This should be an interesting post. I’ve thought it about it quite a bit, always looking at this story through a microscope. You think I’m bad? I’ve seen symbolism attributed to the poor man hobbling across on a peg leg in the early morning hours (movie version). That scene was supposedly added as a symbolic gesture that all of us are hobbling through life with some emotional disability.
Now we have Joseph Buquet, a wretched man and disgusting looking individual. He’s the resident Opera House drunkard, stalker, and peeping “Tom.” He has the distinction of becoming the victim of the Phantom’s revenge, strung from the end of a taunt rope. Why has the Phantom chosen Joseph Buquet as his target? Did he speak too often of the Ghost? Make one too many jokes about his appearance and existence? Did OG think it was time to silence him? Even Madame Giry warns Buquet that silence is prudent.
There’s an interesting human behavior that we all have seen displayed in others, or we ourselves have sunken to its depths. That behavior being we tend to judge others harshly on character flaws that we ourselves often possess. We’ve all heard shocking news stories about high profile individuals caught in some sin or weakness. Usually before their own downfall, they have publicly attacked or defamed another with the same flaw.
Joseph Buquet is obsessed with the chorus girls, peeking at them dressing and undressing, stalking and watching them in the darkness. Our Opera Ghost seems to have relatively the same problem, only in slightly different proportions. He’s obsessed with Christine, daydreams about her, watches her, and stalks her from the darkness. Yet the Phantom throws a noose around Joseph Buquet’s neck and strangles the life out of him dropping him from the scaffolding for all to behold his twitching at the end of a rope. He stands vindicated above, as he watches his limp body fall to the stage floor. (Frankly, I thought Butler portrayed that strangle scene quite well – effective enough to see the morbid enjoyment in the Phantom’s eyes while strangling the life out of the poor man. Gave me the shivers.)
What wretchedness did the Phantom see in Joseph Buquet that he had to strangle the life out of him anyway? Sure, he was a drunkard and a peeping “Tom,” but his sin wasn’t worthy of the death sentence, was it? Did the Phantom see something hateful in that wretched man that reminded him of himself and he wanted to strangle the life out of it whether he did so consciously or subconsciously? The Phantom shows no compassion or forgiveness for Buquet’s flaws, though he yearns for compassion and redemption himself. Of course, Erik at that point in his life has never experienced compassion – it’s simply not in him to offer it anyway.
That’s usually our problem when we judge others too harshly for flaws, especially when we ourselves sometimes possess the same ones. There’s little compassion and tons of judgment on our part. It's also a great way of making ourselves seem quite the better person in the face of others. What’s that saying -- judge not lest you be judged?
I love provoking all of you…you know I do!
The Phantom's Student
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