Les Misérables question

I’m going to see Les Miz for the third time at the Kennedy Center in September. I’ve loved the musical since I was nine years old.

A question has always nagged me, though: Fantine is Jean Valjean’s sister, right? How does Valjean not recognize his own sister when she was fired from his factory? He could have pulled her from the floor and given her some kind of job higher up in the factory with better pay and security. Presumably they grew up together… the bread he stole from the rich person’s house was taken to feed his family, which I would assume included Fantine.

When Fantine dies, she doesn’t seem to recognize him (I think she lost her vision due to whatever unspecified disease she had), but you’d think she’d recognize his voice.

I tried to read the book when I was really young, but it was too daunting back then. Perhaps the book would give more insight into this. Am I looking to deeply into it?

Fantine wasn’t Jean Valjean’s sister. JV had a sister who was poor and starving (along with her child) but she wasn’t Fantine.

Edit: According to Wiki, JV’s sister (in the novel anyway) had seven starving kids, not one.

I’ve never gotten the impression that Fantine is related to Valjean in any way. I’m pretty sure neither the novel nor the musical suggest it.

I no longer have the lyric book that came with the original Broadway recording, but I do believe it said in there Fantine was Valjean’s sister.

If not, why was he present at her death and why did he agree to raise Cosette?

He was present at her death because he happened upon Javert arresting her for prostitution/assault and recognized her as the factory worker he had allowed his foreman to fire. He felt great guilt that he had placed his trust in a bad man and that had caused Fantine’s downfall. To atone for that he took responsibility for Cosette.

Missed edit. Also, if he had a starving sister and niece, why wasn’t he taking care of them?

Ah, right, I remember now. It’s been a while since I heard the transitional songs between the main songs.

According to Wiki (been too long since I read the book), Jean Valjean learns later (I assume while factory owner/mayor) that his sister has moved to Paris and works at a print shop to support herself and one of her children (the fates of the rest are unknown).

I’d guess that he’s satisfied that she’s working and stable and can’t afford the risk to his false identity by contacting her.

According to the novel, Valjean learns this in his 4th year of prison. After he leaves prison several years later and after he becomes “Monsieur Madeleine”, he does try to find them, but cannot find anybody who has any news of them. There’s no further mention of them in the novel.

On the topic of Fantine, it just occurred to me recently, after seeing the show at least 5 times live and listening to the soundtrack countless times, that when Fantine is so desperate because there’s a child that solely needs her and so forth, it’s (almost certainly) not because Cosette is actually in any danger at all, it’s because the Thendardiers are lying to her claiming that Cosette is sick to extort more money.

Just makes her tragic situation ironically worse.
By the way, the 25th anniversary concert is now out on Blu Ray and DVD. It’s awesome, except for the stunt casting of a Jonas brother as Marius. I mean, he’s not terrible, but he’s clearly not quite up to it.

I always assumed that he no longer needed to take care of the kids because they were all adults by the time he got out of prison. Never gave much thought to his sister.

By the way, the new production of Les Mis is pretty cool, I think. They re-did the staging (no more revolving stage) and changed a few of the settings. Most of them worked really well for me but there were a couple that didn’t really make sense with some of the lyrics.

This. Valjean was in prison for 19 years. Even children born around the time he went in would be adults at that point.

He spends the entire production looking like he’s about to cry and half the time he sings in what sounds like a 10th grader doing an English accent. (Clip of his first entrance about 1:30) “Where are the leaders of the l-ah-nd…”.
A brother-sister who don’t know they’re related in the novel are Gavroche and Eponine. The Thenardiers had Gavroche around the time they moved to Paris and abandoned him at an orphanage, then later had two more sons they abandoned who are taken in by Gavroche who doesn’t know they’re his brothers. They also have a daughter Azelma who’s slightly younger than Eponine and is a character in the novel; she survives Eponine and their mother and moves with her father to Canada.


This made me feel bad for all the guys in the chorus who sang their single solo lines with more heart and passion than Nick Jonas managed to manage as Marius. Any one of them could have mopped the set with his performance.

I guess good for him to want to branch out into more artistic endeavors, though.

It’s been bothering me for about an hour - why did they reverse Marius’ and Enjolras’ lines at that point? It’s Enjolras who sings 'Where are the leaders of the land? Where are the swells who run this show?" - I remember counting the six It’ll comes… I had to look in the libretto to prove I wasn’t losing my mind.

Actually, Nick Jonas’ Broadway career long predates his pop (ahem) “stardom.” He’s been on Broadway for 10 years, and was in Gavroche in 2003. Cite.

If you were counting the “It’ll comes” it might require stronger proof than that.:wink:

The play sort of implies that once Valjean/Madeleine fled he and Cosette moved into a little apartment in Paris with a view of the Future Home of the Eiffel Tower, but in the novel and most of the films they live in a convent school where Cosette is enrolled and Valjean is groundskeeper until she graduates, which is the first time he uses the money he hid away (literally- he didn’t invest it but buried it in a coffin) while he was M’sieu Madeleine.

This is how you do Marius.

The Jonases could use a few decades of lessons.