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ABC 123, or How to Identify the Barricade Boys

Joly and Feuilly and Prouvaire, oh my! The Friends of the ABC (affectionately known as the Barricade Boys) are a major part of this grand epic. In fact, one half of the second act is set at the barricades. Yet it’s hard to tell the difference between Combferre and Courfeyrac, Joly and Jehan, and Bahorel and Bossuet when they’re all running around looking for scrap furniture. Even fans of the novel may have a hard time remembering who’s who. Fear no longer, for we’ve provided a quick guide to identifying the Friends.

Enjolras: Leader of the Friends. Emphatic and charming, but “capable of being terrible.” He is “angelically handsome,” ambitious, resolute, highly-political, and fiercely loyal to his homeland. 

  • Hugo’s description: “To see the thoughtful light shining in his eyes, you would have thought that he had already, in a previous life, lived through the apocalypse of the revolution.”
  • Memorable quote: The day will come, citizens, when all will be concord, harmony, light, joy and life; it will come, and it is in order that it may come that we are about to die.”
Grantaire: Nihilistic, drunk, and cynical, he only joined the Friends out of his admiration, love, and veneration for Enjolras. His sarcasm and poor attitude irritate Enjolras, who holds very little respect for Grantaire. The values of the Friends hold no meaning for him until the very end, when he declares his belief in the Republic and dies with Enjolras. He signs his notes “R” as a play on his name: “gran” means “big” in French, and the letter “r” is pronounced “air.” “Grantaire” would roughly mean “big r” in French.
  • Hugo’s description: “Grantaire, in whom doubt lurked, loved to see faith soar in Enjolras.”
  • Memorable quote: “Gentlemen of the human race, I say to hell with the lot of you.” 
Combeferre: Moral compass and right-hand man of Enjolras. He is “The Guide” of the Friends, keeping watch over the other members and favoring peaceful education over violence. Fights for the rights of all mankind, rather than simply the rights of the French. A medical student, scholar, and philosopher. 
  • Hugo’s description: “Combeferre was as gentle as Enjolras was severe from native innocence.”
  • Memorable quote: “There are people who observe the rules of honor the way you and I observe the stars – from afar.”
Courfeyrac: The center of the group. The most personable of the Friends and Marius’s bestie. Charming and promiscuous, his heart holds the barricade boys together. 
  • Hugo’s description: “The others gave out more light, he gave out more warmth.”
  • Memorable quote: “I’ve just seen Marius’ new hat and new coat and Marius in them…he looked a complete ninny.”
Feuilly: A lower-class orphan. Generous and pragmatic. The only Friend that isn’t a student, he works as a fan maker. He taught himself to read and write, adopting the people of France as his family. Entirely self-educated, he studies the governments of other oppressed nations, especially Poland. 
  • Hugo’s description: “He did not want there to be a single person on earth without a motherland.”
  • Memorable quote: “Does anybody understand these men who promised to join us, and took an oath to help us, and who were bound to it in honor, and who are our generals, and who abandon us!”
Joly: Medical student and, ironically, hypochondriac. Believes in outrageous and unorthodox treatments such as magnetic current therapy. Sagacious and by far the happiest of the Friends. Often found checking his vital signs or the color of his tongue in a mirror. Best friend of Lesgles.
  • Hugo’s description: “He was the cheeriest of the lot.”
  • Memorable quote: “Peace is happiness digesting.”
Jean Prouvaire: A Romantic scholar with a passion for language and poetry. Joined the Friends because of his literary passion rather than political passion. Also goes by Jehan because it fits into poetry better than Jean Prouvaire.
  • Hugo’s description: “He liked to stroll through fields of wild oats and cornflowers and was almost as involved with clouds as he was with events.”
  • Memorable quote: “Long live France!  Long live the future!”
Lesgles: Law student and the oldest of the Friends. Also goes by Bossuet. Upper-class but notoriously unlucky, as he lost all his money and started balding at age twenty-five. Possesses a grand sense of humor and sarcastic wit. Best friend of Joly.
  • Hugo’s description: “His specialty was not to succeed in anything. As an offset, he laughed at everything.”
  • Memorable quote: When a man is as much in love as a tiger, the least that he can do is to fight like a lion.”
Bahorel: A lower-class law student not featured in the musical. Though he studied law for eleven years, he had no intention of becoming a lawyer. Bold, brash, generous, and much wiser than he led his friends to believe. 
  • Hugo’s description: “Bahorel was a good-natured mortal who kept bad company.”
  • Memorable quote: “They are peasants and not bourgeois; that is the reason they are intelligent.”

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