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A Phantom of the Opera Reading Community
Discussion Post 13 
25th-Aug-2007 09:59 am
a2a rabbit hole
Sorry for posting this late and without any summaries. It's been a very crazy week for me and I forgot!

-Why do you think there is so much Christian imagery here? (The book Christine's reading and her being described as a nun.)

-Do you think Erik's sudden change of heart is believable?

-What do you think of Erik's past described in the Epilogue?

-What are your thoughts on the whole novel?
25th-Aug-2007 05:14 pm (UTC)
There's a lot more Christian imagery in POTO than just these sections. I have always been especially interested at the motif surrounding Erik's heart, when he describes it as being 'quartered.' The image of a heart laced with thorns (Sacred Heart of Jesus) or pierced with thorns (Immaculate Heart of Mary) was common in French Catholic popular art at the time. Erik's "sacred heart" is referred to several times, as in the section where it's said that, in essence, his heart was big enough to contain the world. So while Christine's actions do invoke Catholic imagery here, so do Erik's, in a sense.

The book Christine is reading is supposed to "look like" Thomas a Kempis's "Imitation of Christ," a popular devotional manual. IMO Leroux is giving us a big heads-up that Christine is about to do something very "Christlike."

That seems odd on the surface; after all, Erik is supposed to be a crazy murderer. But Christine's "Christlike" act in a sense makes Erik "Christlike too" - she imitates Christ, but by letting them go, Erik is also imitating Christ (i.e. he is doing something out of selflessness, giving up something he badly wants, because doing so is the right thing to do.)

I always liked the description of Christine moving and walking like a nun. Modern people sometimes don't have an idea of how distinctive a way of moving that is. A good way to see it is to rent the 1959 Audrey Hepburn movie, The Nun's Story. Hepburn herself met with older Belgian nuns and studied from them how to affect that effortless "gliding" motion which characterized their walk.

In a more "realistic" story, no, I don't think Erik's change of heart would be believable. However, since POTO has so many allegorical (and religious) elements, I can suspend my disbelief to accept that in Leroux's story universe, yes, it is believable. (Unless of course you think that Erik was screwing around with Christine and Raoul's heads to the very last ... a common darkfic theme, I guess.)

To me, the Epilogue is typical of a serial novel - one where all the stuff gets stuck which the writer thought of along the way, but didn't include earlier. I thought Erik's working-class origins were *perfect* and entirely appropriate to the story. (While very little gets my goat in fanfiction, I do get exercised about stories where Erik is robbed of his "common" background and made a "long-lost de Chagny brother" or cousin or something like that. ) I guess I'm just attached to him as a "man of the people," and the class issues of POTO stand out more sharply, to me anyway, when Erik is of the lower class.

26th-Aug-2007 10:52 pm (UTC)
I love how open-ended it is. Not one bit of Erik's confession is verifiable, and none of the 'proof' the narrator offers at the end stands up to examination either. We really only have the word of the Persian, who we know is almost obsessed with Erik. It's all very readerly.
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