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Fantine is a character in Victor Hugo's 1862 novel Les Misérables.

Backstory

Fantine in the novel

Tholomyès and Cosette

Fantine is first introduced as one in a group of four enchanting girls: the others being Dahlia, ZĂ©phine, and Favourite. Her parents and origins are unknown. Hugo describes her as having "gold and pearls for her dowry; but the gold was on her head and the pearls in her mouth."

Fantine was passionately in love with a man named Félix Tholomyès. His friends Listolier, Fameuil and Blachevelle were also paired with Dahlia, Zéphine and Favourite. One day, the four men invite the four women on an outing. They finish the day at a restaurant, only for the women to be abandoned by the men with a goodbye note. While the four girls take it in good humor and laugh it off, Fantine later feels heartbroken. Tholomyès had fathered their illegitimate daughter Cosette, and Fantine is left to care for her alone.

The Thénardiers

By the time Cosette is approximately three, Fantine arrives at Montfermeil and meets the Thénardiers who are owners of an inn. She asks them to care for Cosette when she sees their daughters Éponine and Azelma playing outside. They agree to do so as long as she sends them money to provide for her. Fantine's only will to live is keeping Cosette alive. She becomes a worker in Mayor Madeleine's (a.k.a. Jean Valjean's) factory in Montreuil-sur-Mermarker, and has a public letter-writer to compose her letters to the Thénardiers for her due to her being illiterate. However, she is unaware that the Thénardiers severely abuse Cosette and have forced her to be a slave for their inn. She is also unaware that the letters they send to her requesting financial help for Cosette is their own fraudulent way to extort money from her for themselves.

Job Termination

Fantine is fired by a meddlesome woman supervisor, Madame Victurnien, when she finds out that Fantine is an unwed mother, without the knowledge of the mayor. Fantine begins to work at home, earning twelve sous a day while Cosette’s lodging costs ten. Her overworking causes her to become sick with a cough and fever. She also does not go out due to fearing the disgrace she would face of the town.

The Thénardiers then send a letter stating they need ten francs because they "need" a woolen skirt for Cosette. To buy the skirt herself, Fantine has her hair cut off and sold. She then says to herself "My child is no longer cold, I have clothed her with my hair." However, she soon begins to despise the mayor for her misfortunes. She later takes on a lover, only for him to beat her and then abandon her.

The Thénardiers send another letter saying they need forty francs to buy medicine for Cosette who has become "ill." Desperate for the money, Fantine has her two front teeth removed and sells them.

Prostitution

Meanwhile, Fantine’s health and her own lodging debts worsen while the Thénardiers’ letters continue to grow and their financial demands become more costly. In order to continue to earn money for Cosette, Fantine becomes a prostitute. During a January evening, a dandy called Bamatabois heckles her and shoves snow down her dress when she ignores him. Fantine ferociously attacks him. Javert, the town's police inspector, immediately arrests her while Bamatabois sneaks away. She begs to be let go, but Javert sentences her to six months in prison. Valjean arrives to help Fantine, but upon seeing him she spits in his face. Dismissing the act, Valjean orders Javert to free Fantine, which he reluctantly does. Valjean comes to find out the reasons Fantine became a prostitute and why she attacked Bamatabois. He feels sorry for the innocent Fantine and Cosette, and tells her that he will retrieve Cosette for her. He sends Fantine to the hospital, suffering from tuberculosis.

Death

After Valjean reveals his true identity at Champmathieu’s trial, he goes back to see Fantine at the hospital. She asks about Cosette, and the doctor lies to her saying that Cosette is at the hospital but cannot see Fantine until her health improves. She is appeased by this, and even mistakenly thinks that she hears Cosette laughing and singing. Suddenly, she and Valjean see Javert. Valjean tries to privately ask Javert for three days to obtain Cosette, but he loudly refuses. Fantine realizes that Cosette was never retrieved and frantically asks where she is. Javert impatiently yells at Fantine to be silent, and additionally, tells her Valjean’s true identity. Shocked by these revelations, she suffers a severe fit of trembling, falls back on her bed and dies. Valjean then walks to Fantine, whispers to her and kisses her hand. Fantine’s body is later thrown in a public grave.

Fantine in the musical

In the stage musical of the same name, Fantine is one of the central characters.

Songs

Fantine is featured in the following songs in the musical:

  • At the End of the Day — Fantine, who works in Jean Valjean's (a.k.a. M. Madeleine's) factory, is exposed by another female worker as having a secret daughter after receiving a letter from ThĂ©nardier. She is deemed a prostitute, using her daughter to pick up extra wages. The factory's foreman, from whom she had rejected advances, sacks her.
  • I Dreamed a Dream — Fantine's solo song. Fantine is abandoned, singing of dreams gone by and the man whom she once loved (Cosette's mysterious father) who abandoned her and her daughter.
  • Lovely Ladies — Fantine finds herself among prostitutes and proceeds to sell her locket to an old woman, her hair to a crone and ultimately herself (she does not sell her teeth in the musical). As she must lower herself to the life of a prostitute, she begins to grow ill.
  • Fantine's Arrest — One man, Bamatabois, wants to buy Fantine's services, but she rejects him. After he toys with her, she hits him. When Javert arrives, Bamatabois tells him that he "was crossing from the park" when she "attacked" him. Javert arrests her for "disturbing the peace," but Valjean intervenes. After hearing Fantine's story, he sees that she visits a doctor and not be sent off to jail, to the horror and objections of Javert.
  • Come to Me — The dying Fantine hallucinates that Cosette is indeed there in the sickroom with her. Valjean comes in and vows to protect and take care of her daughter, Cosette. Fantine dies beside him shortly after.
  • The Confrontation (silent) — Valjean and Javert confront each other by Fantine’s bedside. Valjean then walks to Fantine’s body and promises her that Cosette "will live within (his) care" and that he "will raise her to the light."
  • Valjean's Death — Fantine returns as a ghost and escorts the dying Valjean to Heaven, praising him for having raised her daughter to adulthood.


Adaptations

Actress Version
Marie Ventura 1913 Adaptation
Gretchen Hartman

(as Sonia Markova)
1917 Adaptation
Sandra Milovanoff 1925 Adaptation
Florelle 1934 Adaptation
Florence Eldridge 1935 Adaptation
Sylvia Sidney 1952 Adaptation
Danièle Delorme 1958 Adaptation
Anne-Marie Coffinet 1972 Adaptation
Angela Pleasence 1978 Adaptation
Évelyne Bouix 1982 Adaptation
Patti LuPone 1985 London Musical
Randy Graff 1987 Broadway Musical
Ruthie Henshall 1995 Concert
Uma Thurman 1998 Adaptation
Charlotte Gainsbourg 2000 Adaptation
Daphne Rubin-Vega 2006 Broadway Revival
Lea Salonga 2006 Broadway Revival

(replaced Rubin-Vega in March 2007)
Judy Kuhn 2006 Broadway Revival

(succeeded Salonga in October 2007)


External links




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