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The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
The Phantom of the Opera is a classic novel that can be enjoyed by readers time and time again. This novel, by Gaston Leroux, delves into the mysterious life of the opera ghost, Eric, and his Paris Opera House. Readers will not be disappointed by the riveting, yet subtle dialogue that is a key component to the plot and characters in this novel.
Phantom is set in the Paris Opera in 1881. It opens in the prologue with our narrator, a ‘historian', attesting to the fact that the Opera Ghost of the Paris Opera House really existed. We then hear more whispers about the mysterious ghost as young dancers rush into a makeup room after seeing a man with a death's head, whom they believe is the ghost. To add to the excitement, we find out a while later that a scene-shifter was found dead, hanging from the third floor cellar.
Next, we are introduced to another of the main characters, a young opera singer called Christina Daae. She faints on stage after her performance, and is helped by Raoul Chagny, a childhood friend. After the opera performance, parties began to celebrate the retirement of the two old managers, and the employment of two new managers of the opera house, called M. Moncharmin and M. Richard. As the retiring managers bid good luck to Moncharmin and Richard, they share that the opera ghost bid them to tell the new managers that he requires 20,000 francs a month, and the reservation of Box Five for every performance. Richard and Moncharmin believe this to be a traditional joke played on new managers, and play along to please the old managers.
The opera ghost, or Eric, continues leaving notes to M. Richard and M. Moncharmin requesting Box Five and his francs, or else a terrible disaster will result. The managers continue less enthusiastically to believe that it is a practical joke played on them. They eventually come to believe in the ghost after a certain envelope and franc incident, where Eric tricked them out of 20,000 francs twice.
Throughout the book, Eric's love for Christine grows, to the point where he has finished a musical masterpiece titled Don Juan Triumphant. He expects this to be played at their wedding, which he has almost completely organized by the time he tells her this. At the same time, Christine and Raoul fall in love, and plan to get married as soon as Christine can escape from Erik. Erik knows this, and takes Christine hostage in his house on the lake for two weeks, before realizing how utterly miserable she is there, and letting her go.
When Erik realizes that Christine doesn't love him back, he kidnaps her yet again to his lake house, this time in the middle of a performance. Here we are introduced to the Persian, a man who seems to be somewhat close to Erik. The Persian finds Raoul, and together, they go through a trap door in the third floor cellar to rescue Christine. To their dismay, they find themselves in Erik's torture chamber, which contains mirror-covered walls, and metal forests used for hanging his victims. They are, however, able to hear Erik and Christine's conversation, in which Erik begs for her to marry him. If she says no, then Erik will kill both of them at eleven o'clock tomorrow.
The rest of the evening the Persian and Raoul spend trying to escape from the torture room. Yet Erik ingeniously built walls with heated coils inside them, so that whoever was in the room would eventually die of dehydration. Both the Persian and Raoul are saved this gruesome fate when Christine turns a brass figure of a scorpion around, signaling to Erik that she will marry him. This floods the cellar with water, and douses the gunpowder that would've blown the opera house up, should she have chose not to marry him
Erik narrates later to tell how Christine agreed to be his bride, and let him kiss her on the forehead. This small act of compassion has a life-altering effect on Erik. He has never been loved or adored until this small kiss, and it completely changes his character. He turns from being hateful, wicked, and cruel into a more humane and civilized individual with a gentler nature. Experiencing love and kindness helps Erik see that Christine could never be happy as his bride. He sets her free to marry Raoul, with her promise to return to him when he dies, and to bury him. Erik dies three weeks later, with a newspaper eloquently announcing that ‘Erik is dead.'
Gaston Leroux is most famous for his classic novel, The Phantom of the Opera. However, he has written other masterpieces, such as The Mystery of the Yellow Room, and Bride of the Sun. Leroux's novels are appealing to readers because of his gift at probing into the human mind and soul, and sharing through his books the nature of good and evil. He was one of the most prominent authors in the 20th century, and many of his books have been turned into plays, and movies. I believe any reader could enjoy his novels, because of the mystery he leaves hanging after every turn of the page.
The Phantom of the Opera is an extremely well-written book, full of mystery, suspense, and anticipation. It is one of my new favorites, simply because of the sheer genius of the dialogue and storyline. What makes this book so interesting is that the author distributes small pieces of information evenly throughout the whole book, so that you are never completely informed about any one part. This keeps the reader hooked to the book, wanting to finish, and to find out what happens next.
The only thing I really disliked about this book was numerous chapters devoted to Raoul and his perspective. I found Raoul to be an extremely annoying character, who acted both cowardly and irrationally more times than I wanted to count. I had to force myself to skim through the chapter devoted to his character, because he was just too frustrating to read about. However, this was my only true dislike of the book, and I otherwise thought it was a wholly worthwhile book.
I would recommend The Phantom of the Opera to everyone above the eighth grade. People beneath this grade level would probably not be able to comprehend some words or passages, because they are too complex, and meant for an older, more educated crowd. I think everyone above the eighth grade should read this book, even if they at first don't enjoy it. All readers can pick up valuable ideas, and perceive any one the underlying messages the author is expressing.
This novel started out quite slow, and was hard to get into at the beginning. The many references to different literary works, such as to Moncharmin's Memoirs, was very confusing, and didn't help the reader understand the point the narrator was trying to make. The book picked up speed towards the middle, and the reader was immediately drawn into the intricate web of mysteries that surrounds the opera house, and its ‘ghost'. The ending to this book was unexpected, and left me thinking about what consequences love had on Erik's mind. The author did an exceedingly good job of writing a book that causes its readers to contemplate and question the nature of the human mind, and the different emotions that can affect its mechanics.
Overall, I thought The Phantom of the Opera was a wonderful read, and a true literary masterpiece. This book probed into many different themes and ideas, and caused me to think about the great power love can have over the mind. We as readers could do with more books like this one, which cause you to look beneath the words written, and interpret yourself what the author is expressing. The Phantom of the Opera is a haunting and unforgettable novel which everyone should be able to enjoy at least once in their lifetime.