The Phantom of the Opera is a famous story documented by the French author, Gaston Leroux. Since it's original publication in 1911, his work has been adapted in various theatrical and film versions. As well known as it is for ages, this was the first time I took interest to grab a copy and read what's all the fuss about. As for the motion picture, I have yet to check it out.
At first, reading the prologue sent me into a wild confusion. Here, Leroux explained how he did his research over the "Opera Ghost" mentioning a number of uncommon names which are difficult to pronounce. Before he wrote the book, he was convinced that the OG existed in flesh and blood but his initial interviews prove otherwise. The major confusion was caused by the disappearance of the actress Christine Daaé in the middle of her performance followed by the loss of the Viscount of Chagny, Raoul, and the discovery of the lifeless body of his brother, Philippe, by the banks of a lake. Without the phantom's participation which was the missing link, people speculated that the brothers fought because of the older one's disapproval of the love affair between Raoul and Christine, irregardless of the fact that both brothers "worshipped each other all their lives". Anyway, the prologue is better at second reading, after the book has been finished.
Honestly, I was a little bored while reading the book. For one thing, it was difficult to assimilate the foreign names. Then, although Leroux had ascertained that the OG was real, the circumstances made it not easy to believe so. For instance, how could the Managers of the Opera House hear something in their ears and see no one? And what human can cause Christine Daaé a majestic performance when the girl was an ordinary singer as can be? And what with the death head and yellow eyes that glow in the dark?
One other thing that was quite perplexing was that despite Christine's realization that the OG was tricking her, she decided to play by his rules. A lot of times, she denied her love for Raoul and made him miserable with jealousy. But instead of taking pity over him, she thought otherwise and said "poor Erik!" (which was the OG's name btw). I couldn't understand why she took pity on the OG who apparently caused nothing but trouble, or evil, to those around him. I was thinking, why didn't she just went away from the Opera when Raoul was so willing to make her his bride.
Almost through, I dragged myself to reading the rest of the story for I do not want to leave it unfinished. Besides the first impression of incredibility over the book, there was one other reason for the total loss of interest. Last Monday, holiday, I took my little siblings out and found a treasure!
This book was part of my childhood days and after perhaps, 15 years, I'll be able to read it again. But that shall be another story.
Going back, I almost had the urge to set aside the Opera Ghost and start with this treasure yet I felt bad at having to start something and not ending it. So I read on. Fortunately for me, I had enough discipline at the time. The story turned out impressive towards the end! All the skepticisms I've had with the reality of the OG was answered as Leroux shared the journals of the "Persian" who knew about Erik too well. Every one of my confusions had been cleared. I began to understand the ironic feelings that Christine had for the OG for I, myself, felt the association with these feelings. Erik's genius and obsession with Christine was frightening. He did things that were horryfyingly evil. But the Persian said, Erik, who had not been loved even by his own family, might not even know the difference between good and evil. Everything that he did was out of necessity. He only wanted simple things, to live like a normal person, with a wife he can take out on Sundays. But the norms of the humankind did not allow this possible to him. Thus, it is quite natural, that one feels pity over him.
In the end, one thing I realized was that OG was capable of loving. He was as human as all of us can be but his ugliness did not let him live a normal life. And I can't agree with Leroux more when he said:
"...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."
It was the exact same thing I was thinking about Erik. If I had met him, I might have cried and held his hand too, saying "poor, unhappy Erik!"
The book's ending gloriously redeemed the pessimistic notions I had at the beginning. My only goal was to finish the book and move on to the next. After reading though, I found myself staring into space... imagining, contemplating. Erik was such an extraordinary person. He should have been a loveable person, if one was only willing to see past through the facade. Such strong feelings I had for the OG, mostly pity and I can't help but wish that somehow, he get his second chance at life to be happy and normal and free. But it's useless. He's long dead. It's just a shame how the norms of mankind can sometimes make life miserable...