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The Phantom of the Opera

by Gaston Leroux
368 pages, Romance
Reviewed by Jeanne

An interesting read, with moral conundrums and a good deal of violent and disturbing content.

Plot

Christine Daae is a young singer who, upon her father's death, comes to live at the famous Paris Opera House in the hopes of furthering her career. She doesn't expect to have the half-crazed musician living under the building fall in love with her, or to meet Raoul - the man who was her childhood sweetheart - once again. Torn between the conflicting love of a distorted musician and a handsome young nobleman, Christine finds herself engulfed in tragedy in the labyrinth beneath the opera.

Morality

The phantom, Erik, is a clash of good and evil. Sometimes he is good, sometimes he isn't, and his backstory is revealed as explaining much of his warped mindset and many of his later wicked actions. Much of the novel deals with love - the lack of it, the need for it, and the perversion of it. Raoul, while not exactly a heroic man, is at least devoted to Christine.

Spiritual Content

Erik is referred to as a phantom, and Christine thinks he is the 'angel of music' that her father promised to send her. The Phantom sings a song called 'The Resurrection of Lazarus' to Christine; at another point he is said to sing like the god of thunder. The opera Faust, which involves a man who makes a deal with the Devil, is performed. Near the end of the novel, the Phantom thanks God for giving him "all the happiness in the world." Otherwise, the spiritual content is practically non-existent.

Violence

A man is strangled, another man has his arm broken, and another dies at the edge of the underground lake. The Phantom threatens to drown someone as well as blow up the opera house. A torture chamber that drives its victims to madness and suicide is mentioned. It is recounted how a sultana had a character strangle prisoners. Several murders are committed or referenced, some rather graphically; some unsavory images are described, such as a corpse and the Phantom's skull-like countenance.

Drug and Alcohol Content

References to rum and gin. A stagehand is found in a drunken stupor.

Sexual Content

Raoul's brother is in a relationship with a singer, but nothing much is said about it. There is a great deal of tension in the Phantom's obsession with Christine, though he keeps his goal focused on marriage until near the end of the story.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

God's name is taken in vain a number of times.

Conclusion

The Phantom of the Opera is an entertaining read, to be sure, and a classic of dark romance. It is rightly famous for the moral struggle in its titular character, who stands out as the most well-rounded and has inspired much pity and hatred from readers. The book itself is accessible, but the violence and disturbing content make it anything but a light read. It holds few Christian values, though the study it presents of love in its various forms is worth pondering. Recommended for young adults and up.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 3
Written for Age: adult

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