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 WHO WAS ERIK?

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PhantomnessFay
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PostSubject: WHO WAS ERIK?   Thu May 29, 2008 2:39 pm

When I pose the question, "Who was Erik?" I don't mean how he figured in the story The Phantom of the Opera, but rather want type of person was he?

We see a man who clings to shadows, embraces the night and dwells in darkness. He appears like one with no conscience or remorse; who would kill at the bat of an eye. Then again, the prankster emerges and he proceeds to drive the managers, cast and crew of the opera house insane or at least scares them out of their minds.

Besides all this and his obssesive love for Christine, with the need to beloved for who and what he is, we see a genius. How? Through his magnificent singing voice, skill as an architech, creator of automatons, ventriloquist and magician (or illusionist/sight of hand, etc.).

All this is overlooked in films, television and fan fiction. Some how the true essence of the man gets lost in the horror of his looks or the romance.

Again I pose the question, who is Erik?


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PostSubject: Re: WHO WAS ERIK?   Thu May 29, 2008 2:47 pm

I wouldn't say that all this is overlooked everywhere. After all, in my opinion, Leroux left a lot of room for interpretation; I think lots of works take aspects they're interested in and flesh them out. It's not that I object to the romanticizing of Erik, as an idea; it's valid, it's interesting--to a point. But you're right, many treatments totally ignore many things we're told in Leroux.

The Erik we see in Leroux is hard for me to pin down as a "real" person. He's contradictory, he's mad, he's somewhat inexplicable. The Persian is prone to extremes when describing him, as is Leroux. Fundamentally, whether he was already unbalanced or driven mad by society, I see Erik as deeply flawed.

One very interesting aspect of his character is his longing not just to be like everybody else, but to be a rather ordinary sort of bourgeois person. His home, his attire, his desires are all rather middle-class and pedestrian. The stupid boulevard flowers, the Louis Philippe room, the walks on Sundays, all that. Erik is both a freak and a prodigy, but what he wants is something in the middle, something not at all extraordinary.

I would argue that this is only what he thinks he wants. I would argue that Erik the genius would not be content living "like everybody else." His mind would rebel at stagnation, to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes. So it's interesting to me that Erik professes an aspiration his personality is ill-suited to live.

I'm not sure I know what you mean by "true essence," though.
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PostSubject: Re: WHO WAS ERIK?   Thu May 29, 2008 3:37 pm

I agree, Erik is extremely flawed, that's why he is such an interesting character.

I do think, though, that what we think of as "middle" or "average" perhaps wasn't so for him. For him the very simple things you describe would most likely be absolutely out of the norm. For someone who has never been able to simply walk down the street with a lovely woman on his arm and not be stared out, run from, etc, it would certainly be an extraoridnary experience to at last be able to do so.

Would the sense of wonder at it last if he was suddenly able to do so all the time? No, of course not.

But for a time, I can imagine it being rather wonderous for him.

He's a man who has been treated very badly for a very long time, one who expects to always be treated that way and, because of how jaded it as made him, sees the world differently as a result. Where we may see a simple flower, he may see something as fragile as he may feel at time yet living boldly and shining with beauty as he only wishes he could.
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PostSubject: Re: WHO WAS ERIK?   Thu May 29, 2008 3:56 pm

I do think, though, that what we think of as "middle" or "average" perhaps wasn't so for him.

But it would have been so for Leroux, so basically what I'm getting at is that Leroux takes pains to describe the life that Erik wants as being class-coded "bourgeouis." I'm not arguing that those simple things wouldn't be wonderous to him, but the way he describes them could have been more "neutral."

For instance, the flowers. They don't show good taste. The walks "on Sundays"--very "working week" oriented. The simple things in life could be described in many ways; he could have bought Christine wildflowers, or decorated his rooms with something other than the bric a brac the parlor is described as having. That said, he's also got the Dies Irae in his room, so I'm definitely not saying this impulse defines his entire being. And I'm not judging it. It just seems to me that even without the ugly factor, Erik is far out of the ordinary as far as people go, and in his dreams he seems to wish to own a townhouse and a tweed wardrobe. Which is why I think that the ordinariness I speak of--a social ordinariness, a mental ordinariness, not the sort that finds beauty in everyday things--wouldn't sit to well with him once/if he had it. He's so much more expansive and eccentric than that would allow him to be, and I find it interesting that he wants to inscribe himself within certain bonds.

Though I totally get your point.
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PostSubject: Re: WHO WAS ERIK?   Thu May 29, 2008 5:00 pm

I suppose I never thought Erik would be dissatisified with the "everyday" life should he acquire it. Even with all his genius, his looks still ruled his behavior and way of thinking as far socializing, romance, etc.

The way I see Erik, if had acquired all the mediocre life, like a common worker, he would have been happy. This would have been more delight than he would have ever dreamt of. Perhaps you mistake how he'd accept this lifestyle as if he had no deformity. But then, he was mad, quite mad. Remember the Persian said he had to remind Erik of what he'd done for him, like save his life, or he'd forget.

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PostSubject: Re: WHO WAS ERIK?   Mon Jun 02, 2008 8:26 am

Then we disagree, which is fine. The Erik I see would think he wanted the life of a common worker, but find it dissatisfying once he had it. I say this because he is eccentric, because he is shaped by 50 (+ -) years of social isolation and pain, because he is a genius. It stems from my conviction that he is deluding himself when he says "if you loved me, I'd be as gentle as a lamb and you could do anything with me" (paraphrase). It's a nice sentiment, but I don't see a person changing so dramatically just because he is loved. This is an anti-romantic reaction, I realize. But for me, it takes more than that to change a person. Erik is used to manipulating, to getting his way. He's used to being more clever than everyone else. I don't see that changing, and I don't see him really accepting an everyday life after all he's done.

Obviously, this is entirely open for interpretation. That's just how I see him.
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PostSubject: Re: WHO WAS ERIK?   Mon Jun 02, 2008 10:25 am

You may have point there. People don't change overnight. My mother always said if a person is going to change, they will do it before marriage, not after.

I suppose I felt like he'd wanted a somewhat normal life for so long, the should he had achieved it he would have embraced it. Perhaps judging from my own personal feelings.

Then again, I've known those who wish for the "pie in the sky" and really don't work to achieve what they "claim" they want. Why? The fear of change. What would they do to get it.

Still and all, even knowing this, I feel that after all the hard knocks Erik took growing up and surviving up to and including when he met Christine, he would have changed if he thought she would be any different. Why? Because in the end, he released both Christine and Raoul to leave together, to be with each other. This unselfish act gave me the assurance that Erik truly would have changed, for he only wanted to love and be loved.

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PostSubject: Re: WHO WAS ERIK?   Mon Jun 02, 2008 10:27 am

He does, indeed perform an act of sacrifice at the end and I could see that heralding a more general change in his nature, sure. I think it could go both ways. In writing, though, I like to explore the idea that the promises he makes to Christine--about a normal life, about being her lamb, about walking with the sun on his face--are much more difficult to keep than he thinks.

But I can see it both ways, ultimately.
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PostSubject: Re: WHO WAS ERIK?   Mon Jun 02, 2008 2:43 pm

Wouldn't it be nice if we could uncover a text where someone actually had a conversation with Erik, other than what Leroux had? Too bad we have nothing published to say what Leroux would answer should someone ask how he knew the Phantom really existed.

I recall a section in the original novel where Erik caught the Persian following him at La Rue Scribe. He was scary and when he started sinhing and kicking the boat with his heels, I suppose to keep in time with the song, seemed pretty crazy.

The man is indeed a mystery! Rolling Eyes Rolling Eyes Rolling Eyes
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PostSubject: Re: WHO WAS ERIK?   Mon Jun 02, 2008 3:01 pm

Leroux would have laughed, and probably passed off the comment with something he made up on the spot. Because there is no evidence that Erik was real; Leroux was writing a novel, and used a clever device (writing first person, writing with a journalist's voice) to make his novel more gripping. And it works, but it's just a ruse.
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PostSubject: Re: WHO WAS ERIK?   Mon Jun 02, 2008 4:36 pm

Some people say that. Pesonally, I get a feeling most of the story is real. I've followed some forums with such a topic, but just because physcial evidence has not yet surfaced, doesn't mean Erik didn't exist.

I understand that Leroux never once said his confirmation of Erik's existance was a maketing ploy. To his dying breath he still said Erik did exist.

In those days, reporters didn't push for answers or asked questions like they do now. I believe we'd be very surprised if Leroux had been involved in a Q&A.

affraid affraid affraid
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PostSubject: Re: WHO WAS ERIK?   Mon Jun 02, 2008 9:19 pm

I'm not going to argue this with you, because it's clear you and I have far different opinions about this matter. That's fine. The evidence against it being real is clear enough to me, but I've seen where these things go on other forums.

It is certainly a testament to the power of the archetypes in the story that they have such a hold on people for so long after the book's publication. Why do you think that is? Since this is an Erik topic, let's start there, if you want. What is it about Erik that keeps us interested?
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PostSubject: Re: WHO WAS ERIK?   Tue Jun 03, 2008 10:05 am

Certainly the number of child abuse cases are great and even as adults, many become reclusive, eccentric, and obsessive, perhaps even violent. None of this it new, but in view of Erik, disfigured, social outcast, living five cellars below a massive building, with such a destructive obsession for a young diva can't help but attact attention. Whether in pity or disgust, Erik evokes feelings most really don't have for those around them or even from the news.

From Erik, we see extortion and pranks in a new light. Never has there been a story quite like this. We find these elements in various events in our lifetime, but how many have see them all wrapped up in one terrifiying, yet heart rending person as Erik?

This man could horrify with his looks, but at the same time carry you to the lofty realms of heaven with his voice. How many men can do that?

Some say he held Christine in a spell or hypnosis if you will. Others say the only spell was of undying love which held her captive.

Various occassions made us believe the man had gone mad. Such as the time he collared Daroga when he caught him following him near La Rue Scribe. The demeanor and actions gave no indication Daroga had done anything to help him or meant anything to him except an annoyance which needed to be removed. Here, Daroga reminded him that he'd saved his life and aided his escape from Persia. Erik's actions after that appeared he regarded the act carelessly, without thought. Did Erik really forget as Daroga claimed and had to be reminded?

All the madness, humiliation, rejection, and disregard for life is Erik, however, a man with an odd sense of humor, unconditional love, and the desire to be like other men in looks and love is also Erik.

All this shield by a mask, hidden in the dark recesses of an ancient edifice is the entire intriguing enigma of Erik, the Phantom of the Opera.

Razz Razz Razz
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