Friday, June 8, 2012

Character of the Month - June 2012

Here we go again! We made it into the second edition, so that counts for something! :) And this month's showcased character is--drum roll, please...

*drum roll*

Erik (The Phantom of the Opera)

 Come on, does it surprise you at this point? Besides, it's Friday!

Erik is just...a mess. Born a disfigured genius, he lived his whole life unloved and hated until being forced to hide in an underground home beneath the Paris Opera. It was there that he first set eyes on Christine, and I think you guys know how that turned out by now.

Can't you imagine how terrible that must be, to be denied something as simple as a kiss from your own mother because she can't stand to look at you? To have value only as a freak of nature put on display for others to stare at? To want so badly to be loved but having no idea of how to love in return, because you've never known it yourself? There's some similarities between the character of Erik and Quasimodo, with one major difference: Quasimodo remains pure, while Erik learns to be cruel and comes to despise other people. First as an assassin in Persia, then as the Opera Ghost, he returns all of his own pain to others in strange and terrifying ways...yet in Erik's own words (this is one of the most quotable books I've ever read!) "You are afraid of me! And yet I am not really wicked. Love me and you shall see! All I wanted was to be loved for myself."

The complexity of the character is mind-boggling. Erik is a genius, yet he is every bit as mature as your average child. He's capable of horrible things such as murder, kidnapping, extortion and torture, but in the end he's also capable of change for the better. He considers himself outside of humanity, but there's such depth of feeling in him. He's one you'd walk on eggshells around if he were real, that's for sure, but you'd also want to protect him from any further suffering. This is what's referred to as the big double standard among the Phantom fan community! Any other man like this, any real-life psychopathic serial killer, and you'd be running as fast as you could in the opposite direction; knowing Erik's history and understanding why he is the way he is inspired pity and compassion. 

I think the sum of Erik's wonderful self (and yes, you must use the word "wonderful" to describe him) can be found in Gaston Leroux's novel, which is only fitting: “Poor, unhappy Erik! Shall we pity him? Shall we curse him? He asked only to be 'some one,' like everybody else. But he was too ugly! And he had to hide his genius or use it to play tricks with, when, with an ordinary face, he would have been one of the most distinguished of mankind! He had a heart that could have held the entire empire of the world; and, in the end, he had to content himself with a cellar. Ah, yes, we must need pity the Opera ghost...” Yes, pity. All he wanted was to be loved, and in the end he came to learn that love means sacrificing one's own happiness for someone else.

Ah, one more quote, then I'll leave you alone. This has got to be the most heart-breaking scene I've ever read in any book on earth, and it always always always leaves me bawling like a baby: “I tore off my mask so as not to lose one of her tears... and she did not run away!...and she did not die!... She remained alive, weeping over me, weeping with me. We cried together! I have tasted all the happiness the world can offer.”

I'll be posting a review of the book in the future, which means more ranting on my part, so I'll turn you loose now. See you next time!

Your pal,

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