Monday, January 12, 2009

Book 5: The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

While I've read a few classics, I haven't read that many of the classic gothic horror stories. I read Dracula in high school, and just didn't see the big deal. However, they had this at the PX, and I keep thinking I should see the musical or at least rent the movie, so I picked it up.

It was actually a lot more interesting and intriguing than I expected. Yes, it has the usual problem of some classic literature where the young woman that everyone is in love with doesn't seem to have that much of a personality - she's tragic, everyone loves her because she's so pure, sweet, innocent and, of course, beautiful, but the men in love with her aren't exactly that well developed, either. Raoul is just the usual rich man who seems to have less brains than necessary but lots of courage. However, since I was able to write that off as part of the genre and time period, I actually really enjoyed the novel. Until about three quarters of the way through. At that point, it just took a really weird turn. Once again, very much in line with the time it was written during, but still kind of messed up.

Basically, there is a character called the Persian that suddenly takes an important role as the person that helps Raoul to track down Christine after she goes missing. The character never gets a name beyond the Persian, and he then reveals a lot of background about the Opera Ghost, or Erik, that is just kind of out there. Erik is originally French, but he traveled the world, and ended up in India, where he served to amuse the little sultana, an incredibly blood thirsty, young woman. I didn't really see the need to have Erik travel all over the place to explain his nature, nor was there any point in throwing in minority characters only to describe them as violent or to help the young white protagonists.

Still, despite that, I actually enjoyed the novel quite a bit. Obviously, if this novel had been written today, I'd probably be incredibly irritated and pissed off about those types of needless portrayals in a novel, but since it's almost a century old, I'm mainly just flabbergasted. How much of the original story line is actually in the play? I just don't see it being as successful as it is if it still includes that rather xenophobic story line which really just distracts from the overall story anyway.

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