Saturday, March 22, 2008

Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny

Raoul is the representation of light and salvation; but is he a saint or a sinner? Well, that depends on your point of view.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s portrayal of Raoul paints him as a saint from the very beginning. He arrives at the Opera House in his carriage, pulled by white horses, while we hear the rehearsal of Hannibal singing the words “savior” and “salvation” simultaneously as he enters through the stables. He is the “patron” of the Opera House, as if he’s the “patron saint,” a guardian who has arrived to save the Opera House from darkness. He is their supporter and benefactor. The lyrics Raoul sings in All I Ask of You are riddled with Biblical verses further identifying his role:
  • Darkness - “there arises light in the darkness” (Psalm 112:4)
  • Fears - “do not fear, nor be afraid” (Isaiah 44:8)
  • Harm - “no harm can come upon us” (Micah 3:11)
  • Freedom - “the Lord gives freedom” (Psalm 146:7)
  • Dry your tears -- “will wipe away tears” (Isaiah 25:8)
  • Here with you - “I will never leave you” (Hebrews 13:15)
  • Guard you - “guard you from the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3:2)
  • Guide you - “I will guide you” (Psalm 32:8)
  • Shelter - “you have been a shelter for me” (Psalm 61:3)
  • Light - “your light and your salvation” (Psalm 27:1)
  • Safe - “ keep me safe forever” (Psalm 40:11)
Raoul represents all that is light, in contrast to the Phantom who represents all that is darkness. Even during his battles with the Phantom in the cemetery and in the lair, Raoul wears a cross under his white shirt, a sign of salvation and protection from the evil one. He rides a white horse as he speeds off to save Christine from the Phantom’s deception at her father’s grave. He does everything in his power to save Christine, even to the point of his willingness to lay his life down pleading that she not waste her life with the Phantom to free him. Raoul, the saint.

How do others view him? Christine loves him because he can protect her, give her a better life, and she looks to him to be her guide and father figure. In Leroux’s version however, she judges him for his lack of compassion towards the Phantom. "Raoul, why do you condemn a man whom you have never seen, whom no one knows and about whom you yourself know nothing?" Anne Perry, in her introduction to Leroux’s original novel, judges him as shallow: “Would Raoul be so madly in love with Christine were she not beautiful? He looks at her ‘pure’ and gentle face and sees in it all he believes her to be.”

Raoul has fallen in love with his childhood sweetheart. The Phantom declares he was bound to love her, once he heard her sing. Leroux states, “Raoul suffered, for she was very beautiful and he was shy and dared not confess his love, even to himself. And then came the lightning flash of the gala performance: the heavens torn asunder and an angel's voice heard upon earth for the delight of mankind and the utter capture of his heart.”

How does the Phantom view him? A rival, of course. A threat to his influence over the Opera House and to his desire for Christine. He accuses Raoul of sins. What are his sins? He embodies the “garish” light of day that never shows him compassion. He represents the world of society that has rejected him. He calls Raoul an insolent boy, negating his manhood. He is foolishly brave, invading his territory and daring to share in his triumph. He rants that he’s a slave of fashion, indicating his shallowness. The unseen genius calls him an ignorant fool. Raoul, is the world that shows the Phantom no compassion, but begs for compassion itself.

How does Raoul view the Phantom? A rival, of course. At first he denies his existence to Christine, in order to discredit him. He views him as a threat that needs to be stopped and destroyed. He gives him no credit for being a genius who has inspired Christine’s voice, only saying his genius has turned to madness. He is unable to relate to the Phantom’s plight. The Phantom is a dangerous rival for Christine’s affections, because he can touch her soul in places that he is incapable of doing so.

How interesting that both of these men are jealous of each other. The Phantom jealous of Raoul, because he can provide Christine the things in life he cannot - beauty, acceptance, wealth, and status. Raoul jealous of the Phantom because he can provide Christine things in life he cannot - tutoring, inspiration, music, and passion. Raoul touches her purity. The Phantom touches her passions. Yet neither of them possess her heart completely. Each possess only that part they are able to touch.

Do we relate to Raoul? I dare say not many. Though he represents light and all that is good, we recognize his sins of shallowness and his inability to be moved by the sufferings of the Phantom. Raoul and the Phantom, symbols of the age-old struggle of light versus darkness, jealous of what each possess.

Not many of us live blissful, prosperous, lives full of beauty. Perhaps that is another reason we relate more so to Erik, for he embodies all that we long for and the pain we sometimes feel. What are your thoughts? What do you see in Raoul? Is he a saint or sinner? Is he able to touch you at your passions or lot in life, or do you view him as shallow and self-centered? Is he to be envied or pitied? As you ponder the thoughts, look deeply inside yourself. Do you struggle with jealousy over what another possess in life that you do not? I'm sure that answer depends on your point of view behind the mask of your life. Perhaps another lesson can be learned, that whether we are saint or sinner, we are all in need of redemption.

Your Obedient and Respectful Student

Order Lessons From the Phantom of the Opera Here

4 comments:

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my daroga said...

I see Raoul primarily as a young man. Emphasis on "young." Younger than Patrick Wilson. In the book, he's 20-21. To me, this excuses to some extent his boyish desire to rush in and be the hero. It also explains any lack of sympathy he might show--in the end, Raoul and Erik are rivals. It's not natural to expect Raoul to excuse the bad behavior of the rival for his love. That's human nature, and I don't really see that as a particular "sin" on Raoul's part. At heart, he's a kid in love for the first time. Haven't we all been there?

AllYoUNeEdiSlOvE said...

Honestly, I didnt think anyone else would pick up on the light and dark subject. Raoul is stable, a "guide", someone who can free Christine, save her. That is what the Phantom wishes of Christine to be to him, but Christine obviously shares this same want to find a better life, "take me to a place of summertime", which is why she does not find the Phantom to be a good suitor. She could never be strong enough to live a life that wasn't conventional, and so she gave up passion for it. Honestly, I think she doesnt deserve such a deep love that the phantom offered.
But back to Raoul, he might be a little shallow, but I think he truly is genuine. I think he truly did love Christine, and it is Christine who snaked her way into putting herself between the Phantom and Raoul. She loved the Phantom first, because he was there first. He was a way for her to better her career. (The Phantom even says this in the Masquerade scene I believe in order to persuade her to be with him) Then, Raoul came into her life again, and she saw something even better, so she abandoned what she believed the "lesser life" for something she though "better", with no remorse at all for the Phantom. She instead flips her betrayal around, and says that the "true distortion lies in his soul". Honestly, woman, think why! Yes, he is crazy, but he does not have a bad soul.
But, I do not believe Raoul to be a sinner. :) Just a young guy in love trying to do the right thing.

NatalieM said...

i liked how this post viewed Raoul and how it gave him more depth. a lot of people just call him shallow because they love Erik so much but i think that Christine made the right choice going with Raoul. And you're right, the phantom can't provide her with a normal life and Raoul can't provide her with simple things she loves, so they are kind of equal in that sense.