare him at the barricade, and Javert is aghast to discover Gavroche among the dead after the battle.
  • Hero of Another Story: Almost surely. Presumably when he's not hunting down Valjean, he's chasing down and arresting muggers, arsonists, rapists, and murderers. Considering the tenacity, integrity, and courage he shows in dealing with Valjean, he's probably very good at it too.
  • Honor Before Reason: When Javert accuses the mayor Madeleine of being Valjean and is informed Valjean is already in custody, he doesn't just apologize or resign. He goes into the mayor's office and asks to be dishonorably fired for making such a grave mistake. Madeleine asks him to keep his job, because he's too much of an honorable man to lose (and also because he was right).
    "If I were not severe towards myself, all the justice that I have done would become injustice."
  • Nerves of Steel: Sort of. No danger can shake his cool, calm reserve: he'll arrest an armed gang with a grin and a barrage of pithy one-liners, stare down the barrel of a gun and (accurately) predict it will misfire, duck hurled paving stones, and face his execution at the hands of angry revolutionaries with equanimity. Show him mercy when he's not expecting it, though, and it's a whole different story...
  • Nice Hat: Wears a nice 19th Century French hat or a top hat, depending on the adaptations.
  • Only One Name: It's never told in the book if Javert is his first or last name, or if he even has any other name beside it.
  • Oral Fixation: Snuff. The narrator snarks that, "This proved he was human."
  • Pet the Dog: In the 2012 adaptation, he leaves his medal on Gavroche's dead body.
  • Pure Is Not Good: Incorruptible, selfless, and chaste - and nigh monstrous as a result.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In the 2007 anime.
  • Stern Chase: Javert never gives up the chase to get Valjean.
  • The Stoic: He's essentially a straight-faced rock in most of his appearances.
    • Not So Stoic: After Jean Valjean saves his life, he's notably emotional and conflicted about the whole ordeal.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Arresting Valjean (as the law states) vs. letting him go (good). When he has to decide between the two, it sends him spiraling into an ethical dilemma from Hell.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Averted, since he is technically a good person during his breakdown.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: His devotion to law and order includes the belief that no court judgement is ever wrong, no official is ever corrupt, and no law is ever unjust.

    Fantine 

Fantine

A single mother, Fantine suffers through life trying to earn money to send to her daughter Cosette, under the care of the Thénardiers. After losing her job, her beauty, and her dignity, Fantine dies in a hospital — but not before Jean Valjean appears with the promise to find and care for Cosette until his death.

  • The Alcoholic: Some adaptations have her getting addicted to drink.
  • Barefoot Poverty: As a child, as she was homeless and orphaned, she walked around barefoot.
  • Break the Cutie: She starts out as The Ingenue, but ends as a Broken Bird.
  • Broken Bird: By the time Valjean rescues Fantine, she has sold her hair, some of her teeth, her clothes, and took up prostitution to get money for Cosette and is on the edge of sanity.
    • Best punctuated by "I Dreamed a Dream".
    Fantine: I had a dream my life would be
    So different from this HELL I'm living!
  • Death by Despair: Fantine is taken to a hospital and improves significantly when told Cosette is there to visit her. When she realizes Cosette is actually not here and that Monsieur Madeline is a convict, she drops dead from shock.
    • Go Out with a Smile: In the musical, it was instead too late to save her but she dies happy knowing her daughter will be cared for.
  • Defiled Forever: Nobody looks at her twice once they discover that she has an illegitimate daughter, believing her to be this trope. This is the beginning of her downward spiral.
  • Demoted to Extra: In the 1972 mini-series.
  • Dies Wide Open: And Valjean closes them.
  • Disease Bleach: After she cuts her hair, what's left of it turns gray.
  • Doom Magnet: Nothing seems to go right for Fantine. She grows up an orphan, in her naivete bears an illegitimate child thanks to a man who leaves her, and is fired from her job when this is discovered — all the while thinking her daughter is being well-cared for, when in reality she's being abused. The rest of her life consists of her taking extreme measures in order to provide for Cosette, culminating in her death.
  • Doorstop Baby: She was found and named by a stranger who found her wandering barefoot in the streets as a child.
  • Doting Parent: To Cosette, as much as she could. All of her efforts are devoted to ensuring Cosette is well-cared for.
  • Eternally Pearly-White Teeth: The narrator explicitly points out that she has great teeth a few times. Makes the fact that she rips a few of them out herself with pliers even more cringe-worthy.
  • The Fool: She starts out innocent and naive, until she isn't.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: She starts out sweet, innocent and virginal. Alas, life is not so kind to her.
  • Heroic Bastard: Unambiguously a good person, even though nobody knows who her parents are.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: She becomes a prostitute for her daughter's sake.
  • Ill Girl: Reduced to "a ghost of herself" after being thrust out on the streets.
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...: Her "the night grows ever colder" line could be interpreted as this.
  • Important Haircut: The first thing, in the book, that Fantine sells for Cosette's sake. Symbolizes her loss of innocence.
  • Mama Bear: She adores Cosette with her life.
  • Meaningful Name: From "enfantine," childish.
  • Parents as People: Her struggle to provide for her daughter is a highlight of the first act.
  • Psychopomp: In the musical, she seemingly fulfills this role for Valjean at his death.
  • Single Mom Stripper: Sadly resorts to prostitution to pay the Thénardiers for Cosette's up-keeping.
  • Spiteful Spit: To Valjean, after his strict moral codes drive her to her lowest point. He forgives her.
  • Take Care of the Kids: Fantine's request to Valjean to look after Cosette, becomes his key motivation in the book, musical, etc.
  • The Tooth Hurts: In the book, she sells her two front teeth (and rips them out herself with pliers) to raise money to help Cosette.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: She trusts the Thènardiers too much to take good care of Cosette, which leads to her selling out her life and body to pay for her daughter's supposed needs and illnesses. In reality, the Thènardiers are just ripping her off, lying about each need, and mistreating Cosette regardless of if they have enough money to raise her.
  • Woman in White: In the musical, she's in white on her deathbed and when she takes Valjean to heaven.

    Cosette 

Euphrasie "Cosette" Fauchelevent

The poster girl of the book and musical, Cosette is the daughter of Fantine, left in the "care" of the Thénardiers. Becoming their abused child servant, Cosette manages to keep an optimistic outlook on life and is eventually adopted by Jean Valjean as her mother's final request. She grows into a lovely woman and falls in love with Marius.

  • Barefoot Poverty: As a child in the musical. Although the book explains that she had wooden shoes but no socks in the freezing winter, the engraving of a barefoot Cosette has become the signature image of this story. It is also the page image for Barefoot Poverty's Literature work page.
  • Break the Cutie: As a child when she was abused. Luckily for her, she got better.
  • Cinderella Circumstances: Treated like garbage by her step-family, rescued by a savior, and falls in love with a handsome man.
  • Daddy's Girl: Adores Valjean well into adulthood.
  • Daughter of a Whore: Fantine's, although her mother wasn't a prostitute when she was born.
  • Demoted to Extra: In the musical, her adolescent self appears to have less stage time compared to the book.
  • Disappeared Dad: Cosette's real father. She does not remember him and accepts Valjean as her father.
  • Elegant Gothic Lolita: As a kid, after Valjean adopts her.
  • Everyone Calls Her Cosette: To the point where her real name, Euphrasie, isn't even mentioned in most adaptations. She herself likes "Cosette" better.
  • Foil: To Éponine. See Hourglass Plot below.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: In plenty of adaptations, although she was brunette in the original novel. This is probably to highlight her ingenue status, invoking this trope.
  • Happily Adopted: After Valjean adopts her she calls him 'papa' as if he sired her himself.
  • Happily Married: To Marius near the end of the novel and musical.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: After Fantine's death.
  • Heroic Bastard: Fantine's illegitimate daughter, but she's still the kindest, sweetest person in the whole story.
  • Hourglass Plot: With Eponine. Cosette starts off abused and forced to do labor for the Thenardiers while they spoil Eponine. Eventually, Cosette gets adopted by Valjean, who treats her very well and gives her a happy life. The Thenardiers lose all their money and have to live in poverty and turn to a life of crime, forcing Eponine to participate. When Cosette and Eponine appear as teenagers, the changes are hard not to notice.
  • Iconic Outfit: Her black dress, in both the book and the musical.
  • Infant Immortality: Abused little girl Cosette grows up into a lovely young woman.
  • The Ingenue: She's sheltered, wealthy, beautiful, innocent...
  • Ironic Nickname: Fantine names her baby Euphrasie in a moment of romantic inspiration, but soon calls her "Cosette" all the time (which means, basically, "Pampered" or "Indulged"). Then she leaves her child with the Thénardiers, who verbally and physically abuse the child, starve her, clothe her in rags, and force her to work for her keep — all the while still calling her "Cosette," little Indulged.
  • Love Triangle: Between herself, Marius and Éponine.
  • Meaningful Name: After Valjean adopts her, she really is "pampered" and "indulged".
  • Nice Girl: Incredibly kind and friendly, even to the Thénardiers.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Her real name is Euphrasie, but this is left out of most adaptations.
    • The locals in Montfermeil called her "the Lark."
  • Orphan's Ordeal: She's abused by the Thenardiers, who milk her working mother's devotion for all its worth. She finds a safe and caring home in Valjean and gets to marry a handsome man.
  • Proper Lady: She's very polite and proper. This is turned up in the musical where she has less stage time.
  • Rags to Riches: Although she grew up poor, she's adopted by the wealthy Valjean.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Marius does a double-take when he realizes that the unattractive girl he ignored for six months grew up into the lovely Cosette.
  • The Soprano: Representing her beauty and innocence.
  • Spirited Young Lady: To an extent.
    There flowed in her veins some of the blood of the bohemian and the adventuress who runs barefoot. It will be remembered that she was more of a lark than a dove. There was a foundation of wildness and bravery in her.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Valjean basically takes the attitude that she deserves everything good and nice in the world, though he lives very ascetically himself; she manages to turn this around on him, cajoling him into lighting a fire in his room and eating better by spending hours with him and then complaining of the cold and insisting that she eats what he does.

    Marius Pontmercy 

Marius Pontmercy

A charming young bachelor, Marius falls in love with Cosette, leading to Love Triangle between the two and Éponine, who is very much his friend and confidante (whether he wants her to be or not). He is a law student and a member of the Friends of the ABC, and fights in the revolution against the French law.

  • Author Stand-In: Hugo Victor revealed Marius is a portrait of how he was as a youngster.
    • Meaningful Name: "Marius" comes from Victor Hugo's own middle name, Marie.
  • Break the Cutie: When all his friends are killed, leaving him as the Sole Survivor.
  • Disappeared Dad: His father, George Pontmercy. Marius was the result of an Inter-Class Romance between a wealthy girl and a middle-class man. Gillenormand despised Pontmercy and forbid him from ever coming near Marius, and Marius was led to believe that his father abandoned him.
  • Happily Married: To Cosette near the end of the novel and musical.
  • Heel Realization: In the novel, he cruelly manipulates Valjean into breaking off contact with Cosette and in the end comes to regret this decision. (In the musical, Marius acts in a more sympathetic manner, although the situation is similar).
  • Heroic BSOD: When he learns he is the only survivor of the barricade fight.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Losing his father and isolating himself from his strict, but well-meaning grandfather turns him into this.
  • Love at First Sight: To Cosette in the musical. In the book, it's actually inverted - the only reason he notices her is because he sees the stark contrast between her black dress and Valjean's white hair. Six months later, She Is All Grown Up.
  • Manipulative Bastard: More sympathetic than most, but after learning of Valjean's criminal past (not to mention mistakenly thinking he killed Javert in cold blood) he comes to believe he is dangerous and conspires to limit his time with Cosette, resulting in Valjean wasting away. After learning the whole story (from Thenardier, ironically enough) he suffers a major Heel Realization.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: Yes and no. He is very liberal, to the point Granddaddy Gillenormand threw him out for it, but he joined Les Amis largely on Courfeyrac's insistence in an attempt to make friends, ended up embarrassing himself by fanboying Napoleon instead of the Republic, and didn't come back until the final battle.
  • Oblivious to Love: Oblivious to Éponine's love, and sending her off to deliver a love letter to Cosette is a right dagger in her heart.
  • Raised by Grandparents: He was raised to believe his father abandoned him (when in truth Gillenormand did not see him as a worthy match for his daughter and sent him away) by Gillenormand, gaining much of his Royalist views on the world. Later, he becomes a Bonapartist after leaving his grandfather.
  • Red-Headed Hero: In the 2012 movie, thanks to an Adaptation Dye-Job (he's dark-haired in the book and most other adaptations).
  • Relationship Compression: With both Cosette and Éponine in the musical. Éponine becomes his best friend rather than a mere associate.
  • Stalker with a Crush: The behavior he exhibits was seen as very romantic at the time, but he does basically stalk Cosette. Taken to ridiculous levels in the 2012 film, when all he does is just look at Cosette, and is obsessed with her instantly.
  • Starving Student: How he lived after he left his grandfather's house.
  • Suicide By Barricades: His primary reason for joining the revolution.
  • Survivor Guilt: Especially in "Empty Chairs and Empty Tables," where he angsts about the rest of Les Amis being killed at the barricades. He would have joined them too had Valjean not intervened.
    "Oh, my friends, my friends forgive me / that I live and you are gone..."
  • Tell Me About My Father: Marius researches on his father after his death, learning he was a colonel in Napoleon's army and was saved by Thénardier of all people.
  • Tenor Boy: Downplayed. He fits personality-wise, but the role in the musical calls for a lyric baritone (the part, however, is often played by tenors).
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: To the point of seeing the world in terms of black and white (note his treatment of Valjean after the latter's confession).

    Éponine Thénardier 

Éponine Thénardier

The eldest daughter and first born of the Thénardiers, Éponine starts off as spoiled bratty girl who is mean to Cosette. But, her parents' inn becomes bankrupt and the family are forced into poverty. She falls in love with Marius, and ends up bringing him and Cosette together.

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: While the narrator claims Book Éponine is rather ugly due to her horrid circumstancesnote , she is notably more attractive in the musical. She's also a lot less creepy.
  • Adapted Out: There are adaptations where she does not appear and is not even mentioned.
  • Affably Evil: Okay, maybe not evil, but still quite manipulative.
  • The Alcoholic / Lady Drunk: She's a drinker in the novel. She drinks brandy and liquors, resulting in her hoarse voice.
  • Ascended Extra: Her adolescent self in the musical. While she is still very important in the book, she appears to have more stage time than Cosette.
  • Barefoot Poverty: As an adolescent in the novel.
  • Breakout Character: Mostly due to the musical.
  • Character Exaggeration: Most, if not all, productions of the musical focus more on her unrequited love for Marius (as it fits into the musical's theme of yearning for what is ultimately impossible) and not really highlight everything else about her character from the novel. However, the numbers "Castle on a Cloud" and "The Robbery/Javert's Intervention" do highlight how Éponine lived as a child and then as a teen.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: In the novel, Éponine is the "young (working) man," dressed in a grey blouse and pantaloons. While it is hinted once by Hugo that it was her, it was not made official until after she took the bullet for Marius at the barricades.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: She gets it from her mom.
  • Demoted to Extra: In the 1998 film adaptation, she only appears as a child. Likewise, to the love triangle between her, Marius and Cosette are absent.
    • She also only appears as a child in one scene in a 1988 animated adaptation and in one panel as an adolescent in a comic book adaptation.
  • Driven to Suicide: Fed up with her shitty life, she decides to go die at the barricades.
  • Dying Declaration of Love: She confesses her love for Marius as she's about to die.
  • Emo Teen: Though with everything she's been through, it's not like she doesn't have a reason to be like that.
  • Foil: To Cosette.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Marius sees her as an associate (although they're closer in the musical) and he only has eyes for Cosette.
  • Hourglass Plot: With Cosette.
  • Iconic Outfit: The large trench coat and baker boy hat she wears at the barricade.
  • If I Can't Have You: In a rather shocking move, Éponine anonymously tells Marius that his friends are expecting him at the barricade. Believing Cosette has left for England, Marius goes, with Éponine close behind hoping they can die together.
  • I Have Boobs, You Must Obey!: Introduced in the 2012 adaptation trying to seduce Marius this way.
  • Ironic Echo: When Cosette was a child, Hugo said "Cosette was ugly. Happy, she might, perhaps, have been pretty." However, when she and Éponine's statuses switch as adolescents, Hugo says this about Éponine: "The most touching thing about it was that this young girl had not come into the world to be ugly. In her early childhood, she must have even been pretty."
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Shows traits of this despite resenting Cosette and being very clingy to Marius. This is a possible interpretation of why she took the bullet for Marius.
  • Karmic Transformation: Éponine grows up and has a dreary and impoverished life, while Cosette becomes the opposite of this.
  • Last Request: In the novel, Éponine asks Marius to kiss her on the forehead after she dies. He does. Musicals usually either have her kiss Marius herself, or lean up to do so but die before she has a chance.
  • Loving a Shadow: In the musical, the song "On My Own" makes it explicit that she's in love with the idea of Marius rather than the man himself.
  • Nice Hat: She has a famous one in the musical.
  • The Ophelia: Poverty has not been good to her sanity. She's even compared to the Trope Namer.
  • Psychopomp: In the musical (but not in the 2012 film), she and Fantine fulfill this role for Valjean.
  • Riches to Rags: Her family starts out as well-off inkeepers but slowly descend into poverty.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Éponine disguises herself as a boy to secretly go to the barricades and die with Marius after telling him to go there, and when she takes a bullet for him and her identity is revealed, he is shocked.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: She never gets the chance to, poor thing, but the narration mentions that she would if she could.
  • Spoiled Brat: As a child, she got everything she wanted and was terrible to young Cosette.
  • Stalker with a Crush: She basically follows Marius around.
  • Suppressed Mammaries: In the 2012 adaptation.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Éponine disguises herself as a boy to secretly go to the barricades and die with Marius after telling him to go there.
  • Taking the Bullet: For Marius at the barricades.
  • Together in Death: The other possible interpretation as to why she took the bullet for Marius. She actually confirms this to Marius moments before her death.
    "See, you are lost! Nobody will get out of the barricade, now. It was I who led you into this, it was! You are going to die, I am sure. And still when I saw him aiming at you, I put up my hand upon the muzzle of the musket. How droll it is! But it was because I wanted to die before you."
  • The Tragic Rose: Described as "a rose in misery" in the book.
  • Unkempt Beauty: The book notes her to be one; she's rather more traditionally pretty in the musical.
    • In the book, Hugo calls Éponine "beautiful" during her visit with Marius at The Field of the Lark.

    Enjolras 

Enjolras

Head of the Friends of the ABC club, Enjolras seeks radical change in France and starts a revolution against the French law, building a barricade to take a stand with his friends.

  • Adaptational Villainy: He of all characters is hit with this hard in the 1935 American film adaptation, in which, due to the Thenardiers' screen time being drastically reduced, he's actually the closest character to pure evil. He is portrayed as an Ax-Crazy Blood Knight who stages a coup on Maruis's nonviolent protest movement, sparking the violence. He's even played by John Carradine, who is better known for playing Dracula numerous times and who looks about as unlike a radiant Greek god as possible. The reason for this is due to the film being made during the First Red Scare, and a heroic revolutionary being considered too much for the public of the day to swallow.
  • Adapted Out: There are adaptations where he does not appear and is not even mentioned.
  • Angry Mob Song: "Do You Hear the People Sing?"
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Rare male example. He fights for hours, doesn't sleep for more than a day, is never wounded, and is still so pretty at the end that he makes the National Guard pause.
  • Blue Blood: Specifically the only son of a very wealthy family.
  • Celibate Hero: He channels all his energy into POLITICS!
    • Asexuality: Possibly this. Has zero interest in women, even going so far to claim his homeland as his mistress.
    • Badass Gay: Another possibility. He is compared to quite a few gay classical figures, is described as feminine, and has a certain amount of Ho Yay with Grantaire. Needless to say, it's been a topic of some debate.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: His death in the musical is usually staged this way.
  • Demoted to Extra: In the 1998 film adaptation. Much of his role in the movie is given to Marius.
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: Complete with chest-baring. "Shoot me."
  • Foil:
    • To Grantaire, who is described as practically Enjolras's antithesis.
    • Also to a lesser extent Combeferre, who is described as rounding out Enjolras' dogma with a more grounded and humane view of the revolution.
  • The Leader: The driving force and head of Les Amis.
  • Manly Tears: When he shoots a soldier in the book, a tear falls down his "marble cheek." In the 2012 film, this happens after Eponine's death.
  • No Name Given: Due to it being difficult to pronounce, Enjolras's name is actually never spoken in libretto during the entire musical.
    • Though beginning the ABC Cafe scene with an exclaimed "Enjolras!" has become a pretty regular ad-lib, nowadays.
  • Pretty Boy: Described as having an "angelic beauty."
  • Race Lift: In the 1998 film adaptation
  • Rebel Leader: Of Les Amis.
  • Red Is Heroic: In the musical, the song "Red and Black." Enjolras sings about how red is the blood of martyrs, the color of passion, and the dawning of a new age. He also gets a snazzy red vest.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: He's sadly wrong about what it will take for Paris to take a stand against the monarchy, and dies for it.

    Monsieur and Madame Thénardier 

Monsieur and Madame Thénardier

A pair of devious, greedy innkeepers who take in Cosette but use her as a cleaner, demanding bigger payments from Fantine. After Jean Valjean adopts Cosette, the Thénardiers are forced out of their inn and becomes criminals in Paris. They have five children, who are Éponine, Azelma, Gavroche and two other unnamed sons.

  • Abusive Parents: Mainly Thénardier, Madame Thénardier seems to genuinely care for her daughters, and continued to be so when they were in poverty. (Though in the musical, she is the most clearly abusive of Cosette, and clearly doesn't care a bit about Éponine post-bankruptcy.)
  • Accidental Hero: Monsieur Thénardier, when he saves Marius's father's life — he had intended to loot the man.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Madame Thénardier in the 2012 film; they cast Helena Bonham-Carter.
    • This is played with in the film by having her verse of "Master of the House" sung to a guest in flirtation, distracting him with the sexy while she steals from him. Later, she tries to do this near the end of "Javert's Intervention" to Javert but he remains unfazed.
    • Also in the 2000 mini-series.
  • Adapted Out: Both of them in the 1952 film. They are only mentioned once as "an innkeeper and his wife."
  • Apron Matron: Madame Thénardier to her daughters.
  • The Barnum: Thenardier's song "Master of the House" is all about how he makes his living ripping people off and stealing from his guests.
  • Big Bad: Thenardier is the closest thing the novel has to an actual villain.
  • Brawn Hilda: Madame is described as a giantess of a woman.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Madame is stated to be this way when it comes to her husband (God only knows why). This is probably where Eponine gets it.
  • Demoted to Extra: Both of them in a lot of the film adaptations.
  • Dissonant Laughter: Their upbeat, happy musical number is about how they con all their guests to earn money.
  • Domestic Abuser: Thenardier is implied to be one in the book, as Madame is stated to fear no one but him.
  • Evil Gloating: Thénardier pulls this when he has captured Valjean.
  • Henpecked Husband: Thenardier in the musical and 2012 film. It's the other way around in the book though.
  • Karma Houdini: Thénardier gets away with all of his crimes in the book and musical. He and his wife even sing a song about it in the musical!
    We know where the wind is blowin'
    Money is the stuff we smell!
    And when we're rich as Croesus
    Jesus, won't we see you all in HELL!
    • Averted in the 2007 anime.
    • Also averted, to a degree, in the 2012 film. While they still don't receive any formal punishment, they are last seen being beaten up and physically thrown out of the wedding for impersonating a Baron and Baroness.
  • Lady Macbeth: Madame is shown to be much more terrifying than her husband, especially in the musical.
  • Last Name Basis: Their first names are never known.
  • Parental Abandonment: To their three sons.
  • Parental Favoritism: Madame favors her daughters in the book. Her sons, however, she doesn't care for.
  • Plucky Comic Relief/ Laughably Evil: In the musical. Still creepy, though.
  • Self-Serving Memory: Thénardier claims that he sold Cosette to Valjean for a pittance and tries to find a way to extort more after their paths cross again. In fact, Valjean paid him 1500 francs to get custody of Cosette, which was a lump sum worth considerably more than what Fantine would have been paying for him to raise Cosette in that time period, delivered in monthly payments of 10 francs.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Madame Thénardier in the musical, the 2007 anime, and the 2012 film.
  • Unholy Matrimony: They're married, and the most villainous characters in the story.
  • Villain Song: "Master of the House," "Dog Eat Dog" and "Beggar At The Feast."

    Gavroche 

Gavroche

The eldest son and third born of the Thénardiers, Gavroche fends for himself in Paris and has little connections to his family. He joins the rebels at the barricade.

  • Adapted Out: In the 1935 film.
  • The Artful Dodger: He makes a living picking pockets and generally being sneaky.
  • Ascended Extra: Has a very prominent role in the anime although it also follows the book closely.
  • Come to Gawk: Seems to like watching public executions.
  • Defiant to the End: In the 2012 film.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Gavroche isn't actually an orphan, but he still basically fits.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted, with varying degrees of brutality depending on the adaptation. A particularly harsh example is the 2012 movie, as the camera is up close as he gets shot while singing Little People.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In the 2007 anime.
  • Street Urchin: To the point that, after the book was published, "gavroche" essentially became the French word for "street urchin".
  • Tagalong Kid: An inversion; he proves to be very helpful to the rebels, although they all find it disconcerting to have a little kid fight alongside them.

Supporting Characters

     The Bishop of Digne 

Bishop Charles Francois-Bienvenu Myriel of Digne

A friendly bishop who takes Jean Valjean in after he left prison. Valjean steals two candlesticks but is arrested and taken back to Bishop Myriel. To Valjean's shock, the Bishop claimed he had given to him as a gift and tells Valjean to use the candlesticks to make something of his life.

  • Decoy Protagonist: The book starts with establishing his personality and describing his life; then, Valjean bursts onto the scene.
  • Demoted to Extra: In some adaptations, the musical included, all of his backstory and history from the novel is cut.
  • Good Shepherd: A very good-hearted, generous priest.
  • It Was a Gift: Said pretty much word-for-word about the candlesticks when Valjean is brought to him after he steals them. Those sticks go on to have great personal significance for Valjean, as a reminder of his atonement.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Only appears at the beginning of the tale, but his influence not only triggers Valjean's Heel-Face Turn, but shapes the man he soon turns into. The Bishop's simple act of forgiveness ripples through the rest of the play and is felt in every decision Valjean makes after meeting him.
  • Turn the Other Cheek: He forgives Valjean's theft of his candlesticks, claiming they were a gift.
  • The Vicar: Averted, since he's a Bishop.

    Les Amis de l'ABC 

Friends of the ABC Club

A group of gentlemen led by Enjolras who start the revolution against the French law. Other members include Marius, Courfeyrac, Combeferre, Jean Prouvaire, Feuilly, Bahorel, Laigle (nicknamed Bossuet), Joly and the resident drunk Grantaire (with his own section below).

In General

  • Adapted Out: In some adaptations, they are unnamed. Justified, as it is quite easy to think of them as a unit as opposed to individual personalities, especially for the first-time viewer.
  • All There in the Script: Easy to miss for the first-time watcher, but Combeferre, Courfeyrac, Grantaire and Feuilly are all name-dropped in the same song. Everyone else's name is never mentioned, but their names do find their way onto the program - with the one exception of Bahorel. Enjolras's name is often ad-libbed in the opening of the Cafe scene.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Abaissé (oppressed) is pronounced "ah-be-see" in French.
  • Defiant to the End: Although outnumbered and outmatched, they keep fighting until their death.
  • Doomed Moral Victor: They're very right about the state of politics in France, but are wrong in thinking the people will rise to join them.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: save for Grantaire. Justified as most of them had participated in a successful revolution two years earliernote .

Combeferre

A scholarly young medical student described as the "guide" of Les Amis.

  • Badass Bookworm: He's handy in the final battle and is a noted scholar.
  • Foil: To Enjolras, described as rounding him off by being gentler and more rational.
  • The Lancer: The narration notes that he is "made of softer shades" than Enjolras, and represents the philosophy of the revolution.

Courfeyrac

Marius's closest friend in the novel, and a warm and charismatic young man.

Jean Prouvaire

The youngest member of the group, Prouvaire is a Romantic poet and sociologist who is highly interested in the middle ages.

  • Adorkable: Described as a sweet poet who dresses badly and finds it difficult to speak to women, but this doesn't stop him from being pretty badass.
    He spoke softly, bowed his head, lowered his eyes, smiled with embarrassment, dressed badly, had an awkward air, blushed at a mere nothing, and was very timid. Yet he was intrepid.
  • Blue Blood: The only son of a rich family.

Joly

Another medical student, Joly is a hypochondriac and best friends with Bossuet.
  • Adorkable: Stresses over his health, looks at his tongue in a mirror, and rubs his nose with his cane when he's thinking.
  • Combat Medic: He's a medical student and as such fulfills this role.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Bossuet. They are specifically mentioned to share everything, including Joly's own mistress Musichetta.
  • Hypochondria: This is apparently a result of spending so much time at the hospital (he's training to be a doctor).
  • Official Couple: Him and Bossuet sharing everything notwithstanding, Joly is described as "wild for" Musichetta.

Lesgle/Bossuet

The notoriously unlucky member of Les Amis, with a limitless supply of good humor.

Feuilly

The only member of Les Amis who is not a student, Feuilly is an orphaned fanmaker who taught himself how to read and write. Very interested in world revolutions, especially that of Poland's.

Bahorel

A slacker from a peasant background.

    Grantaire 

Grantaire

A hard-drinking, cynical member of Les Amis de l'ABC who joined the cause only because of his ardent admiration of Enjolras.

  • Drowning My Sorrows: "I'd like a drink. I desire to forget life."
  • Foil: The book dedicates an entire paragraph to describing how he's the exact opposite of Enjolras.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Grantaire can paint, dance, fence, box and reference any number of historical events, as well as being very eloquent. However, he implicitly sees himself as stupid.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: his and Enjolras's relationship is compared to that of Orestes and Pylades.
    • Ho Yay: It is also compared to that of Achilles and Patroclus, and Alexander and Hephaestion.
  • Holding Hands: How he and Enjolras die.
  • Last Name Basis: His first name is never revealed.
  • Purple Prose: Has a tendency to slip into this when monologuing about the misery of the world.
  • Opposites Attract: Given as the reason for his devotion to Enjolras. "We are attracted to what we lack."
  • Redemption Equals Death: Grantaire, whom Enjolras thought a faithless drunk, wakes up from his drunken stupor just in time to make a Last Stand alongside his friend and leader.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: Passes out (unsurprisingly) drunk in the clubhouse and sleeps through the majority of the battle... Only waking up in time to find the army about to shoot Enjolras.
  • Sour Supporter: He criticizes the ideals of Les Amis and is really only around for Enjolras. Unfortunately, he's one of the rare proven-right examples.
  • Wall of Text: Has at least two very long rants concerning philosophy, revolution, and general rambling nonsense.

    Azelma Thénardier 

Azelma Thénardier

The second daughter and second born of the Thénardiers. Like her sister, Azelma was also spoiled and was disrespectful to Cosette, but ended up in poverty after her parents' inn went bankrupt. Azelma becomes dependent and weak-minded and never disobeys her parents.

    Mabeuf 

Monsieur Mabeuf

An elderly churchwarden, Mabeuf was a friend of Marius' father and buries Colonel Pontmercy after meeting Marius. He is fond of books and plants, but when he is forced to sell all of his books and his wife dies, he joins the rebellion.

  • Adapted Out: In the musical adaptations and some films.
  • Badass Bookworm: His love for books is given much focus.
  • Badass Grandpa: Being old doesn't stop him from joining the students at the barricade.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Gets gunned down whilst raising the rebel flag atop the barricade.

    Fauchelevent 

Fauchelevent

A man whose life Valjean saves early on; later grants him and Cosette sanctuary at a convent.

    Monsieur Gillenormand 
Marius's conservative, wealthy grandfather.

  • Dirty Old Man: Still maintains an active interest in skirt-chasing.
  • Disco Dan: Monsieur Gillenormand is close to 90, and was a young man during the end of the Ancient Regime, and hasn't changed his attitudes, dress, etc., even though the world has changed around him. The result is that without changing anything, he's gone from a well-dressed man of the Enlightenment to a ridiculously unfashionable reactionary.

    Patron-Minette 

Patron-Minette

Four petty thieves who closely associate with Thenardier. They try to rob the house where Valjean and Cosette take up residence, and are promptly arrested.

  • Adapted Out: In some film adaptations.
  • Conveniently Cellmates: When Thénardier and the Patron-Minette gang get arrested, only Thénardier is put into a different cell from the others, who of course quickly devise a plan together and even manage to communicate the plan to Thénardier.
  • Dumb Muscle: Gueulemer
  • The Fighting Narcissist: Montparnasse, who became a vicious street crook for the sake of staying fashionable and prides himself on his beauty even as he murders and steals his way through life.
  • Five-Bad Band:
  • The Ghost: Claquesous; it's mentioned that nobody had ever seen him in a decent light in all his recorded life.
  • Jack-of-All-Trades: Babet
  • The Killer Becomes the Killed: After killing a innocent civilian Claquesous is executed by Enjolras.
  • Malevolent Masked Man: Claquesous, who refuses to ever be seen without a mask.
  • The Mole: Claquesous is implied to be one.
  • Pretty Boy: Montparnasse's good looks and "wide hips" are given emphasis in the narrative.
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