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Musical!Cosette - In Love or Desperate?

Quique's rant in the 'costumes' thread I started about wanting Cosette to seem appropriately sheltered and trapped made me start thinking. Not that I hadn't thought about this before, but it made me start again.

I remember that in the Brick, after leaving the convent, Cosette is perfectly content to be alone with Valjean at first, and it's not until she 1) realizes that she's beautiful, and 2) falls for Marius that she starts wanting more. But in the musical, the lyrics to "In My Life," both hers ("There are times when I catch in the silence the sight of a faraway song") and Valjean's ("Dear Cosette, you're such a lonely child") seem to imply that she's been longing for something more for a while, even before Marius.

So I was wondering: In the musical, does Cosette really love Marius for himself, or as a means of escape in a way? Not that I think she has an ulterior motive or anything, I'd never, never suggest that she's just using him. But I've wondered sometimes if maybe, consciously or unconsciously, she loves him more as a symbol of what she craves (e.g. companionship, freedom, the outside world, adulthood) than as a person.

I wonder this because I've heard this argument made for every similarly sheltered girl who falls in love in other works (i.e. Johanna in "Sweeney Todd," Gilda in "Rigoletto," Rosina in "The Barber of Seville"). Somehow I don't really like it for Cosette, though. I'm such a romantic, I want to believe that in spite of its shallow appearance, Marius and Cosette's love will be something strong and lasting. Viewing it that way adds to the sense of hope for the future in the end. I don't know if I can believe their love will last if I think she has an ulterior motive in loving him, however innocent and possibly unconscious.

What do you people think? Again, I'm not talking about the Brick - only the musical. Very Happy

Why does it always have to be "either... or..." ?! Can't she just crave companionship and freedom and find all that in Marius, loving him for it? Isn't it the most natural thing? Maybe it's not that romantic, but there are always reasons why some people fall in love with others, and I just always assumed this applied here, too...

I have to say that the whole love story between Marius and Cosette is the one thing I find hardest to accept in the musical. I mean, quite literally, she drops her basket, he picks it up, and suddenly we're expected to believe it's true love and be invested in this (one day old) relationship?

Now, they are both very young, so I'm totally willing to believe in them being completely infatuated with each other at a moments notice. But that's the kind of teenage infatuation that you get one moment and you think you're madly in love and then two weeks later you're madly in love with someone else.

I don't know... at least in the book he watches her for a while and then they talk in the garden etc.

Now, don't get me wrong, I was 18 when I met the man who is now my husband, and we fell in love within two weeks, and have been together for nearly a decade now. So I'm willing to believe in early and quick love - but still, we, you know, spent a lot of time talking and stuff before that happened. Smile

So, I still find the whole "oh, I've just seen you, and now I'm in love with you completely" thing a little difficult to accept and it's hard to bring myself to really care about this romance.

I guess it makes a little more sense if you fill in the blanks and assume that after Marius got injured, Cosette spent a lot of time with him nursing him to health, and that the real love within them developed over that period of time when they got to know each other a little better.

At any rate - because of this, I would be inclined to say that perhaps in that first moment of infatuation, Cosette really doesn't know enough of Marius to properly be in love with him, and that perhaps it's more a case of being "in love with the idea of love", rather than a particular aspect of Marius's personality. I don't know if I would go so far as to say that it's just that she's lonely and wanting companionship - but I think there's a fair argument to be said for the fact that she doesn't really meet a lot of young, polite, well brought up gentlemen who pay any attention to her - and that therefore when she actually meets one, she becomes infatuated with him.

But...but... "their glances met... woe to him upon whom she looks! This first glance of a soul... has the magic power of suddenly forcing into bloom in the depths of a heart, this flower of the shade full of perfumes and poisons, which is called love."


But honestly, while I think the answer's a mixture of both, I'm also not certain that Cosette considers Marius to be an escape from her sheltered life at all. I don't think ever thinks it through, really. The way I see it, the first time at least in the musical that she realises there is a split between her life with Valjean and life with Marius (or that she even contemplates 'life with Marius') is when Valjean tells her she will leave Paris. Before that, she was only coming to terms with the idea of love, and in the book she doesn't even know what it is (aww). Also, even after she is married to Marius she still thinks she can be with Valjean and she never really makes any effort to depart from her lifestyle of being continously pampered by the very few people in her life.

To answer the question of whether I find their love-at-first-sight believable - it's got to the point where my mind's incapable of doubting it. I find it too adorable.

But...but... "their glances met... woe to him upon whom she looks! This first glance of a soul... has the magic power of suddenly forcing into bloom in the depths of a heart, this flower of the shade full of perfumes and poisons, which is called love."

Yes, I know it's written that way. It's still hard for me to accept as is because it's a bit silly. And it's even "worse" in the musical because there it's literally just one day that they know each other before the barricade.

I mean, I don't really mind it or anything, and I'm willing to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy the show. But still... Smile

That sort of thing was popular in the 19th century and Boublil and Schonberg are suckers for it - Miss Saigon and Martin Guerre suffer from the same problem.

Perhaps it's because I'm British and cynical and assume that it's impossible to fall in love at first sight unless you're both drunk.

I agree the speed of Cosette & Marius's mutual adoration is a weakness in the musical but I just about manage to suspend my disbelief and imagine that they must have had a few hours offstage to chat and fell properly in love then, even though that's not entirely consistent with the lyrics.
Orestes Fasting

Are you channelling the Duchess of Mint lately? What's with all the polls featuring weird false dichotomies?

I think that their relationship is really cute and they might have been swept away at first with attraction and excitement, but I do believe that the point about them bonding while MArius heals is valid. Because they are good together: (both attractive, dramatic, innocent, etc.) They just need time. Smile

I thought the love at first sight thing was a bunch of baloney until it happened to me.

Ranks as one of the strangest things I've ever experienced in my life. It's in the eyes. It's like being hypnotized, or something. Shocked And it's not your basic, common "ohhh she/he's hawt" type thing. It's far deeper than that. Almost as if you get the person's total essence in that one glance. This feeling lasted longer than just a glance for me--it lasted 3 years. *Sigh*


PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 4:36 pm Post subject:
I thought the love at first sight thing was a bunch of baloney until it happened to me.

Well, as I said, I met my husband when I was 18, and within two weeks of meeting each other we were a couple. Three years later we got married and it's been more than six years now... and yeah, within a few hours of meeting him I was already somewhat infatuated (which is particularly interesting because my first thought, and his first thought, was "not my type"). Smile

But still, I find going from "I just caught her eye" to "I'm completely in love with her even though I don't know her name or who she is or where she lives or really anything other than that she has a basket and looks nice in a black dress..." a little incongruous. Not saying it can't ever happen, but it's a bit of a stretch for me.... Smile

I like it. I don't care how unrealistic it is: It's just as ridiculous that there are 15 people on the barricade, it's a musical that has to work on stage somehow... and, technically, it's just as unrealistic that everyone ends up in Paris at the end - dramatically, it works, and I always liked the symbol that Cosette's and Marius's young, innocent, overwhelming love had. If it's casted and played right, the musical doesn't leave any room for questioning their bond and relationship.

Well, obviously in any drama there is an element of suspension of disbelief which is what enables us to believe everything happening on the stage.

I was just saying that for me personally it is harder to suspend disbelief about Cosette and Marius's romance than for other parts of the show. That being said, obviously if it really bothered me I wouldn't keep going back to see the show, nor be on this forum. Smile

Note: it's not necessarily a bad thing to fall in love out of craving for companionship. It may turn out just as well as love at first sight. I'm living proof for that for eighteen years now Wink

And Marius and Cosette have an important anniversary approaching, They are going to celebrate their 178th wedding-day February 16 and like in 1832 it will be pancake-tuesday this year.

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