Gothic Elements in "The Phantom of the Opera" -- Part Two
Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera can certainly be classified as a work of Gothic fiction. Most of Gothic aspects mentioned in Part One of this discussion make clear, strong appearances in this work. Moreover, the overall tone and plot of the story lend itself to the sense of horror typically attributed to a Gothic novel.
Erik, who has been disfigured from birth, spends a good and final part of his life stalking the underground catacombs beneath the Paris Opera House, acting in such a way that those associated with the Opera House term him as the “ghost” or “phantom.” His deformed appearance effectively shuts him off from standard society, as he has skin that is yellow, thin, and parchment-like, eyes that are red and sunken in, no nose, and just a few stray strands of black hair. After Raoul’s first encounter with Erik, he states, “I saw…a horrible death’s-head glaring at me with eyes in which the fires of hell burned. I thought it was Satan himself” (Leroux 66).
Yet, in spite of Erik’s desire to stay hidden, he develops a dark, psychotic obsession with Christine Daaé, a young soprano who still grieves the loss of her father, when he begins tutoring her in order to reignite her previously lost passion for singing. But while Christine holds some affection for Erik, her “Angel of Music,” her affections for her childhood friend Raoul are far stronger. This sparks a jealous rage within Erik, causing him to spiral further down into his madness. Christine later explains to Raoul how furious Erik can appear, saying, “Imagine, if you can, the mask of death suddenly coming to life and, with its four dark holes—for the eyes, nose, and mouth—expressing anger carried to its ultimate degree, the supreme fury of a demon, with no eyes showing in the sockets, because, as I later learned, his glowing eyes can be seen only in darkness” (Leroux 137).
The risks and danger continue to increase until the very end of the novel, when Christine takes pity on him and thereby heals his psychosis, causing him to change his heart and allow her to leave and marry Raoul. The plot itself is overcast by shadows, as it clearly explores a certain darkness inherent to humanity. This is illustrated in both the external and internal states of Erik as well as in the events of the storyline.
The third part of this discussion will move away from the overall plot and towards specific setting details, of both the natural and supernatural sort, that indicate an attachment to the Gothic genre.
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- Leroux, Gaston. The Phantom of the Opera. New York: Bantam, 1990. (Paris: 1910).
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