Literature / The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera was a novel by French author Gaston Leroux, published in serialized form in 1909 and 1910. Leroux tells what he insists is the true story of a young soprano, Christine, who believes she is being tutored by the "Angel of Music", sent to her from Heaven from her deceased father. Originally considered nothing special, especially compared to her rival and the opera's resident diva, Carlotta, after three months under the Angel's tutelage, Christine shines. The managers quickly realize the depth of her talent... and so does Christine's childhood best friend, Raoul, who sees her in all her newfound glory and realizes that She Is All Grown Up.

After a show, Raoul is eager to be reacquainted with Christine, but she is kidnapped by the Angel (really the titular Phantom) and taken to his lair. There, the Phantom puts her under his spell with his music and tells her that he wants her for his bride. However, when Christine takes off his mask to reveal his disfigurement, the Phantom throws her out in shame.

Shortly afterwards, Raoul and Christine become engaged. The Phantom overhears them, and decides to win Christine's love, once and for all... or, failing that, punish them both for their arrogance.

Also has a good number of adaptations throughout the years.

Contains examples of:

  • Above the Influence: Christine obviously expects several times to be raped during her two abductions, but it turns out the Phantom respects her privacy and honor.
  • Affably Evil: The usher Madame Giry certainly thinks so — as far as she knows, the Phantom is always a polite patron and a generous tipper!
  • Agent Scully: Mifroid and Faure, the police commissary and examining magistrate, laugh at Raoul's and the Persian's stories about the phantom of the opera.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Even Christine, the Persian, and the Narrator feel sorry for the homicidal maniac stalker's Death by Despair.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: The lake (see Truth in Television).
  • Antagonist Title: But then again...
  • Artifact Title: For English translations that refer to Erik as "the Opera ghost" or "the ghost" in the text instead of "phantom."
  • Backstory: The Persian tells the Phantom's backstory to Raoul (and to the narrator later).
  • Bad Liar: Christine, to the point where the Persian is practically Face Palming as she fails to Show Some Leg to Erik to get him and Raoul out of the torture chamber unnoticed.
    • In her first meeting with Raoul in years, she lies about knowing him to protect him from Erik who was eavesdropping. While it convinces Raoul to some degree, Erik is not fooled since she admitted to Erik that Raoul was a childhood friend of hers earlier.
  • Bastard Boyfriend: Erik could be a deconstruction if not an Unbuilt Trope: In the original book the author wants you to think Erik's a Jerkass and Christine is a saint for putting up with him: (Domestic Abuser meets Love Martyr), but the Misaimed Fandom (and all the adaptations) wants you to think Erik's totally hot and the relationship is deliciously kinky.
  • Beast and Beauty: Tragic enough to border on Deconstruction.
  • Beta Couple: Count Philippe and La Sorelli.
  • Betty and Veronica: With Raoul as Betty, the nice childhood sweetheart, and The Phantom filling the role of Veronica, the passionate madman.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Letting Christine go is, unquestionably, the right thing for Erik to do... but it's still hard not to feel sorry for him.
  • Bizarrchitecture: The Opera House. Originally this was because the Phantom was actually the architect and did it on purpose, but later versions leave it unexplained.
  • Blackmail: The Phantom demands 240,000 francs a year and exclusive use of First Tier Box 5 or else he'll drop chandeliers on people.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: Christine tries to do this to Raoul to save him from Erik's wrath. She goes so far as to deny knowing him during their first meeting in years.
  • Building of Adventure: The Paris Opera.
  • Cassandra Truth: After Christine is abducted from on-stage, Raoul quickly gains a solid reputation as a madman when he begs anyone who will listen to believe that she's been kidnapped by the phantom of the opera who lives in the cellars under the building.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Christine and Raoul.
  • Cold Iron: Is that the phantom coming? Run to touch iron, if you didn't take the precaution of having keys or a horseshoe near you!
  • Compelling Voice: Yes, this does come across all too well in a literary medium.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Long time before even meeting Christine, Erik worked for the Sha-in-Sha: the little sultana, the favorite of the Shah-in-Shah, was boring herself to death. Erik built a Hall of Mirrors for her. When she got bored of that, Erik transformed it into a Robotic Torture Device aptly named “the chamber of horrors”, used to execute people sentenced to death. He also taught her how to strangle people efficiently with the punjab lassoo. The little sultana soon applied that knowledge to simple peasants and her own friends.
    "Wretched man!" I cried. "Have you forgotten the rosy hours of Mazenderan?"
    "Yes," he replied, in a sadder tone, "I prefer to forget them. I used to make the little sultana laugh, though!"
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Erik becomes more and more vicious and threatening towards Christine as his jealousy of Raoul grows.
  • Damsel in Distress: Christine.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mifroid.
    • Erik also has his moments.
  • Dead Guy on Display: The final line of the novel is a plea for giving Erik's body this treatment. Oddly enough, it seems to be a Type 1, where the person was an honored figure (despite the fact that Erik was an unrepentant killer), and his body would be preserved as a relic/object of reverence:
    And, now, what do they mean to do with that skeleton? Surely they will not bury it in the common grave! ... I say that the place of the skeleton of the Opera ghost is in the archives of the National Academy of Music. It is no ordinary skeleton.
  • Death by Childbirth: Raoul's mother.
  • Death Trap: The Phantom installed one as the first room beyond the back entrance to his lair to intercept trespassers. When Raoul and the Persian fall into it, it starts as a Sauna of Death and ends as a Drowning Pit, although its greatest torture is psychological.
  • Decoy Protagonist: La Sorelli seems to be set up to be the female lead in the first chapter, but after the first few chapters she never shows up again.
  • Deceptively Human Robots: Erik "also invented those automata, dressed like the Sultan and resembling the Sultan in all respects, which made people believe that the Commander of the Faithful was awake at one place, when, in reality, he was asleep elsewhere." for Mehemet Alí Bey.
  • Disappeared Dad: During his Motive Rant, the Phantom laments (among other things) how he never knew his father.
  • Dramatic Unmask: It drives Erik into a rage to have his deformed face exposed.
  • Driven to Suicide: Torture Technician Erik's favorite method of disposing of his victims with his "chamber of horrors." If you are lucky, he only will strangle you to death.
  • Elaborate Underground Base
  • Entitled to Have You: Erik sees Christine's love for Raoul as betrayal.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The whole point of the novel is that Erik never believed that Christine could love him and so he was ready to destroy himself, her and everyone in the Opera house, but when she really accepts to be with him if he spares Raoul and kisses him, Erik is so moved that he lets her go.
  • Evil Laugh: Which leads Christine and the Persian to suspect poor Erik is (going) insane.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Raoul, twice. Christine is not too happy about it.
  • Fainting:
    • Christine faints on stage after her splendid gala performance in chapter 2. Either an emotional or exhaustion type.
    • Christine faints again during her first abduction when Erik grabs her. Fits both the monster reveal type faint, since it is the smell of death on his hand that causes her to faint, and also the emotional type faint, since she is already freaked out with what's going on.
    • When Raoul first comes face to face with Erik unmasked in the Perros graveyard, he faints. Fits both the monster reveal and emotional type faints, since Erik had already been trying to freak him out by playing the ghost and throwing skulls at him.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: Probably not the Trope Maker, but definitely the Trope Codifier and still one of the most famous examples of the breed. Based on a real-life accident when one of the counterweights of the Opera House's grand chandelier fell into the auditorium and killed a woman.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Christine tries to kill herself before the Phantom can force her to "marry" him in the climax.
    • It's worth noting, that Erik seems to have an almost humorously non-sexual view of marriage- his chief goal in having a pretty wife, as described to Christine herself, is to buy her nice things and take her for walks in the park on Sundays, while he wears a mask that (he thinks) sufficiently makes him look "like anyone else".
      • From a modern perspective, the threat of Christine being unable to be with the man she loves (and actually wants to marry) and in a forced state of virginity thanks to a sexless marriage with a repulsive man who treats her like a living doll could be seen as a Fate Worse Than Death in itself.
      • For all his talk about the happily married life they're going to have, Erik seems to be dead-set on a double-suicide with his new wife, once they've been married; he explains in the end that he only began seeing her as his living wife once she kissed him out of pity, and this prompted him to let her go. It has to be remembered that Erik is extremely unhinged and has a morbid obsession with death which doesn't let him go even when he's trying to become "normal".
  • Faux Affably Evil: In the same conversation Erik explains how he pulled the Practical Joke on Carlotta with his Ventriloquism he casually uses it to prank Raoul and the Daroga in the Torture Cellar.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Anyone who reads the prologue knows that the Persian survives to tell his story to the narrator, Christine and Raoul disappear from Parisian society never to be seen again, and Erik and Philippe both die.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: After running away from home, Erik was exhibited as “the living corpse” in fairs across all Europe, then learnt to be a magician and artist from the Gypsies. He was a great singer and ventriloquist and displayed great feats of legerdemain. The Shah-in-Shah, hearing about him, sent the Daroga to bring him to Persia. While there, he developed a talent for murder.
  • Gilded Cage: Christine's Louis-Philippe bedroom in Erik's house.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: The Phantom's gold eyes can only be seen in the dark, and they glow like a cat's.
  • The Grotesque: Subverted by Erik, whose deformities make him a living corpse, but also averts being a Gentle Giant: he is so socially deformed that his attitude as a psychopathic, jealous monster makes him truly terrifying. Ironically, his morally ambiguous attitude lets him fit into society very well, because Humans Are Bastards.
    • The Narrator lampshades in the Epilogue that Erik, with an ordinary face, would have been one of the most distinguished of mankind, due in no small part to his artistic and engineering skill. However, Erik is vindictive towards the humanity that rejected him, he holds human life at no value, and his act of mercy surprised even him.
  • The Gentleman or the Scoundrel: Raoul and Erik.
  • Hall of Mirrors: The Phantom uses one to convince Raoul and the Persian that they are trapped in a desert.
  • Happily Adopted: Christine by Madame Valerius after her father died.
  • Hello, Nurse!: La Sorelli.
  • He Who Must Not Be Named: Half the dancers and employees of the Paris Opera constantly try to tell the other half never to speak of "the ghost." The Persian refers to him as "He" around Raoul and orders Raoul not to say his name.
    • In Chapter XX, Raoul and the Persian come across a mysterious appearance while on the trail of the phantom. When asked by Raoul if this is another member of the theater police, the Persian responds "It's some one much worse than that!", the authors note attached to it further more states how the author "can give no further explanation touching the apparition of this shade", saying the reader must have to try and guess for himself. The nature of this mysterious person is then dropped, never to be mentioned again.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: The Phantom spends a lot of time as The Voice and The Faceless.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: The narrator refers to Christine's first abduction (the one where she disappeared for two weeks) as "not the infamous abduction" which everyone has heard of. In context, this refers to how famous her second abduction became in the news in-universe, but the story is so famous now through Pop-Cultural Osmosis that this clarification seems to be Leaning on the Fourth Wall.
  • Hypnotize the Princess: The Phantom's voice has a seemingly mesmeric effect on Christine.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Given that the Phantom is not interested in sex, he pulls a And Now You Must Marry Me.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: The Phantom's motivation — the guy doesn't actually like living underground.
  • Interrupted Suicide: The Persian only just manages to stop Raoul from shooting himself in the torture chamber.
  • In the Blood: Christine is following in her father's footsteps with her career in music.
  • It's All About Me: Arguably, everyone except Christine, the Persian and Madam Valerious:
    • Raoul: After Christine murmurs: “Poor Erik!”
    At first, he thought he must be mistaken. To begin with, he was persuaded that, if any one was to be pitied, it was he, Raoul. It would have been quite natural if she had said, "Poor Raoul," after what had happened between them. But, shaking her head, she repeated: "Poor Erik!" What had this Erik to do with Christine's sighs and why was she pitying Erik when Raoul was so unhappy?
    • Erik: After his Love Redeems scene, meets the Daroga, who asks him (repeatedly) about the murder of Count Philippe:
    "Daroga, don't talk to me ... about Count Philippe ... ""I have not come here ... to talk about Count Philippe ... but to tell you that ... I am going ... to die..."
    • Mme. Giry:
    "Mme. Giry. You know me well enough, sir; I'm the mother of little Giry, little Meg, what!"
    This was said in so rough and solemn a tone that, for a moment, M. Richard was impressed. He looked at Mme. Giry, in her faded shawl, her worn shoes, her old taffeta dress and dingy bonnet. It was quite evident from the manager's attitude, that he either did not know or could not remember having met Mme. Giry, nor even little Giry, nor even "little Meg!" But Mme. Giry's pride was so great that the celebrated box-keeper imagined that everybody knew her.
    • Moncharmin: Excerpt from the (exceptionally long) "Memories of a Manager":
    "A grievous accident spoiled the little party which MM. Debienne and Poligny gave to celebrate their retirement. I was in the manager's office, when Mercier, the acting-manager, suddenly came darting in. He seemed half mad and told me that the body of a scene-shifter had been found hanging in the third cellar under the stage, between a farm-house and a scene from the Roi de Lahore. I shouted: " 'Come and cut him down!'
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: The Phantom, at the end.
  • I Was Just Joking: Raoul wonders aloud how Erik knows how to work all the trap doors and navigate the secret passages. What, did he build them? The Persian explains, yes, he did.
  • The Kindnapper: Erik. He kidnaps Christine multiple times with the intention of romancing her and making her his wife so that he can buy her nice things and take her out on Sundays. He keeps her in a luxurious bedroom as well. Despite his becoming increasingly controlling and aggressive towards Christine, she develops a case of Stockholm Syndrome so bad that she even asks Raoul to take her far away from the Phantom No Matter How Much I Beg. Not that Raoul has a chance to follow up on that...
  • Lemony Narrator: Gaston Leroux, which Lowell Bair, at least, mostly preserves.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: The Narrator really insists that he's telling a true story.
  • Living MacGuffin: Christine.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Leroux's original Erik — he murders at least three people over the course of the plot and is definitely not the sanest person on the block, but Leroux expresses pity for him in the epilogue.
    • Arguably, he's this the entire time due simply to his appearance; at the time, Beauty Equals Goodness was commonly enough believed to be Truth in Television. Imagine what people who believe that are going to think of somebody like Erik—no matter what he does...