Title: The Phantom of the Opera
Author: Gaston Leroux
Before I commence with this review, there is something that must be done. We all know this can’t be avoided, don’t we…
I feel better already. Now, on with the review!
The actual novel is my only experience with The Phantom of the Opera. Though (as you can obviously tell from above) I have heard a couple of the songs from the musical, I have not seen the musical in its entirety, nor have I seen any film adaptations. So this review is based purely on the book, and is not tainted by any prejudices from seeing the musical or a movie version.
Instead of my usual style of review (rambling on about different characters and such), I would rather focus on the message and heart behind The Phantom of the Opera. Regarding the characters, I will simply say the only character I am even slightly drawn to like is the Phantom himself. Christine annoys me, and Raoul… oh, don’t even get me started on that whining, simpering, sobbing little boy.
The Phantom of the Opera explores the deep, innate desire in every human to love and be loved. This desire is displayed in the three main characters: Christine, Raoul, and of course, the Phantom (for some reason, I prefer calling him that over “Erik”). After the death of her father, Christine longs to be loved, specifically by the “Angel of Music” her father promised he would send. Raoul wants nothing else than to love Christine and for her to love him. And the Phantom… the wonderful, tragic, horrible Phantom. After his parents abandoned him and the world rejected him, all he wants is to be like everyone else, to love and be loved for who he is.
The Phantom mentions several times that his only desire was to be like everyone else. He wanted to have a wife, to be distinguished, and to be accepted into society. But because of his disfigured face, he was scorned. He was repulsive and disgusting, and everyone made sure he knew it. I find it sad that that is exactly how it is today. If someone isn’t beautiful and perfect by the world’s standards, they aren’t considered important or noteworthy. They aren’t worth loving. If they don’t look beautiful, then they aren’t beautiful.
The Phantom was a musical genius. He had a heart of gold. But the world cursed him for his ugliness. And that beautiful heart melted away into bitter stone. He buried himself in the depths of the Opera house cellars and terrorized the theater-goers. By the end of his life, the Phantom was horrible, violent, and cruel. At first glance, we may be inclined to despise him for it.
But can we? After all, he only gave back to the world what the world had given him. Terror. Mockery. Tragedy.
To be honest, however, until the very last chapter, I am not at all endeared to the Phantom, not because of his face, but because of his cruelty, manipulation, and violence. But the last chapter explains his motives, his desires, his needs, and that’s when my opinion of him makes a complete turn-around. I pity him. I still don’t agree with all his methods, but I pity him dreadfully. My heart aches for him. If just one person in the world had loved him, he would have been an entirely different person.
“Poor, unhappy Erik! Shall we pity him? Shall we curse him? He asked only to be ‘some one,’ like everybody else. But he was too ugly! And he had to hide his genius, or use it to play tricks with, when, with an ordinary face, he would have been one of the most distinguished of mankind! He had a heart that could have held the empire of the world; and, in the end, he had to content himself with a cellar. Ah, yes, we must needs pity the Opera Ghost.” – The Epilogue
The Phantom of the Opera is one of those books everyone should read not for the story or the characters, but rather for the message it teaches. So is that why I enjoy The Phantom of the Opera? Yes. Because it reminds me to love unconditionally, regardless of how someone may look on the outside.
My rating: 7.0 out of 10
Would I read it again: Yes!