Your question is incorrect; the error you see is not a result of how you built python, but of a confusion between byte strings and unicode strings.
Byte strings (e.g. "foo", or 'bar', in python syntax) are sequences of octets; numbers from 0-255. Unicode strings (e.g. u"foo" or u'bar') are sequences of unicode code points; numbers from 0-1112064. But you appear to be interested in the character , which (in your terminal) is a multi-byte sequence that represents a single character.
>>> [ord(x) for x in u'']
That tells you which sequence of code points "" represents. It may give you , or it may give you [101, 770].
This character may actually be represented either a single or multiple unicode "code points", which themselves represent either graphemes or characters. It's either "e with an acute accent (i.e., code point 233)", or "e" (code point 101), followed by "an acute accent on the previous character" (code point 770). So this exact same character may be presented as the Python data structure u'e\u0301' or u'\u00e9'.
Most of the time you shouldn't have to care about this, but it can become an issue if you are iterating over a unicode string, as iteration works by code point, not by decomposable character. In other words, len(u'e\u0301') == 2 and len(u'\u00e9') == 1. If this matters to you, you can convert between composed and decomposed forms by using unicodedata.normalize.
The Unicode Glossary can be a helpful guide to understanding some of these issues, by pointing how how each specific term refers to a different part of the representation of text, which is far more complicated than many programmers realize.
'' does not necessarily represent a single code point. It could be two code points (U+0065 + U+0301).
Each abstract character is always represented by a single code point. However, code points may be encoded to multiple bytes, depending on the encoding scheme. i.e., '' is two bytes in UTF-8 and UTF-16, and four bytes in UTF-32, but it is in each case still a single code point U+00E9.
@Ben Blank: U+0065 and U+0301 are code points and they do represent '' which can also be represented by U+00E9. Google "combining acute accent".
J.F. is right about combining U+0065 and U+0301 to form '' but this is not a reversible functino. You will get U+00E9. According to wikipedia, these composite code points are useful for backwards compatibility
@teehoo - It is a reversible function in the sense that you may re-normalize the code point representing the composed character into a sequence of code points representing the same composed character. In Python you can do this like so: unicodedata.normalize('NFD', u'\xe9').