A couple nights ago, @robertawickham and I were complaining that Hugo took so much from Charles Jeanne’s story to make his Ideal Barricade Hero (Enjolras) and then class-bent him to be a bourgeois student, instead of the working-class guy Jeanne actually was.
And then we realized Hugo doesn’t ..actually say… Enjolras is a STUDENT. Just “an only son and wealthy”. And he LOOKS like a student (a ‘college escapee’) but that’s in the same sentence that claims he looks like a pageboy and we’re all pretty sure he’s not that. And hey, workers can BE wealthy! Class often correlated with income (very often) but it wasn’t dependent on that; it was dependent on what sort of work a person did– manual labor was working-class, intellectual labor was bourgeoisie, to oversimplify a ridiculously complicated social strata. So after like five minutes of shouting TO HECK WITH YOUR CLASS ISSUES, HUGO, WE’RE TAKING ENJOLRAS BACK FOR THE WORKERS we realized we…needed a plausible profession?
@amarguerite mentioned that printers could, depending on their job and position, be quite wealthy, and gave us a bunch of wonderful details and info which are included under the cut. And lo, IT IS GOLD. All of it goes together to make Enjolras being the wealthy only son of print-shop owning family work SO WELL?!?
A SMALL AND ONLY PARTIAL list of the ways that Enjolras being the son of a printshop-owner makes Everything Better and Nothing Worse
-As a printer Enjolras is a logical point of connection for many interest groups; people need printing done! I cannot even believe how easy this makes plothooks!
-Also as a printer, Enjolras would be in a position to earn trust very quickly, despite his age and appearance, by printing illicit materials, serving as a message center, and so on.
-Wealthy or not, he likely wouldn’t have the formal education needed to be student; but he would have access to a lot of books and a professional advantage in learning what he could. This explains his occasional slips with Latin and the like, as well as why he’s apparently managed to get an education that so much inspires his Republican convictions–he chose his own reading material, apart from the standardized curriculum.
– He WOULD be in a position to have the kind of knowledge we see him display in Enjolras and His Lieutenants–awareness of who’s ramping up their revolutionary discussions, who’s getting cold feet, what the general mood of the radical groups in the city are. He’d know because THEY WOULD TELL HIM, with the kind of work they give him and how often and what the tone of it is. He’s as close to an internet hub as they’ve got. A GREAT person to help organize your activist group!
– Printers, whatever their more abstract politics, could hardly help knowing and caring about the various censorship and speech laws, which directly affected their business. A printshop owning family wouldn’t have to totally support Enjolras in his more dramatic views to agree with him taking dramatic action, especially in 1830; but they could still like Louis-Philippe, be more conservative– or very radical! So many options! (more on this under the cut)
– Printshop culture generally leaned heavily on the sort of jokes and teasing and goofing around the Amis are seen to love, and narratively applauded for, at least equally an evolution of working-class culture (which it really should be) as of student culture (which it still would be!)
– but as an expected heir and future manager of the shop he’d still be used to interacting with bourgeois clients and businesses! And probably dress quite well when out of the shop, in a subdued, professional way.
-Gavroche is mentioned as doing the occasional odd bit of work in a printshop. If anyone wants, this gives a really easy hook for Gavroche and Enjolras’ interactions at the barricade.
– Wait! (I panic.) Isn’t Feuilly the only workingman in this group of students?? **checks**! Wait, no, Hugo doesn’t actually say that! He only says that Feuilly IS a worker. Enjolras ALSO being a worker takes away nothing from Feuilly; a wealthy shop-owner’s only child and obvious heir will have dramatically more advantages than an orphan. But it does acknowledge that the working class wasn’t a homogenous block or single sort of life experience.
-Enjolras and Feuilly’s relationship is so much more interesting this way?? and it stops Feuilly being the Token Worker in a city full of workers in a worker-led movement. Seriously, Hugo, screw your class issues so much.
-I have an excuse to draw Enjolras in a printer’s apron with his sleeves up. :Like, ALWAYS. That is SO what I’m doing today.
Below the cut: Longer discussion and more explanation, and some Q&A with Amarguerite (shared with permission!) for the use of anyone else who wants to adopt this headcanon/alternate reading! (please consider sharing this headcanon it’s so great I am so happy right now) Warning: VERY LONG.