Monday, February 18, 2008

Erik

"All I ever wanted was to be loved for myself."

I had hoped to leave this post for a future date, but my heart seems to be stirring me to write it now. Today, I want to talk about Erik. Not the Phantom of the Opera (his disguise) or the Opera Ghost (his persona), but the human part of the man behind the mask. The person that we so identify with - the man and his humanity.

Anne Perry, in her introduction to Leroux’s version, published by Random House, describes Erik as “…the best and the worst in all of us. He is all of us who have ever walked alone, and hated themselves, and longed for redemption.”

Erik is a tortured soul, a mind and heart in agony. He’s wounded and broken within, but radiates a hardened exterior to mask his pain. No one gives him compassion, and as a result his heart has become dark and angry. He lives a life in isolation, hidden in the shadows, and untouched by the warmth of another human being. He is unloved and unwanted. He dreams of beauty and secretly yearns for heaven, but lives in perpetual hell. He hates who he is, a gargoyle of a man doomed to a life of loneliness.

He wants Christine to learn to love the monster behind the mask. He longs to be loved for who he truly is - Erik. He pleads to Christine to save him from his solitude at the Point of No Return. When she exposes him, he resorts to force to obtain what he needs and wants from her, because he is convinced no one can love him for who he truly is. He is so desperate to be freed from is lonely existence, that he will do anything to make his inner pain leave, even if it means kidnap and murder. His face reflects the two warring personalities that dwell within him -- light and darkness. He cries for redemption.

Of all the characters in the Phantom of the Opera, we gravitate toward Erik. We relate to his loneliness. We feel his pain, because we have tasted the bitterness of it ourselves. We want to embrace him and give him the love he yearns for, because we understand. How many of us would have followed him through the broken mirror as Meg did to offer him love in Christine’s place?

Even with all the darkness he embodies as the Phantom, we forgive his indiscretions, because we understand what motivates the beast within him that drives him to do the unthinkable. We also, like him, yearn for beauty and to be loved and known for who we truly are. Like him, we have the dark capacity within us to resort to the unthinkable in our search for love. We too are well skilled in hardening our exteriors to mask the pain within. We all long for redemption.

I find it interesting that I myself look for solace from my own loneliness in the arms of a character who isn’t alive, but who embodies in many respects what I feel inwardly. Loneliness and isolation is a human condition that touches many lives. This is Erik’s humanity. Research validates that to be a healthy and whole human being, we need companionship, love, and touch. Yet we live in an increasingly crazy society where relationships are shallow, and where people abandon us and reject us. No one shows us compassion or courtesy in the simplest of actions. The love of many has grown cold. Is it any wonder we yearn for beauty as he did, but find ourselves often doomed to a different existence?

We are touched by Erik’s humanity, because he represents a basic need we all share -- to be fully known, loved, and accepted for who we truly are. As Christine prayed to God asking for the courage to show Erik he was not alone, may God grant us the capacity in our hearts to give that gift to another human soul. I pray that if you live in the human condition of being alone, that God will be gracious to you and give to you the gift of unconditional love and redemption.

Fondly,
A Very Human Student

Order Lessons From the Phantom of the Opera in Paperback Here



8 comments:

my said...

Interesting post. I'm curious about your thoughts regarding the decision to leave his name out of the ALW stage show and film. The fact that he never gets one implies, to me, a denial of his humanity to some extent. It would have been easy to include it, but he is always known as Phantom or Ghost or Angel. Doesn't this mitigate the portrayal of his humanity?

my daroga

Vicki said...

Interesting point. They could have included that fact, and easily mentioned it in the story while Madame Giry was explaining to Raoul how the Phantom arrived to live at the Opera house. She mentions his accomplishments as a genius, but not his name. It does mitigate the fact that he is a man, who possesses not only great gifts, but who is also motivated by powerful emotions that have formed his character. He's not merely "mad" as Raoul states. There are other obvious symbols to Leroux's version sprinkled throughout the story. Who know what reasons the lyricists and Webber had.

It will be interesting to see in Webber's sequel if he does use his name as Erik, since his life as the Opera Ghost, Angel of Music, and Phantom of the Paris Opera is no longer a role he is playing in his life. Perhaps they will give him more humanity the next time around and a deeper glimpse into the "man" behind the mask.

my said...

He does say he takes the name Erik by chance--it has always been my feeling that one could interpret this broadly as part of the "accident" of his birth. It's not likely, but I could see Leroux's Erik keeping the name but denying its "hold" over him.

my daroga

Lyza Jadis Montague, Queen of Narnia said...

This may seem a bit of a stretch, but Erik reminds me of another character from a genius piece of French literature- Jean Valjean, from Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables. (Also adapted into a musical.) It seems to me that, had Jean not been "saved" by the bishop, he could have become like Erik did. It makes me wonder if Christine could have done for Erik what the bishop did for Jean, and saved him from himself?

Mindy 1 said...

Nice. Thank you very much. After many years of frustration, I am lucky enough to have found a community, and more particularly, a husband who is giving me all the human affection and sincere, close relationships that I could ask for. (And this was after intense praying to G-d as well)

Xena said...

Thanks for posting this. I'm a student who is currently studying this book.
I find this to be an interesting insight into Erik's character. Thanks again for posting it.

Nora said...

Great post! I've never considered how this character could reflect aspects of ourselves, but it's true: we suffer with Erik because somehow he represents the sum of the pain we've gone through. We definitely should not ill-treat people like him.

Dark Rose said...

I don't know why, but Erik, all in his mysteriousness, has always given me something to ponder about. Everyone else (almost) I understood, but Erik, he was a mystery. I just finished reading your post about him being called a monster, and I decided to read this one right after. A very good analysis of him. When I think of Erik, I usually smash Leroux Erik, Webber Erik, and Kay Erik all together. This is a very, very good characterization of him. And you're right. There are phangirls in the world a plenty.

Speaking of which, did Meg follow through the mirror after him? I didn't seem to see that in the movie...intersting...Thanks. Wonderful post.