my personal interpretation of patroclus
I held my breath as I watched you swing
Then run your fingers through your hair
Oh, how could anyone not love the terrible things you do?
Oh, how could anyone not want to try and help you?
History meme | 1/10 moments: The June Rebellion (5 June - 7 June, 1832)
My topic for this project will be to study the novel, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, in accordance with its groundbreaking modern views that make the book a relevant social commentary on the society of North America today. Published over a century ago, the author risked his life in penning a novel with such progressive views. Indeed, if I was told that a novel that criticized the penal system and involved anarchist queer characters overthrowing a totalitarian government was written in 1862, I would probably not believe it. These themes are even deemed radical by today’s standards.
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The legal struggles characters face in the novel are comparable to those of today. Author Elizabeth A. Neilsen states: “In the United States, a nation born in revolution, there are two specific themes that remain relevant today: justice and democracy. Les Misérables …speaks to modern justice through the story of Jean Valjean, seeking redemption; Inspector Javert, representing legalism; and the Thénardiers, circumventing the system.” 1
There are ideas of revolutionary fever in Les Miserables that echo an anarchist ideal of a state run by the people for the people. A the time of its release, Les Miserables was considered a controversial novel as “Reading it, they feared, was a political act, and Hugo’s detailed description of the barricades provided a how-to manual for insurgency.”1 The novel still has power to inspire anarchy.
1.Walton, Charles. “The Missing Half of Les Mis.” Council on Foreign Affairs (2013): n. pag. Foreign Affairs Council, 3 Jan. 2013. Web. 15 July 2014. <http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1379&context=uhp_theses>.
Enjolras and Grantaire are compared to several male mythical pairings that are regarded as male lovers, one of which is the homosexual relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. Ancient Greece was notorious for its acceptance of gay lovers, and even created an army of gay men as they thought this relationship would strengthen them. Use of endearing terms between Achilles and Patroclus in ancient texts may show that the two were beyond friends. The pair act as one unit and address the world in a way very similar to that of ancient married couples. The treatment of Achilles and Patroclus is very different from other friendships shown in Greek literature. One eventually sacrifices himself for the other, which parallels Grantaire throwing himself at Enjolras when he is sentenced to death.
Enjolras bravely holds the hand of his love, Grantaire, and demands that they be taken by one bullet. He does not run but faces and embraces his death knowing that the people of France will continue with revolutionizing their government. Grantaire, who is not a believer in the cause, dies because the only think he believed in was Enjolras. This is the most beautiful and meaningful character death I have ever read.
Each student represents a part of Parisian youth culture at the time. Some, like Lesgle, are obvious in their characterizations as his name sounds like “Eagle”, and as the rowdiest of the bunch; he represents the impact of the American Revolution on French politics.