Meet the Revolutionaries: The Barricade Boys of ‘Les Miserables’

Combeferre, Jehan, Enjolras, Marius, Gavroche, and Courfeyrac in "Les Miserables."

Combeferre, Jehan, Enjolras, Marius, Gavroche, and Courfeyrac in “Les Miserables.”

Some of the Les Misérables fandom’s favourite stars are the ill-fated revolutionary schoolboys known in the novel as Les Amis de l’ABC – more commonly known as the “Barricade Boys.”

This incredibly diverse and interesting group of young men came together for one cause – to effect progress and change within French society.  Hugo makes a point of mentioning that every one of them is a “[son] of the French Revolution” for whom “pure blood of principle ran in their veins.”  As fans of Les Misérables in any form will know, all but one of these characters perishes while fighting for what they believe in at the barricade.

Aaron Tveit as Enjolras.

Aaron Tveit as Enjolras.

Enjolras (Aaron Tveit), the leader of the group, is described by Victor Hugo as being “angelically handsome,” however his young appearance and cherubic looks are deceptive.  He is charming and charismatic, but also “capable of being terrible,” and the fiery passion that drives him to man the barricade can quickly turn mercilessly destructive when turned on the opposition.  Driven, highly political, and more than a little ruthless in pursuit of his goals, Enjolras is at once a golden-haired angel of the revolution and a tight-lipped warrior of the people, which makes him doubly dangerous to anyone who might oppose him.

Killian Donnelly as Combeferre.

Killian Donnelly as Combeferre.

Combeferre (Killian Donnelly) is Enjolras’ right-hand man.  A scholar, Combeferre is insatiably curious about the world, both in terms of science and philosophy.  Unlike Enjolras, Combeferre’s focus is not on the rights of the citizen, but of the universal rights of mankind.  Where Enjolras is the leader of the group, Hugo refers to Combeferre as being the guide, who both looks out for the other members of the group and balances out Enjolras’ tendency towards violent revolution with a preference for peace and slow progress through education.  However, Combeferre is not without the ability to fight, and he is credited with the delivery of a large arsenal to the barricade.

Alistair Brammer as Jean "Jehan" Prouvaire.

Alistair Brammer as Jean “Jehan” Prouvaire.

Jean “Jehan” Prouvaire (Alistair Brammer) is unique amongst the Amis due to his romantic literary – rather than political – leanings.  Where Enjolras plots his revolution and Combeferre attends lectures, Jehan “cultivate[s] a pot of flowers, play[s] on the flute, [makes] verses, love[s] the people” and is a poet with a love of ancient epics, as well as a scholar with a broad scope of knowledge including several foreign languages.  He reportedly “dress[es] badly” and is both timid and intrepid.

Gabriel Vick as Feuilly.

Gabriel Vick as Feuilly.

Feuilly (Gabriel Vick) is unique within the group, as he is one of its few lower class members.  An orphan who taught himself to read and write, and has since been entirely self-educated, Feuilly is noted by Hugo as having “adopted the peoples” for his family and is a fierce nationalist.  However, despite this, he is obsessively interested in the independence and oppression of other nations, most notably Poland.  He is generous, but also pragmatic and dedicated to his own sense of what is or is not right.

Fra Fee as Courfeyrac.

Fra Fee as Courfeyrac.

Courfeyrac (Fra Fee) is defined by Hugo as being the centre of the group, who is capable of holding everyone together on a personal level.  Intensely personable, Courfeyrac is also noted as being a bit of a “tom cat,” though Hugo also takes great pains to maintain that despite this, Courfeyrac is an honourable man and a loyal friend to his companions.  While Enjolras is a leader, and Combeferre an advisor, Courfeyrac functions with the other two men on an emotional level rather than an intellectual or political level.

Iwan Lewis as Bahorel.

Iwan Lewis as Bahorel.

Bahorel (Iwan Lewis) is perhaps best described as being “a good-natured mortal who kept bad company.”  The second member of the group born to a lower class background, he is bold and brash, with “daring waistcoats and scarlet opinions,” and thrives on conflict.  However, he is far more intelligent than he presents himself to be, and attends law school, though he has no intention of ever becoming a lawyer.

Stuart Neal as Bossuet.

Stuart Neal as Bossuet.

Bossuet (Stuart Neal), is one of the oldest members of the group and despite the fact that he comes from an upper class background, he is exceptionally unlucky, having lost all of his money.  However, he is incredibly good-humoured and treats his terrible luck with a degree of sarcasm.  He is often homeless, but spends a majority of his time living with Joly and his lover, Musichetta.

Hugh Skinner as Joly.

Hugh Skinner as Joly.

Joly (Hugh Skinner) is a student of medicine and, despite being a raging hypochondriac, is described as being “the gayest of them all.”  He has curious ideas about medicinal treatment involving magnetic currents, and can often be seen checking his vitals or the colour of his tongue in a mirror.  In the film, he also frequently seen assisting the wounded.

George Blagden as Grantaire.

George Blagden as Grantaire.

Grantaire (George Blagden) is the lone sceptic in the group, to whom the group’s ideals are absolutely meaningless.  Rather than the ideals of revolution, Grantaire’s allegiance and reasons for working with the others is out of his belief, not in their ideals, but in Enjolras, whom he “admire[s], love[s], and venerate[s].”  However, his sarcastic attitude towards the group’s aims often puts him at odds with Enjolras, and it is not until the very end that Grantaire manages to convince Enjolras of his devotion in a final act of defiance before they both die.

Eddie Redmayne as Marius Pontmercy.

Eddie Redmayne as Marius Pontmercy.

Last but not least, Marius Pontmercy (Eddie Redmayne) is the newest member of the group, having been introduced to the rest by Courfeyrac.  As a law student who is at odds with his wealthy family, Marius lives on his own in order to distance himself from his grandfather.  However, his drive towards any political aims are compromised when he falls in love with Cosette, only to have her whisked away almost as soon as they find one another.  Bereft of his love, Marius goes to fight beside his friends at the barricade, but ends up being the sole survivor, thanks to the intervention of Jean Valjean.

Who is your favourite Barricade Boy?  Why?  Let us know in the comments!

Monte J. contributed to this story. 

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18 Responses

  1. Enjolras has been my favourite since I first saw it in ’87. Hadley Fraser made me love Grantaire and Fra has made me love Courfeyrac (with his mourning for Gavroche)

  2. Enjolras – The Leader

    Combeferre – The Guide

    Courfeyrac – The Centre

    Hands down the top three best characters… Followed by Joly, Grantaire and Jehan.

  3. “As fans of Les Misérables in any form will know, all but one of these characters perishes while fighting for what they believe in at the barricade.” Perish? They do not perish, they went down fighting! The dream is still alive!

  4. I love Enjolras, Grantaire and Prouvaire. They are just amazing. I like Feuilly too.

  5. It’s got to be R, though Courf, Jehan and Joly are all completely gorgeous.

  6. Enjolras is driven, charismatic, and very strong in his political ways. He won’t succumb to any sort of temptation and is always focused on the revolution. Though he still treats everyone in fairness. I wish I was more like him.

  7. JEHAN!! JOLY!! A COMB FAIR!

    I mean….????

  8. Alexander Enjolras… just yes. He and Eponine were my favorite characters. I love Enjolras, he’s the total and complete opposite of Marius – which is the basis of his appeal.

  9. Jehan has got to be my favorite: he appears fragile, likes poetry, gazes at the clouds, but is still the bravest and the most beloved of the amis. He died after escaping from part of the National Guard and yelling about the future, and yet he’s the same man who dresses outrageously and (by popular opinion) weaves flowers into his hair. He’s pretty much my role model.
    I’m also fond of Courf, and Bahorel is fantastic too. It’s too bad that no one ever really mentions him. Joly is adorable, and R is tragic…after Jehan, I really can’t pick a second favorite. I love them all.

  10. I have a serious soft spot for all of the boys, but I love Jehan, Courf, R and Enjolras with a passion. To choose just one would be impossible!

  11. A nice summary that gives these characters the individual identities it can be hard to pick up on stage (although good performances do invest them with elements of these characters). Courfeyrac is very much capable of interacting with his friends on a political/intellectual level as well as an emotional one – yes, Hugo says he sheds more warmth while Enjolras and Combeferre shed more light, but when we see him in the Musain scenes in the book, Courfeyrac is going head to toe with Combeferre (in the friendliest possible way) over the Charter and other aspects of current and historical politics. He has a brilliant legal mind and flare for the dramatic. He also takes his politics seriously enough to change his address from his beloved Latin Quarter to the Right Bank, “for political reasons” (i.e. to strategically relocate).

    I also consider it a very important part of Enjolras’ performance (and something picked up by excellent stage actors like David Thaxton) that Enjolras has a tremendous amount of warmth with his friends that belies his supposed coldness – he is extremely tactile, touching them to communicate, and is even willing to compromise his revolutionary ideals to try and save Prouvaire. The one time we get a direct look into his head in the book, he is thinking about the excellent qualities his friends posess – and these include not just intellectual qualities, but Bahorel’s laughter and Courfeyrac’s verve.

  12. Of course, I love Enjolras and probably would have joined the revolution for the same reasons as R. But I think my favorites are Courfeyrac and Bahorel. I have a soft spot for Grantaire and all his rambling monologues as well. It’s so hard to pick just one.

  13. COMBEFERRE
    but I have a soft spot for Courfeyrac and Joly, and on a lesser note, Bahorel and Jehan

  14. I can’t just outright choose an all-time favorite, way too hard, but my fave for the past two months are so has been Enjolras. He’s so fierce. Can’t even.

  15. I admittedly have a soft spot for R and Marius…

    • Though, to be fair, Marius is the spare. Not even an Amie.
      Though, I will concede, his depth of character is treated harshly in the musical. The text brings to light the real struggles that Marius is facing by being shunned by his family – putti everything into perspective.

  16. I mean… I’m naming my son Enjolras. I’m not really kidding.

    BUT, after reading the book I think Feuilly is my other favorite. I love that he embraces his nation as his mother and passionately believes that no person should live without belonging to a country. He just wants everyone to feel like they belong to something, and more importantly that they have something to believe in.

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