A Phantom's Redemption: The Role of Hope in "The Phantom of the Opera"
Like many people, I have been entranced and enthralled with Andrew Lloyd Webber's phenomenal musical "The Phantom of the Opera"; before that, I was (and still am) a huge fan of the original novel by Gaston Leroux. Most people, however, only seem to focus on the central love story and miss what I have found to be the most intriguing part of the story--Erik (the Opera Ghost)'s desire for a normal life where he is loved for himself.
We all know something of Erik's background--deformed from birth, he ran away from home at a young age and, for a long time, was exhibited at fairs. He spent time in Persia before eventually coming to France and taking up his dwelling underneath the Paris Opera House. His life certainly could not be considered ordinary, and that was part of what bothered him. Throughout his life he had been either feared for his unnatural appearance or held in awe for his extraordinary genius, but he had never been loved. Something that is intrinsically necessary for every human being was denied him from childhood, and this denial helped form him into the mentally unbalanced specter that stalked his halls of the Paris Opera House and killed without a thought.
This was the only life Erik had really known, and it began to weigh heavily on him. That was why he was drawn to Christine--he entertained the hope that if he could make her an opera star, she would love him in return. In her he saw the chance for a life he had never known but desperately wanted...a life where he was loved instead of feared. Of course, when Raoul came onto the scene, Erik became frightened that he would lose Christine, and his fright led to extremely violent acts of desperation. Ironically enough, his attempts to keep Christine were what cemented her feelings for Raoul.
In the end, Erik's feelings for Christine morphed into obsession, which explains the decision to abduct her off the stage. His sanity snapped; he was back to being a monster that everyone feared...but when Christine agreed to marry him, something inside him changed. The mere fact that Christine chose him seemed to make him realize that if he truly loved her, he would not keep her prisoner with him. He gave her and Raoul their freedom and resigned himself to what his life had been before, but it would not be the same. His willing release of Christine and Raoul was a redemption of sorts for him--it would have been all too easy for him to keep Christine by his side, but, realizing she loved Raoul more than she could ever love him, he released her to marry the man she really loved. He ceased thinking of himself only and thought of another, and this action showed how far he had come. He was less of a monster and had the makings of a man.
This is the 25th anniversary performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber's internationally-acclaimed musical. Starring Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom, Sierra Boggess as Christine, and Hadley Fraser as Raoul
The original Leroux novel is one of my all-time favorite books, and I'm sure you'll enjoy it, too.
I would like to finish this little article by making clear my own position: I do not pity Erik per se; he was guilty of horrible crimes and took advantage of Christine's naivete to get her to trust him as the Angel of Music. Rather, I pity his situation. Here was a man who had never been loved, and this lack helped turn him into a psychopathic, homicidal maniac. Had even one person before Christine shown him pity and love, his story might have been different.