Sunday, July 3, 2011

Leroux's Endearing Term for Erik - "Monster"

Fifty-one times . . . yes, 51 times (if my PDF search is right of the text), Leroux pens your beloved Phantom as a "monster."  In fact everyone in the story calls him a monster.  Leroux uses the term first, "What monster had carried her off and by what means?"

Christine calls him a monster, "My lies were as hideous as the monster who inspired them; but they were the price of my liberty."

Raoul calls him a monster, "And why should I hesitate to betray that monster, sir?"

The Persian refers to him as the monster.  "I recognized the monster's touch!"

What do you think of when you see the word monster?  The dictionary defines it as, "any animal or human grotesquely deviating from the normal shape, behavior, or character."  The Persian pretty well confirms the term in the following:
"I could not help shuddering when I thought of the monster. His horrible, unparalleled and repulsive ugliness put him without the pale of humanity; and it often seemed to me that, for this reason, he no longer believed that he had any duty toward the human race."
I've been thinking a lot about the mental instability of the Phantom in many ways and why it is we often  overlook his dark tendencies in spite of all his hideous characteristics.  I'm not just talking about what is behind the mask.  We all understand that deformity.  However, like Webber pens, there is more distortion to the man than a mere physical problem - he's deformed in his soul.  

When you read the statement above made by the Persian, it seems that he is inferring that Erik justified his distorted behavior toward humanity because his distorted face gave him justification to do so.  He had no  duty toward the human race whatsoever, so he acted out those beliefs by torturing and murdering others.  Even Christine accuses him in Webber's version of murdering without thought. 

What is it about Erik's distorted soul?  Is he filled with rage and hatred for his lot in life?  Does he torture others because he's a tortured soul?  Does he murder the normal, as if he wishes to murder the abnormal in him?  Erik is a man of anger, hurt, pain, and the outward manifestation of all that boils beneath the surface turns him into the monster everyone thinks he is in both appearance and action.

Each of us have a choice when faced with the monster.  We can recoil in fear and disgust.  We can show  empathy toward the pitiful creature of darkness, or we can pity him, like the Persian does.  It's that pity in Leroux's version that Raoul doesn't understand that both he and Christine offers to Erik.   
"I do not understand you. You treat him as a monster, you speak of his crime, he has done you harm and I find in you the same inexplicable pity that drove me to despair when I saw it in Christine!"

It's inexplicable to Raoul anyone should show the monster pity.  It drives him to despair that two people find it in their heart to understand the root of his problem.  Erik harms both of them - the Persian and Christine.  However, neither holds a grudge against the monster, but they hold a healthy fear of him knowing of the monstrous behaviors he's capable of displaying.  As the Persian states, "I have forgiven him him the harm which he has done me."

Christine does the same.  Kidnapped and imprisoned by the monster she fears, she watches his behavior and declares to Raoul that she cannot hate him.  
"With horror!" she said. "That is the terrible thing about it. He fills me with horror and I do not hate him. How can I hate him, Raoul? Think of Erik at my feet, in the house on the lake, underground. He accuses himself, he curses himself, he implores my forgiveness!...He confesses his cheat. He loves me! He lays at my feet an immense and tragic love. ... He has carried me off for love!...He has imprisoned me with him, underground, for love!"
Why must we forgive the monster?  The theme of forgiveness is one buried in the Phantom of the Opera  too teaching us it's better to forgive than to hate.  Yet it doesn't do away with the fact that Erik was a monster.  I often wonder if that is why Erik is sometimes portrayed as young and sexy underneath a deformity most can live with, because we want to sugarcoat the true distortion underneath.  It's frankly just too hideous to consider.

He was a madman in many ways, filled with rage and anger burning toward his fellow human being.  The root of that rage could be multifaceted from everything from jealousy of those normal, self-loathing for his hideous appearance, and anger towards the lack of compassion from others.  What other mental instability could he have possessed?  Could we use the insanity defense on his behalf for his murderous crimes? 

The legal definition states he could have been impaired by a mental disease or defect at the time he acted out his hatred toward others.  Did he not know what he was doing and acting out in volitional insanity or with an irresistible impulse to kill?  This defense states that one can distinguish between right and wrong at the time of the act, but suffers from a mental condition that makes him incapable of controlling himself.  Interesting to note that this defense is common in crimes of vengeance.  Only Erik can tell us if vengeance was served as he strangled the life out of his victims.  Did he enjoy it or did he loathe it?

Well, after this gross dissection of Erik's mental instability or distortion in his soul, what do you take away from his personality?  If he had harmed you, would you have forgiven him or would you have been like Raoul still filled with disgust over the monster that caused you harm?  Forgive him or not, Erik definitely had a very dark side about his persona.  Perhaps that is why we like to smooth over that inward ugliness with handsome men behind the mask we find appealing and sexy regardless of his facial deformity on one side.

Enough of psychoanalyzing our beloved Phantom.  He represents within each of us the light and darkness we possess in our own souls.

Monstrously yours,
The Phantom's Student aka Vicki

PS...if these additional posts keep up, I'll be releasing edition number three!  The thoughts just keep coming.  Blame it on the monster!



Debbi Henson said...

I have thought about the monstrosity in Erik numerous times; and I have come away with this; he is a Sociopath, most likely brought out by a defect of his birth and/or fed by his mother's hatred of him from the moment he drew a breath.

I have also come to the conclusion that he may have been afflicted with Bi-polar Disorder. This is based on my own personal experience with a family member with the disease.

Would Erik have been 'a monster' had he been loved and accepted by his mother and society in general? Maybe. Does the Bi-polar Disorder excuse his behaviour? Again, maybe.

In any case, it has been my decision to accept Erik as he is; 'a monster' worth my forgiveness and love.

Anonymous said...

I know phantom is considered a mad man, but i believe that his maddness is what makes him so beautiful (figuratively speaking and a little LND refference) the man truly loathes himself so he burries himself in his music to hide from his cursed face and the ridicule he recieves. If I were Christine I would absoloutely have been horrified by his outwardly appearenve. Its human nature. But to love Erik, is a very difficult thing. To love Erik you have to learn to overlook the twisted soul that convince him murder was the answer. Erik deserves a chance to prove himself as well. Raoul immediately classified him as a demon in the book simply because he took Christine. Raoul didn't try to learn the reason behind the maddness. As time went on I believe I would absoloutely learn to love and accept Erik for his passion and wholeheartedness that lies deep within his soul.