Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fear

“I think that I shall not be far from the truth if I ascribe her action simply to fear. Yes, I believe that Christine Daae was frightened by what had happened to her.”

Another emotion that plays strongly in the original work and subsequent remakes is the element of fear. The original work by Gaston Leroux reads like a classic horror story, and Leroux is good at producing the fear factor. Fear is an emotion experienced by nearly every character involved in the story. Let's look at a few characters filled with fear.

Meg Giry loved to tease the young ballerinas until their blood ran cold. One scene in the book tells of all the ballet brats crowding around her waiting to hear stories about the Ghost. “They were there, side by side, leaning forward simultaneously in one movement of entreaty and fear, communicating their terror to one another, taking a keen pleasure in feeling their blood freeze in their veins.”

The Managers feared the Opera Ghost. "'The ghost!" continued Richard, in a low voice, as though fearing lest he should be overheard by invisible ears. "The ghost! Suppose, all the same, it were a ghost who puts the magic envelopes on the table ... who talks in Box Five...who killed Joseph Buquet.'” The Ghost, they have learned, is someone to be feared.

The Persian in the original work feared Erik as well. He knew of his capabilities to kill, trap, and torture, and he calls him a monster. He fears crossing the lake to the lair. “I fear that more than one of those men--old scene-shifters, old door-shutters--who have never been seen again were simply tempted to cross the lake....It is terrible....I myself would have been nearly killed there...if the monster had not recognized me in time!” Leroux states that the Persian feared for the safety of others who encountered the Opera Ghost.

Raoul dealt keenly with fear. He feared for Christine’s safety, and he feared death at the hand of Erik. In the original work when he and the Persian are in the mirrored torture chamber facing death, the Persian recounts for them both, “M. de Chagny and I began to yell like madmen. Fear spurred us on.” In the play and movie, the poor man is hung with a noose around his neck about ready to experience death. Do you think he was afraid?

Christine feared for Raoul’s life. She feared Erik, though at one point in the book she denies it to Raoul. However, later she tells Raoul of her fear of returning underground again into Erik’s lair. She tells Erik that he frightens her on purpose. Leroux writes her actions were motivated by fear. “I think that I shall not be far from the truth if I ascribe her action simply to fear. Yes, I believe that Christine Daae was frightened by what had happened to her.”

Raoul thought Christine’s fear of Erik in Leroux’s version was really a bad-boy attraction. “Why, you love him! Your fear, your terror, all of that is just love and love of the most exquisite kind, the kind which people do not admit even to themselves," said Raoul bitterly. "The kind that gives you a thrill, when you think of it. ... Picture it: a man who lives in a palace underground!"

Erik recognizes the fear in Christine and tells her not to be afraid of him. When he sees her cry, he states, “You are crying! You are afraid of me!”

Did Erik have fears? Christine speaks to him in the original work and begs him. “Show me your face without fear!” Though he is the focus of everyone’s fear in the story, he possesses one overwhelming fear himself; that is, the fear of removing his mask and exposing his face. However, surely if you dig deeper into his personality, you will find many other fears lurking beneath the surface. Can you think of any?

The story has been portrayed in many ways from horror to romance. It has the element of fear woven throughout, and all the characters are afraid of Erik in one way or the other. Fear comes in many forms. Christine feared Erik and a life of captivity. Raoul feared torture and death at the hands of Erik and feared for Christine’s safety. The Persian feared the monstrous capabilities Erik possessed. The ballet corps fed off fear of the unknown waiting for Meg’s next horror story to scare them. The managers feared the Opera Ghost, especially after seeing his capability of murder.

Do you see the story as a classic horror story or a romance? For some reason, I already think I know the answer to that question from the majority of fans out there. However, I encourage you to be honest with yourself. Had you been Christine dragged down into the dungeon of his lair, would you have been afraid or attracted to the mask man?

As always, I am your obedient servant.
The Phantom's Student

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1 comment:

Debbi said...

As always, I thoroughly enjoy your thought provoking posts.

You asked the question, "would you have been afraid or attracted to the masked man?"

There is no easy answer. I have given this much thought over the years I have been a willing pupil to the Master. If I had been as young as Christine, then I most likely would have had fear; fear of the unknown, fear of what I felt inside as a burgoning woman; fear of the intensity that is Erik. But, I believe that I would not have been afraid of him.

If I had encountered Erik at my present age, which is close to Erik's, then there would have been no fear. There would be instead, anxiety and nervousness. Both due to the great unknown of what would come. Yet, I would face these unknowns with him, with no reservations. He too, I believe, would have some fear himself. The fear of abandonment; of my reaction to him, of the same great unknown we would both face; a life to be lived together.

You also asked how we view this story, as a horror or romance. I see it as both; but I tend to focus more on the romantic side. Call me hopeless!

Continued success towards your goal of publication. I am anxiously awaiting it!

Yours, Knight Phantom