How is the theme of appearance vs. reality developed by Leroux in Phantom of the Opera?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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In Phantom of the Opera the central theme of reality versus appearances takes shape in three manifestations. The first is the opera house itself, the second is the Phantom's physical aspect and the third is the role the phantom plays within the confines of the reality behind the scenes of the opera's fantasies.

The opera house can be and is well known by those who frequent it or work there. The audience can become well acquainted with its public aspects and even with the theatrical workings to some extent. the dancers and actors are well acquainted with both the public and private backstage workings as are the stage craftsmen. The business men and financiers are well acquainted with all the former and with the financial and operational aspects of the opera, which the others know nothing or only very little about.

There is one further aspect of the opera that very few know of and that is the labyrinth of tunnels, furnaces, prisons and other mysteries beneath the opera house. This symbolizes that for buildings, organizations, art and people, on top is the appearance and beneath is the reality--at least for some, anyway. 

The second manifestation is the Phantom's appearance. He certainly embodies the conflict between appearance and reality in the mask he wears and the darkened hidden life he lives. This leads to the third manifestation, which is the Phantom's pretense of being an angel of music when in reality he is the phantom of the tortures of a hall of illusions.

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