Epilogue: The Phantom’s Lasting Significance
Given all that has been said, we can now suggest some very pointed answers to the questions that originally prompted this study: Why has The Phantom of the Opera become on ongoing popular myth, even with the many changes in it since the novel? Why does it keep returning as it does, extreme variations and all? What does it mean to us in the Western middle class most fundamentally and pervasively as we look back over its entire history? Why have we needed it—and why do we keep needing it? To be sure, there are some fairly obvious answers that need no study to explain them. This tale, from the start, repeats age-old mythic patterns in which a young woman on the verge of maturity must confront a dark, cave-dwelling, sexually charged, and paternalistic “wolf”-figure in a sort of rite of passage, as in the stories of Pluto and Persephone, Psyche and Cupid, Death and the Maiden, Beauty and the Beast, and even Little Red Riding Hood (see Wolf 1996, 4). On that level, the narrative of Christine and the phantom continues a Western cultural motif in which the late adolescent female confronts the “wrong sexual choice” and has to work through her attraction to and rejection of it. Its basis in this scheme, alongside its equal debt to tales of the son attracted to a version of the reabsorbing mother (the anima), is one reason why this story has always been affiliated with Freudian thinking. There the daughter-figure (or the son) must be preconsciously drawn toward, then consciously warned away from, a lover who is the bestial/incestuous father (or the phallic mother) so that the questor can make a more exogamous object-choice.
KeywordsHigh Culture Pointed Answer Opus Ghost Contradictory Ideology Unfulfilled Aspiration
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