Today is National I Want You to Be Happy Day, and I thought it would be interesting to explore how this day applies to the Phantom of the Opera. While I Want You to Be Happy Day is a modern national day that is supposed be celebrated by simply showing acts of kindness that make other people happy, I’m going beyond that scope in exploring how the phrase, “I want you to be happy” applies to the Phantom of the Opera.
The truest form of love is that which puts the other individual’s wants and needs above one’s own, which is precisely what Erik, the infamous Phantom of the Opera, did in the end. While he might have been depicted as a moral-less monster throughout the majority of the musical (even going so far as to commit murder in the name of love over his obsession with Christine), in the end, he put Christine’s own happiness above his own in a redeeming act that showcased his true love for her.
As is depicted in the picture featured with this blog post, releasing Christine to go marry her Vicomte, Raoul, brought the Phantom great pain and devastation. However, he did it anyways because he couldn’t bear the thought of entrapping Christine and holding her against her will. She undoubtedly would have come to resent him, I daresay even hate him, had he done so, and I believe that by putting her happiness first, he displayed the true extent of his love for his protegee…
Which brings me to this question: How many of us can truly say that we want someone else to be happy so much that we would voluntarily inflict such emotional pain and devastation on our souls? Does true love like that really exist? As always, please feel free to comment your thoughts below.
For those Phans like myself who crave more after reading Gaston Leroux’s original novel, The Phantom of the Opera, there’s Sharon E. Cathcart’s novels. Seen Through the Phantom’s Eyes: The Omnibus Edition is actually a compilation of two novels and a collection of short stories. If purchased separately, they consist of the following:
- In the Eye of the Beholder
- In the Eye of the Storm
- Through the Opera Glass
Seen Through the Phantom’s Eyes: The Omnibus Edition contains all of these in the aforementioned order. However, the author herself stated that they don’t necessarily have to be read in that order. I would advise reading In the Eye of the Beholder before reading In the Eye of the Storm. However, if you happen not to, it’s no big deal because the author is conscious of making it so that readers who haven’t read her first book are quickly brought up to speed in her second one.
The Through the Opera Glass book is the one that’s a collection of short stories, so it can certainly be read any time you wish. However, I think that it provides for a richer reading experience when you read all the books in the order listed. After doing so, I believe you’ll understand why I say this.
That said, on to the review…
Let’s begin with Claire. She’s the first character we’re introduced to in In the Eye of the Beholder, and she’s the principal character throughout the first novel, although she certainly remains a prominent one in the other novel and the short story collection as well. Claire is not your typical, simpering Victorian lady. She’s a strong, independent woman (as much as society would allow anyways), and she’s got a good head on her shoulders. She knows how to think for herself, and she’s obviously very different from the naive child (Christine Daae) who our notorious Phantom, Erik, had fallen in love with previously.
I absolutely loved Claire! She was a refreshing change, and although I have stated that she was a strong woman, she had her moments of vulnerability as well, all of which worked together to make her quite a realistic and believable character. Although her moral compass was certainly rooted, she also went outside the realm of what society at that point in time deemed acceptable. She stood up for what she believed in, and her compassion knew no bounds.
Our Phantom, as well, was a greatly developed character. He wasn’t quite as darkly depicted as some Phantoms are, but he wasn’t too vulnerable either. Instead, I believe he was the perfect mix of dark and light, making him believably human.
Fiction that Makes a Statement
Sharon’s Phantom tales are more than just sappy Phan phiction. Not only do they offer a realistic continuation of the beloved tale of the Phantom of the Opera, but they also reference real historical events and contain a essence of realism that you don’t get from the everyday fiction book. Her novels not only weave a delightful story for our Phantom, but they also illuminate real life issues, such as the plight of women living in a male-oriented society, the cruelty of mankind, and the injustice of inequality, just to name a few.
I particularly loved how the author would take a certain issue that she feels strongly about and weave it into her novels in such a way that highlights the injustice of the topic and prompts the reader to feel that same injustice. For instance, without giving too much of the storyline away, I will reveal that Claire is rendered virtually penniless when her cousin is given control over her inheritance simply because he is the closest male relation to her. As we learn of how that injustice affected Claire’s life, we, as readers, feel for the plight of women who were restricted by the constraints of their sex.
Beyond that, I will say no more, other than that I highly recommend these books to any Phan. These Phantom books not only entertain, but they teach as well, highlighting societal issues that some people still deal with today. Also, the author very considerately included a glossary of terms in her books so that those who are unfamiliar with certain equestrian and French terms she used in her writing can look up their meanings for better understanding. I, for one, greatly appreciated this, for I would have never know what some of the foreign terms meant otherwise.
Not only is Sharon E. Cathcart an author, but she’s an award-winning one at that. Like her character, Claire, Sharon is also a very generous soul. She frequently hosts e-book giveaways and such, and she’s a delight to interact with. To contact Sharon or learn more about her published works, go her author website and/or her Facebook fan page.
Those Phans who have delved deeper into the tale of The Phantom of the Opera by reading Gaston Leroux’s original novel, Susan Kay’s retelling or countless other retellings have probably discovered the fact that Erik, the infamous Phantom of the Opera, never knew his birthday. Although he had a general idea of his age, he never knew the actual date of his birth since it wasn’t an event that his parents chose to celebrate. Believing him to be some sort of demon or monster, they chose to cover his face with a burlap sack and pretend that he didn’t exist rather than acknowledge his existence–much less his birthday.
Although the specifics of Erik’s life leading up to the time he came to live in the bowels of the Paris Opera House are highly debatable and varied (depending upon which book you read), a general consensus among authors seems to be that among all the other basic human rights that the Phantom was denied, knowing the date of his birth was one.
In light of this fact, as I stumbled across an image that depicted the old English nursery rhyme, Monday’s Child, I couldn’t help but think of our poor Erik. Although the text consists of a silly little poem that most of us have heard recited at some point in our lives, and I don’t put much stock in such superstition, I thought it’d be interesting to indulge the fancy for the sake of deriving some sort of birth date for our beloved Erik.
First, let’s look at the rhyme as a whole, and then we’ll break it down into sections:
Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go.
Friday’s child works hard for a living,
Saturday’s child is loving and giving,
and the child that is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.
Monday’s child is fair of face
Monday’s child is supposedly “fair of face,” so if we’re trying to determine the day of Erik’s birth based upon this poem (which we are for the sake of this article), then we can already eliminate Monday since the Phantom certainly wasn’t “fair of face.” Although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I believe that we can all agree that the Phantom wasn’t beautiful in the traditional sense of the word, so moving on…
Tuesday’s child is full of grace
This one has possibilities since the Phantom was known for his graceful, feline movements. The unfurling of his hand, the way he seemed to glide with cat-like grace and the way each of his movements seemed to be in tune with a symphony of his own are all evidence of his gracefulness in the physical sense.
However, the term “grace” has two definitions. The first (which we’ve already discussed) refers to an elegance or refinement of movement. The second, as defined by Oxford Dictionaries refers to having God’s favor, which can be seen through the bestowal of blessings.
While initially we might discount Tuesday when we learn of the second definition, if we delve further, it, too, can apply to the Phantom. Although the Phantom was born with a disfigurement, he was also bestowed with certain blessings that others don’t have, such as his musical genius, superior intellect and general capacity for skill in numerous areas. Therefore, Tuesday could be a contender for the day of the week upon which the Phantom was born. Moving on, though…
Wednesday’s child is full of woe
This one is pretty self-explanatory, and I think all Phans would agree that Wednesday is definitely a possibility for the day of the week that Erik was born on since the Phantom’s day were certainly full of woe. Not only was he abused and neglected as a child, but he was shunned from society and denied human kindness. Forced into exile, he resided alone in the underground of the Paris Opera House. His life consisted of murder, stealth and all other manner of sin just to survive, and when he finally did find love in his protegee, Christine Daae, that love was unrequited when she chose to leave with the Vicomte de Chagny instead of staying with him. Yes, I think we can all certainly agree that the Phantom’s days were full of woe..
Thursday’s child has far to go
This one is a bit tricky since “far to go” can have both positive and negative connotations. In the traditional sense, “far to go” generally meant that one would have a long, successful life without limitations. However, a more modern definition of “far to go” points to the likelihood that one will have many obstacles to overcome on his or her journey.
Depending upon which definition you choose to reference, I believe that Thursday could fit the Phantom as well. Erik’s numerous scores and musical compositions would certainly attest to his success as a composer, artist and musician. However, that success is not without limitations since no one could ever hear them.
In reference to the second definition, the Phantom definitely had his share of obstacles. I daresay he had many more than the average person throughout his lifetime.
Friday’s child is loving and giving
This is another one that depends upon one’s perception of Erik. As far as the rest of society was concerned, Erik was not loving and giving to the human race that had never shown him any compassion. However, to Christine, he was more than willing to love and give her anything that her heart desired. Therefore, there is a slight possibility that he could have been born on a Friday.
Saturday’s child works hard for a living
This is another one that is pretty self-explanatory, but the question is, Did Erik work hard for a living? I am inclined to say no. Although I’m sure it was difficult to get all the provisions that he needed down in the depths of the Opera House, the Phantom did not work for his pay. Instead, he extorted money from the managers of the Opera Populaire, which I suppose could be hard work since he had to keep up his Opera Ghost persona, but for the sake of what I believe “works hard for a living” to mean in this context, I’ll still say that no, the Phantom did not work hard for a living.
and the child that is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.
Like Monday, I believe that we can eliminate Sunday from the possibilities for the day of the week upon which Erik was born. “Bonny and blithe, and good and gay” do not, in any sense, describe the Phantom. Instead, he was said to be quite moody, ill-tempered and very rarely good or gay.
So what day of the week was the Phantom of the Opera born on? After evaluating the possible meanings of each day of the week via this well-known nursery rhyme, I’m inclined to say that Erik was born on a Wednesday. Although I believe that aspects of Tuesday’s child and Thursday’s child can apply to him, I feel that Wednesday most aptly sums up the Phantom’s days.
What do you think? What day of the week do you believe the Phantom of the Opera could have been born on? As always, please feel free to comment your thoughts below, and cast your vote for which day you believe Erik was born on by taking the poll below.
*The 2004 film version is the version referenced for the purpose of this article.*
The Phantom is a unique character in that not only is he the antagonist of his tale but he’s also the protagonist. This brings to mind the question:
Is the Phantom the villain, or is he a tragic hero?
Oftentimes, the villains in films and books are clear-cut and leave viewers and readers, respectively, with no doubt as to whom to hate. However, the Phantom isn’t your traditional villain. He’s not the villain that we love to hate. Instead, he inspires great sympathy in many.
Yes, the Phantom committed murder, he blackmailed the managers of the Opera Populaire into giving in to his every whim and he kidnapped Christine by whisking her off the stage during the performance of his opera, Don Juan Triumphant. While murder, blackmail and kidnapping are all morally wrong, when we learn the reasons behind why he committed such acts, we are filled with a sense of compassion and justification (at least I am anyways).
Everything that the Phantom did he did in the name of love. Of course, that does not excuse his inexcusable acts because we can’t simply state that we love someone to justify our bad deeds. However, there’s another significant piece to the Phantom’s story that causes us to “want” to justify his morally wrong actions: his deformity.
Lack of Moral Teaching
Because of the Phantom’s deformity, he was never shown love and kindness from another human being. With such a hideous face, he was an outcast, exiled from the rest of the world. He lived most of his life in the bowels of the Opera Populaire, isolated from the rest of humanity. As such, he wasn’t necessarily taught right from wrong and wasn’t exposed to the same moral lessons that the rest of mankind was. He lived vicariously through the lives of others by spying on those within the opera house, and he always had to fend for himself, surviving like an animal.
The Light in His Darkness
Naturally, when he made a connection with Christine Daae, his protege soon became more to him than simply a student. She was the only tie that he had with the rest of humanity, and we must remember that he was just a man and had the same wants and desires as other men. Not only was Christine physically beautiful, but she mirrored that beauty in her angelic voice. It’s easy to imagine how she became the focal point and sole light in his universe, morphing into his obsession.
Desires of a Mortal Man
The Phantom also yearned for love and acceptance (as do all of us in some form or fashion), so when he was faced with the possibility of losing Christine to the young, handsome and charming Raoul and never gaining her love, his obsession progressed into a mad, desperate attempt to keep her.
The Sting of Betrayal
Every action he took was in order to forestall the eventuality of losing her to the Vicomte de Chagny. While the Phantom certainly cuts a frightening figure when strangling Joseph Buquet, he also makes a heart-wrenching and tragic one when viewers witness his pain at hearing and witnessing Christine’s betrayal atop the rooftop of the Paris Opera House. He inspires sympathy with his broken heart and leaves viewers feeling like he was betrayed even though Christine hadn’t previously pledged her love to him. In his mind, Christine was his. He had spent years tutoring her, readying her to take her place as prima donna within his domain.
Obsession Vs. Love
Obviously, all these actions that the Phantom takes are a manifestation of his obsession with Christine rather than his love for her. No matter how much we, as viewers, would like to believe otherwise, we must reconcile ourselves with the fact that his actions were not actually born out of love because true love doesn’t bring about such chaos. Does this mean that the Phantom didn’t truly love his Christine? I think not. I do believe that the Phantom loved Christine but that his obsession overshadowed his love for a time.
This can be seen at the end of the film when the Phantom, despite all the horrible deeds he’d committed in order to keep Christine with him, broken, choose to let her go with the Vicomte. Although we know that it must have taken every ounce of strength he had in him, he allowed Christine to leave with her young lover after she illuminated to him what true love really is with her willing sacrifice to marry him in order to save Raoul’s life. Christine’s willing kisses overwhelmed him and left him unable to impose upon her happiness. Like many viewers, I like to believe that the Phantom underwent a redemption that allowed him to show his true love for Christine in letting his desire for her happiness outweigh his own. It’s this one final act that truly proves his goodness of heart and leaves many viewers believing him to be a tragic hero rather than the villain that he is originally portrayed as.
What are your thoughts? Do you believe the Phantom is a villain or tragic hero? As always, please feel free to comment below, and vote.