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Discussion Post 6 
6th-Jul-2007 03:58 pm
a2a rabbit hole
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Summary for Chapter Ten:

Christine puts Raoul and herself at risk when she meets with Raoul at the masquerade ball. After a mysterious man in a death’s head costume is spotted, Raoul is convinced he has met the man from Perros again. Following Christine to her dressing room Raoul gets more than he bargained for when he realized this man--has a name.

Possible Discussion Questions:

-Why do you think Leroux places Christine in a black domino, black being the literary equivalent of the villain, and Raoul in hero white?

-What is the significance of the references to Poe’s Red Death?

-“And then, this costume and this mask had another advantage: He would be able to move about comfortably in them as if her were at home with his sick heart and his disordered soul. He would have no need to pretend. He would not need to mask his feelings. He had a mask."
What do you think Leroux means by using the mask as freedom for Raoul, while it is a prison for Erik?

-How do you interpret Raoul’s emotional outbursts in this chapter?

Summary for Chapter Nine:

Raoul meets with Christine and Mama Valerius about the Angel of Music, insisting he is there only to protect Christine’s honor.

Possible Discussion Questions:

- Raoul admits early on he has no doubt that Christine loves the Voice. Christine asks him a question he never answers. So why does Raoul condemn a man he as never seen and about whom he knows nothing?

- Christine seemingly changes overnight after the Masque, from a tragic, scared girl, to fresh faced, seemingly restored. Why do you think this is?

-Why is Christine so frightened when she realizes that Raoul knows the name of her Spirit of Music is Erik?
Comments 
7th-Jul-2007 03:57 pm (UTC)
Does anyone know who the artist to whom Leroux refers on page 97? The in whose honour the ball is given? Leroux says he is an 'emulator of Gavarni' - but doesn't actually name him. I was just wondering whether he was referring to a real artist.

Lots more imagery here of Raoul as a boy. He speaks in tones of 'childish hatred', and cries out of temper.

I also feel that there is more misogyny abounding in thes chapters. Leroux might tell us earlier that Raoul is pure and honourable - but his language here is frequently quite hateful. I wonder how much he reveals about himself when he loses his temper and lets his tongue run away with him? He applies the words 'deceitful', 'hypocritical' and 'shameful' to Christine. He calls her 'a common girl from the Opera' The speed with which he attemps to take on a role of authority over Christine is quite amazing - effectively going 'over her head' to her adopted mother and demanding explanations and promises of good behaviour:

"You must...promise to stay in our safekeeping from now on"

This is very controlling and pompous. There's also the angel/whore dichotemy again. He swings between classifying Christine as an 'unfortunate, innocent child' or a shameless flirt. I'm actually really struck by the misogyny displayed by Raoul in his thought on/encounters with Christine in the novel - it's not something I had picked up on the first time I read it.

Another mysterious letter written in the dressing room which we do not get a chance to read.

Interestingly, for someone who descibed the situation as a tragedy, Christine seems genuinely pleased to see Erik - and her appearance is much improved after she returns from her visit to him. I'm not sure what this is all about.
7th-Jul-2007 04:38 pm (UTC)
Interestingly, for someone who descibed the situation as a tragedy, Christine seems genuinely pleased to see Erik - and her appearance is much improved after she returns from her visit to him. I'm not sure what this is all about.

I am (LOLOLOL)

But Raoul is right - Christine *is* behaving with duplicity. In both cases she *invites* Raoul, first coyly to Perros, then more explicitly to the Masked Ball. Granted, Raoul is pretty stupid in how he responds; an older, more sophisticated man wouldn't have lost his temper like that, leaving her to stomp off. Frankly, he blew it. But he is young and callow, and dreadfully jealous of Erik - because he sees Erik's effect on Christine.
7th-Jul-2007 08:41 pm (UTC)
Heh. I suppose you're right. Actually, it's difficult to read POTO without filling in bits of plot and details from your own POTP.

I agree that Christine is behaving duplicitously here, leaving coy little notes here and there. It's the nastiness underlying Raoul's outbursts that get to me. She's never just allowed to be a normal woman - he is always charcaterising her as either a slightly backwards child, or a whore. Maybe it's just indicative of attitudes towards women at the time.

I didn't like the way he brought Christine's father into the talk at Mama Valerius' house either - more or less telling Christine that her behaviour would shame her father. There's just something about how he always ties himself with authority figures and then tryies to place Christine into the role of child and dependent that makes me queasy.
7th-Jul-2007 10:23 pm (UTC)
Anonymous
Only I think Leroux's Erik actually showed her a quite better time than mine ... ; )

The men in Christine's life *all* treat her like either a child or a wayward. I think it's totally consistent with how women were seen then.
7th-Jul-2007 04:50 pm (UTC)
There are a couple of points in the Masked Ball chapter which I find really fascinating.

First off, Erik is the only one without a mask. Raoul's mask isn't for freedom, but to hide his sorrow and despair over Christine. (This ties in with Leroux's assertion that "everyone in Paris wears masks" from an earlier chapter.)

So to me, Raoul's mask signifies hypocrisy. Erik is the one who's being honest tonight.

A comment or two about the Ball itself. It's a real bacchanal, Leroux tells us - full of artists and their models, their hangers-on, and "wilder than the usual." I think Leroux stresses this because he has a somewhat mocking archetype going regarding Christine - the "virgin in the whorehouse" (apparently quite the staple in 19th century pornography.) Hence her black domino.

Raoul, OTOH, is in a white domino because he's really, genuinely "pure" (probably the only character in the story who is.) I know our own modern interpretation is to see Christine as the "pure" one, but IMO Leroux is somewhat tongue-in-cheek about that, until the end, when Christine really does appear "like a nun." (There are a lot of points to be made about nuns, sexuality, and why Christine would appear nun-like on her marriage eve to Erik, but that's for later.)

The other powerful image in the Masked Ball chapter is how Christine exits it. Erik comes to her (Raoul conveniently watching, else we would lose the POV) and sings the wedding hymn, "Night of our marriage" from Gounod's Romeo and Juliet. I am sure everyone here has heard it, but if not, it's worth
checking out. For one thing, it's a duet, but Erik sings it solo (the story of his life...) For another, it has powerful erotic imagery. It's not what R&J sung at their wedding, but what they sing when they wake up in bed, after their night in each other's arms.

In other words, Erik does have some high expectations at the conclusion of the evening.

Leroux wasn't a prude. IMO it was to suggest that Christine's apple-cheeked freshness the next morning was for one reason, and one reason alone.

This leads to your question, why does Raoul condemn Erik? Because he sees Erik's effect on Christine. This is in line with the whole literary thrust - to not show Erik directly (except at the Masked Ball, and for a moment in Perros) but to show his effect on other people.

Re: the naming of Erik - I think it's a reference to the ancient fairy-tale and mythic tradition, that to know the name of the spirit or the gnome is to have power over it.

10th-Jul-2007 03:30 am (UTC)
I agree with you, stefanie_bean. Raoul is the only pure one. Christine seems to be using him, and Erik is tainted from the life he must lead. I truly believe Chistine loves both of them--Erik adn Raoul--in different ways. Raoul represents freedom, and Erik is the darkness and sexuality she doesn't get in her world.

It isn't fair about the masks for Raoul and Erik, and I didn't like those sentences, which seem to be to be a roundabout way of more of Raoul's ideas about Erik, although he doesn't know of Erik's mask. But for Erik the masked ball is freedom--he is just like everyone else, for a moment in time.

I agree. Now that Raoul knows Erik's name, she is afraid he may find a way to hold Erik in his power, and that scares her, because, as I've said, she loves him, in a different way than Raoul, but love still.
10th-Jul-2007 01:40 pm (UTC)
It isn't fair about the masks for Raoul and Erik, and I didn't like those sentences, which seem to be to be a roundabout way of more of Raoul's ideas about Erik...

But the story is mostly told from Raoul's POV, and Raoul is *not* going to have a view of Erik that's either objective or kind. I think that's why there's so much POTO fanfiction (for a relatively obscure, small, and thin novel) - because it's too tempting to reframe the story from either Erik or Christine's POV.

What "worked" as a literary technique for Leroux in his time&place doesn't really "work" for us. We want the "real story," the in-depth psychology, etc.

But Leroux was content to tell the story from three POV - the "narrator," (probably a self-insert), Raoul, and the Persian. All of these narrators are 'flawed' - not because they're bad people or anything, but because their narratives have great holes and ambiguities, and each has their own reasons *not* to be objective.
16th-Jul-2007 08:10 pm (UTC)
Leroux wasn't a prude. IMO it was to suggest that Christine's apple-cheeked freshness the next morning was for one reason, and one reason alone.


Huh, I was wondering about that myself, and no one else seems to have any other theories about why she's so much better the next morning either.
7th-Jul-2007 07:33 pm (UTC)
I have to agree. The play- the musical,whatever you want to call it- has given us a picture of Christine as an innocent. I go back to my earlier opinion that she is far from an innocent, and not really very bright. Raoul places a close second in lack of smarts, as well. He goes back and forth between thinking she is 'an unfortunate, innocent child who was a victim of imprudence and oversensitivity'

Yeah, right.

I also think she is playing a game, pitting her Angel against Raoul. Will she end up with the stronger one? Who IS the stronger one?

And then there is the matter of ring.

The link to Poe's 'Red Death' is broken....

"She put on her mask again and left, with a gesture that forbade him to follow her." Except, she probably had an idea that this was going to inflame his curiosity and jealousy. One way or another he'd find out about 'the Angel' - he'd be seen and destroyed, or not seen and perhaps rescue her.

Interesting that she refuses to answer at all when Madame Valerius begs to promise to never leave again. Raoul, who seems to vacillate between being ineffectual and being bossy, tells her she must promise to never leave again, and then notices the RING.

He wants her. She's not worthy of him. No, wait, she is worthy of him. Is LeRoux making fun of 'love'? Is he being snide and suggesting that love makes fools of everyone in this little triangle?

8th-Jul-2007 12:50 am (UTC)
Is he being snide and suggesting that love makes fools of everyone in this little triangle?

I think so. This is my personal opinion, and I know others in the POTO fandom don't see it this way, but to me, Leroux's story is very "modern" in its anti-romanticism. It's the ALW interpretation which injected romance into the mix. Not that romance is bad, per se - it's just that personally, I suspect Leroux has a lot of tongue-in-cheek stuff that probably doesn't even survive the translation. JMHO.
10th-Jul-2007 05:41 am (UTC)
I'm feeling guilty for not yet posting anything yet...but I'm going to post more when I can tomorrow.
10th-Jul-2007 09:33 pm (UTC)
While re-reading the novel I've forgotten how much Raoul can come across as the arrogant pansy so many fans of the movie and musical make him out to be. Especially when, as you all have noticed, he believes Christine is a slut or an innocent girl.

I also thought Leroux's little side story of Princess Belmonte was interesting. This reminded me of the play Cyrano de Bergerac, which published around the time of Leroux. I'm wondering what it's telling of society at that time.
11th-Jul-2007 06:21 pm (UTC)
I’d like to apologize for being such a lurker, and never posting… So, sorry.
One of the interesting things to me (in the phandom as a whole) is the Raoul ‘debate’. Part of the phans saying “Raoul is a fop/cry baby/jerk”, and part saying that he isn’t. It’s gotten to the point that, on a lot of sites, you can’t say one negative thing about Raoul without being called a basher. Either he’s a sweet, charming, brave, ‘perfect’ guy, or else you’re a basher. Leroux hardly makes Raoul sound ‘perfect’. People seem to forget (or ignore) this, instead blaming ALW, Susan Kay, Patrick Wilson, etcetera, for the poor opinion most people have of Raoul.
I’ve never liked Raoul. I have, on occasion, defended him against some of the more ridiculous arguments, but only out of a sense of fairness, not from any fondness I had for him. People would tell me, “Oh, you’ll like Raoul after you read Leroux.” . . . Yeah, right… After reading Leroux, I like Raoul even less. I also dislike being thought of as a basher for bothering to consider what Leroux himself had to say about his characters.
Has anyone here read ‘Angel of the Opera’ by Sam Siciliano? (The one that was a crossover between PotO and Sherlock Holmes.) His characterization of Raoul was very whiny/annoying, to the point of getting on Holmes’ nerves.

I’ve always wondered about the artist that the Masquerade was celebrating. I was glad to see that the Bair translation has more information about it than the other translation, but I still haven’t been able to find out if this person really existed, or anything else about them.
16th-Jul-2007 08:08 pm (UTC)
I believe that Christine is in black because to Raoul she is in a way the villain. From Raoul's perspective, here we have this woman he met as a child who seemed fond of him. The two spent some time together, looking for stories and listening to Christine's father. Three years after that, things are awkward, but Raoul doesn't pay that much mind, kissing Christine a couple times and saying he won't forget her, all the while knowing he wouldn't be able to marry her. Now the two have met up once more, and there are more forces (Erik) driving them apart. To Raoul, who is confused enough about his feelings (torn between them and the class/wealth difference), she is a bit of a villain to his hero.


Erik himself is sort of the Red Death, untouchable and looked badly upon by society. Then when he is touched (or seen as we find out later) he claims the victim.

The mask comparison of Raoul's being a freedom and Erik's a prison, could be another way to tip the scales in showing that Erik needs someone, since he is already miserable.

Raoul's outbursts are really a product of not getting any answers, either why Christine seemingly doesn't want him anymore or about the Phantom/Angel of Music/man from Perros. They really begin to show another side of him, a more angry side (obviously) that is quick to judge and shout and accuse.

I think Raoul's insecurities about his own love for Christine prompt his condemning of a man he doesn't know. Anyone posing such a threat to his first love probably would've received the same anger and condemning.

Christine's fear from Raoul's new discovery of the Spirit of Music's name is probably rooted in the fact that Erik will not be pleased to have been found out. It's dangerous for Christine and Raoul's safety as well, because of Erik's temper.
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