Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Lately I’ve been focusing on a different authorship and was pondering Erik’s anguish. Remembering words, penned by Leroux, shook me once again and shed light upon his pain that I’ve never pondered before. Both of these quotes of Christine come from the scene of Erik’s unmasking in front of her and painfully speak of the anguish of his soul. It’s Erik’s suffering.

"Yes, if I lived to be a hundred, I should always hear the superhuman cry of grief and rage which he uttered when the terrible sight appeared before my eyes....”

"He had let go of me at last and was dragging himself about on the floor, uttering terrible sobs…”

I happened to pick up the Bible this week, which I sometimes do, and oddly was drawn to the Book of Job. It's not the most uplifting book to read. It focuses on one man who loses everything – family, possessions, and health and enters into an extremely painful season in his life. It’s a book of anguish and suffering penned thousands of years ago. As I read passages, they flew off the page as the voice of Erik expressing his anguish in my ears.

Consider the following quotes cursing his existence:

"…opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. Let the day perish on which I was to be born, and the night which said, A boy is conceived. May that day be darkness; Let not God above care for it, Nor light shine on it.” (Job 3:1-4)

"I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul.” (Job 10:1)

Consider his questions why:

"Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?" (Job 3:11)

"Why then did you bring me out of the womb? I wish I had died before any eye saw me.
If only I had never come into being, or had been carried straight from the womb to the grave!" (Job 10:18-19)

"Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure, who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave? (Job 3:20-22)

Human suffering is not a topic we care to focus upon, but when we look at Erik, he is truly a picture of human suffering and anguish. His extreme pain is evident in his actions and heard in the cry of his sobs.

We all experience various forms of suffering and anguish in our lives. It is true, some experience more than others. Throughout the ages, humans have called it by many names: your cross to bear, your lot in life, fate dealing you a rotten hand, bad karma, etc. Whatever term you give it, whether you are religious or a non-believer, anguish and suffering is as universal as the air we breathe.

Although we can empathize with those who suffer, we cannot bear the anguish or pains of another. I cannot imagine the totality of Erik’s anguished soul or the deep affect it had on his psyche. Like you, I can only read about it, see it portrayed on stage and film, and ponder what he must have felt. His anguish is his own. “Each heart knows its own bitterness…” (Proverbs 14:10)

Unfortunately, we are not given reasons for our anguish and pain. We often ask why. I know I’m not the only one to lift my head to the heavens and question, in fact demand a reason behind my own personal sufferings. No doubt, we have all heard the same silence. We can only speculate, or like Job’s friends, be judged by others for why we suffer.

We could ask the same questions about Erik. Why was he burdened with such a horrid deformity and relegated to a life of suffering and rejection? On the other hand, we could also ask why was he blessed with such marvelous musical genius in return?

That, my friend, is the humanity of the story that touches our hearts. It’s here at this point of anguish we all relate in some way. As a result, we are profoundly drawn to The Phantom of the Opera, which grips our hearts and will not let go.

The Phantom’s Student

1 comment:

rhapsody said...

The story struck me as such a tragedy, but my introduction to it was the 2004 movie. I did read the book afterward, which I want to read again, and at first read could not see how one was adapted from the other...

That said, I do want to address the suffering in the story, although it will be as I saw it initially. Allow me to say first, I saw Erik differently from one story to the next (including subsequent sequels), as each author's telling paints him slightly differently. Leroux's Erik, from what I could see, voluntarily withdrew from his fellow man; he had worked with other men on the opera house, and continued to do so during the war. From what I could see, he wanted to "retire" from mankind. Movie Erik was forced into hiding after having been horribly abused as a child, and while fleeing his captors...

As far as Erik's suffering goes, I was struck by the ending of the movie version, as for one thing I didn't see it coming. To see him give up his love after she would have (apparently) done her best to make the best of life with him, was a striking sacrifice (not to mention her sacrifice for Raoul, and Raoul's sacrifice for her). And as all the subsequent tellings and sequels have happened as a result, I see I'm not the only one affected. However, the suffering of the character of Erik, which affected me so much, and the end of the lair scene, which gave me a glimmer of hope for him (don't want to spoil anything here), surprisingly, to me anyway, stayed with me for quite a while.

And too, I was amazed at how affected I was by the suffering and sacrifice of this fictional character. And it got me thinking of the suffering and sacrifice of Another - and I also turned to the Bible, and reread of the ultimate sacrifice suffered alone, for all our sakes...

If the suffering of a fictional character could affect me so much, how much moreso should I be affected by the most ultimate, actual sacrifice - suffered singularly - of our Lord Jesus Christ? These are the thoughts and questions that this heart-wrenching story has left me with.

Thanks for giving me the chance to post them!

God bless you.