Saturday, August 8, 2009

Doubt

Not long ago, I rented a movie entitled “Doubt,” staring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. The movie contains a powerful message and an ending that I frankly found haunting. The theme, of course, is doubt and the power it possesses.

Leroux skillfully wields doubt throughout the Phantom of the Opera. He uses it in various forms. His characters express their uncertainty, distrust, and skepticism over certain matters, and he speaks of his own doubts as well. Let’s take a look at a few instances.

Raoul is one character riddled with doubt over Christine. He doubts her love, the truth behind her statements, and even her virtuous conduct as a woman. The most glaring doubt he harbors is whether or not she truly loves him. It’s quite obvious, her words say one thing, but her actions display another. As a result, Raoul expresses his doubts.

"I doubted your love for me, during those hours."

Though Christine tries to assure him his doubts are unfounded because she acted out of fright with regard to Erik, Raoul continues to question her sincerity.

"You are frightened...but do you love me?
If Erik were good-looking, would you love me, Christine?"

Of course, then comes the infamous kiss between Christine and Raoul on the rooftop as she attempts to convince him of her love. Was Raoul convinced or did he still harbor his doubts?

Christine harbored her own doubts over Raoul’s ability to free her from Erik’s influence. As they ascended to the rooftop, Leroux says she entertained the possibility and allowed herself this doubt. What doubt? Apparently, she was convinced that no one could save her from Erik’s power, and for one brief moment she allowed herself to believe that there could be freedom, rather than doubting.

"I will remove you from his power, Christine, I swear it. And you shall not think of him any more." "Is it possible?" She allowed herself this doubt, which was an encouragement….”

Philippe, as we all know, vehemently opposed the union between Raoul and Christine. Did he have doubts that Raoul was totally crazy for loving Christine? Apparently, but when he attempts to run away and elope with her, Philippe’s doubts are dispelled and he truly thinks his brother is mad!

“And the count, who no longer entertained any doubt of his brother's madness, in his turn darted into that infernal underground maze.”

Of course, the most doubt expressed in the story swirls around the Opera Ghost, our dear Erik. A few of our characters have their doubts about Erik. It takes Christine’s disappearance for Raoul to no longer doubt Erik’s power:

"Raoul's first thought, after Christine Daae's fantastic disappearance, was to accuse Erik. He no longer doubted the almost supernatural powers of the Angel of Music, in this domain of the Opera in which he had set up his empire."

The managers at first doubted the antics of the Ghost, until they were finally convinced of his powers as well.

"Richard and Moncharmin turned pale. There was no longer any doubt about the witchcraft. 'The ghost!' muttered Moncharmin."

The Persian often doubted Erik’s words. Regarding the fate of Christine and Raoul, it took tears to convince him otherwise:

"The Persian asked him no questions. He was quite reassured as to the fate of Raoul Chagny and Christine Daae; no one could have doubted the word of the weeping Erik that night."

Our author is definitely the weaver of doubt, but the biggest one he toys with throughout the entire story is whether Erik truly lived! He tells of his investigations into the fable, his discussions with the Persian, his discovery of the famous bundle of letters written by Christine, and then makes the statement that he no longer has doubt the Ghost truly existed and pens the following:

"I was at first inclined to be suspicious; but when the Persian had told me, with child-like candor, all that he knew about the ghost and had handed me the proofs of the ghost's existence--including the strange correspondence of Christine Daae--to do as I pleased with, I was no longer able to doubt. No, the ghost was not a myth!"

Of course, that is the one big question that surrounds this story. Is it truly an investigation by Gaston Leroux into the existence of the Ghost? Is the prologue and epilogue truth, and the middle merely his fanciful fiction rendition of the events as they transpired? Or dare I say is the entire thing a fabrication and the result of his wild imagination as he writes the novel?

As I look at the book sitting upon my desk next to my computer, the pages appear wrapped in an aura of mystery. As stated in the play, perhaps it is a strange affair that will never fully be explained. Will any of us ever know if it was a carefully crafted story of illusion to make you think it was real? Did Erik truly live or is he just the figment of Leroux’s imagination? As I stated before, Leroux lived in an era when illusion was big business. Was this just another illusion as a means of entertainment?

Do my questions create doubt in your heart? What evidence do you have there is an ounce of truth in the story? Do you believe or do you doubt that Erik, the Phantom of the Opera, truly existed? Perhaps Leroux was just weaving a tale after all. Oh, excuse me, I'm sowing seeds of doubt. One small planting, a little watering, doubt will grow, and truth will be become shades of gray.

Doubt – a five letter word packed with power.

As always, your obedient servant. I hope you never doubt that!

The Phantoms' Student

1 comment:

Orandon Marie said...

Hello Vicki!
Congratulations with all the work and progress you are making here! Inspiring!

You know Miss, I believe the TRUTH is always stranger than fiction. (What comes to mind is the life and death of another masked one - Michael Jackson...)

I believe loneliness and poverty, especially in spirit, can drive people to do obscure and unbalanced things; to live in ways that are unconventional. From that perspective, I believe Erik existed. I have certainly known people like him!

I believe that (like your blog!) consciousness can open doorways... Doorways into people's souls, even, if we are deliberate enough to want to take a risk, to go beyond our doubts and allow ourselves a willingness... To penetrate and move beyond that tendency to normalize or minimize someone, or something, by saying or thinking they are not "real".

It would be easy, by that, to reduce a person and drive them into invisibility. Someone would miss out on a situation where truth and healing could redeem.

Some people, however, are unable to let these powerful forces in! (Thus, the mask.) Taking off the mask implies the action of facing the truth. Otherwise? The mask stays on, enmeshed in emotions of stunted growth, blame and shame. One cannot individuate or take personal responsibility for one's actions. They internalize other people's "stuff" as their own. Drugs and alcohol blur the lines between what is real and what is not. They need professional help. In the days of the Phantom, laudanum and opiates were the drugs of the day. Has that changed much?

Unfortunately, when it comes to things like love, romance and sex, the boundaries are easily diffused... Making it, in this case, treacherous and dangerous, for, we cannot make ourselves personally responsible for another person's happiness! That is NOT love, it's something else! Whereas in REAL love? There is a divine match in energy - intention - and grace.
Orandon