The Original Fantôme’s Mysteries
The original foundations of The Phantom of the Opera have become more mysterious with time. Nearly all the famous adaptations of the novel, Gaston Leroux’s Le Fantôme de l’Opéra (1910), have skewed or altered key aspects of it to the point of obscuring them altogether. Understanding the cultural roots and primary functions of this story—the main objective in this study—means, first of all, bringing these elements and their foundations to light. The Phantom, I would argue, has survived as it has partly because its deepest “undergrounds” contain conflicts among class-based attitudes and ideologies that are vitally important to the self-fashioning of the urban middle class in the modern Western world. These conflicts and the struggles within them are especially visible in the most important early features of Leroux’s book, which the adaptations vaguely echo even while working to bury those original “horrors” from sight. I therefore want to begin with these partially forgotten aspects of Le Fantôme de l’Opéra. By isolating these elements in Leroux’s original, I hope to expose the cultural quandaries that are most basic to this story from its very beginning and thereby raise the unresolved questions that the rest of this study needs to address.
KeywordsParis Opus Silent Film Urban Middle Class Deep Truth Cultural Struggle
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