Children of the Barricade

Les Misérables is a story of death as much as it is of revolution. This is for the children of the barricade, the schoolboys and street urchins, the rich and the poor, the prisoner and the inspector. This is for the dead; we will remember. The italicised bits in speech marks are song lyrics from the musical.

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2. Gavroche

Did you see them lying where they died? Someone used to cradle them and kiss them when they cried.”

When they came to clear the bodies away the day after, one broken form stood out in stark contrast to the rest.

Red and black mixed together, revolutionaries and soldiers alike, side by side in death.

Everyone’s equal when they’re dead.

But amongst the corpses of men, there lay a small bundle of rags, dirty blonde hair stained brown with dried blood.

Gavroche should not have died that night. But there he was, in between the bodies of his fallen foes and friends. His eyes were closed; he looked almost tranquil, in contrast to the gaping gunshot wounds littering his small body.

On his chest, a medal shone, bright against the dirt stained clothes.

Stony faced, grief-stricken eyes, confusion and guilt warring in his rational mind. His hand shook slightly as he took the medal off his own jacket and placed it on the young boy. Javert had already begun the spiral down into his own demise, but he had to see the consequences of his actions, of his beliefs.

“Bring him peace, bring him home.” Words whispered by both prey and predator that night, the helix of life and death twisted together, inseparable.

Little Gavroche was at peace for the first time in his short life. A Thénardier by blood, but a street rat by nature, he had always relied on his wits to get him through. He had his band of urchins, in the slums of Saint Michele, he had his friends in Les Amis, Enjolras, Combeferre, Marius. Yes, life was hard, but it was still life.

They hadn’t wanted him on the barricade. It was too dangerous, they said. But Gavroche had never been one to back away from a fight. So, there he was, waving a bit of red cloth, up there with the students, many of whom were still only boys themselves.

These men, these boys playing at war, owed their youngest comrade what little time they had had, what little impact they had made. He had unmasked the inspector, given them a fighting chance, even if it meant nothing in the end.

And in the end, he had died like he had lived – fighting for what he believed in.

Courageous til the end, clambering over the barricade, red flag in hand, gone before anyone could stop him. Courfeyrac shouting after him, tears running down his face, only the arms of Grantaire restraining him stopped him from going after the boy.

They hadn’t dared to go to him after he had fallen. The soldiers had been willing to kill an unarmed boy; they had no mercy for their enemy. The ammunition he had collected, that he had died for, was useless to them, unreachable in the field of battle.

So his body lay there, blood blossoming from the holes that shouldn’t have been there, matching the crimson of the tattered flag that now lay over him, the shroud of a warrior.The blue shards of his eyes dulled to a lifeless grey as they stared unseeing at the merciless sky.

The barricade claimed another victim, another life ended prematurely, another person who would never grow up.

“So you’d better run for cover when the pup grows…”

 

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