The Fantastical Elements of Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera
In Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera fantastic literature is displayed at its best. Originally published in 1911, this French writer produced one of the most famous novels in French history. Created into a play and a musical produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber, this story has touched millions. However, this transition from a novel to a theatrical performance has caused much of the story to be left out of the production. When viewed in its entirety, the novel exhibits many fantastical elements. Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera meets all of the requirements of fantastic literature. These characteristics do not resemble those of Magical Realism extensively.
The novel has many realistic qualities that may mask the fantastic elements. The background and setting are recognizable as a French opera house set in Paris. The characters use familiar, if out dated, dialect. The era in which the story takes place, the late eighteen hundreds, is also very realistic. Horses and carriages are still used as the mode of transportation, the musical pieces sung in the novel are pieces that would be sung at other operas during that time period, and the style of clothing is what would be expected of the era. This base of reality is common to both Magical Realism as well as Fantastic literature.
The attitudes of the characters are also very realistic. At the masked ball, the Parisians take part whole heartedly, accepting the idea of masking their identity as the normal ball activity. In today's time, the dressing incognito idea is an unusual one. The characters do not accept the idea of the "Opera Ghost" as a real ghost and many exhibit a disbelief, as they would in reality. This fact prohibits the placement of this work into the Magical Realism category as the characters in a Magical Realist work do not question the existence of such forces.
The relationships that exist between the characters display the realistic qualities of friendship, love, and jealousy. The managers of the opera begin to question first the ghost, prohibiting the idea of any use of magical realism, and then each other in their quest for an acceptable explanation of the "ghost's" existence. The romantic aspect that flourishes between Christine and Raoul displays the very human emotion of love. And where love is found, many times jealousy is not far away. Raoul's feelings of jealousy and envy of Erik mirror Erik's feelings of jealousy and envy of Raoul. They each want all of Christine not simply a part. To Erik she gives her pity and commitment, but not the love he desires. And to Raoul she gives her love, but not the commitment he wishes of her. That she was virtually an unknown girl just six months before seems to be completely forgotten. Every young girl's dream, including Christine herself, is to suddenly be considered beautiful by that ever changing description of what is and is not beautiful. Once...