I’ve been looking forward to writing about her for, well, as long as I can remember. Of the characters, she is my favorite. She also happens to be the favorite of most Les Miserables fans. One forum I attended years ago said that Eponine was the most sought after role on broadway. I’m not sure how true that is, but I know if I could choose any musical in the world and choose to play any character within that musical, it would be Eponine.
It’s strange how this character can pull you in. Her role is smaller than Fantine and Cosette’s. She appears in the musical for a short while and then disappears. What makes this character so desirable?
My take is that compared to Fantine and Cosette, Eponine is more relatable. When it comes to relating to Fantine, we are grieved for the lot she is afflicted with, but how many of us have faced losing a job or selling ourselves to prostitution to save our child?
When it comes to Cosette, most of us find her to be slightly naïve. Ever since her rescue from the Thénardiers, Valjean has kept his promise to Fantine and little Cosette was given everything her heart could want. When Marius shows up, there are a few obstacles to surmount, but even that is handed to her with very little effort required on her part.
It’s Eponine that strikes the happy medium between the two. It’s Eponine whose struggles are the average girl’s struggles. Eponine’s struggles are loneliness and unrequited love.
Perhaps, Eponine is not only the most relatable character for women. It’s possible she’s the most relatable character in the entire musical. Who hasn’t experienced loneliness or loved someone who didn’t love them back?
Marius couldn’t have found Cosette without Eponine’s help. He couldn’t have escaped when men came to rob Valjean if Eponine hadn’t warned him. Later on, he uses Eponine to send Cosette a goodbye letter. How it must have torn Eponine’s heart to help the man she loves move further away from her as she aids him in pursuing Cosette.
Eponine resonates with us because she suffers in silence. She’d rather be near Marius, even if it causes her pain, than be separated from him. It’s a simple kind of courage but a kind of courage most of us have experienced.
You can’t have a post about Eponine without including her song. Below is the clip of Lea Salonga singing at the 10th Anniversary Concert. Fun fact: Lea Salonga also plays Fantine at the 25th Anniversary Concert.
The footage of this song isn’t as good as the 25th anniversary, but I like Lea Salonga’s performance. She portrays Eponine as angry while Samantha Barks (plays Eponine at the 25th) portrays Eponine as more hurt.