Form and Content (Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series, Supplement)
The Phantom of the Opera was written for publication as a feuilleton (a newspaper serial) in Le Gaulois, one of three such daily serials that Gaston Leroux wrote in 1910. Works of this kind inevitably tend to be episodic, crammed with incident and full of such narrative hooks as mysterious apparitions and seemingly inexplicable disappearances; in these terms, The Phantom of the Opera is a bravura performance. Like many feuilletons, it is presented as a quasi-journalistic endeavor: a story carefully pieced together from interviews with the parties involved, which can only be displayed in its entirety by virtue of the investigative flair of the reporter.
Having credited his “sources,” the reporter lays down the background history of the Opera Ghost, a mysterious figure with a face like a death’s head. The main story concerns a period when the Ghost’s appearances suddenly become more frequent and the demands that he makes upon the theater’s managers more forceful, after which he was never seen again.
The Ghost’s increased activity begins with the insistence that a particular box always be left empty for his use and that regular payments of money be deposited there. He also issues instructions to the effect that a singer named Christine Daaé be promoted to leading roles. The intimidated managers of the theater immediately hand the problem over to a new team, Firmin Richard and Armand Moncharmin. Believing that it is all a practical joke, these resolute skeptics refuse to give in to these demands and set out to trap the supposed joker.
In the meantime, Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, who knew Christine Daaé when they were both children, falls in love with her after hearing her sing. Unfortunately, Philippe, Comte de...
(The entire section is 730 words.)
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