What is the initial inciting incident in the novel The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux?

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poetrymfa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The initial inciting "incident"--or "crisis," we might say!--in Gaston Leroux's novel The Phantom of the Opera occurs after the new directors of the Paris Opera House, Armand Moncharmin and Firmin Richard, directly disobey the orders of the Phantom of the Opera (also referred to as "the Opera Ghost" and by his real name, "Erik").

The Phantom has a longstanding agreement with the previous directors of the Opera: he is to be paid a salary of 20,000 francs per month and Box Five is to be left empty for him at all performances. Armand and Firmin laugh off these demands, which sets them up for a poor relationship with the Ghost. In fact, Armand and Firmin are not in the mood to negotiate with an entity they don't even believe exists. After receiving further demands from the Phantom (that Christine be given the lead role in the opera Faust, that Madame Giry, the attendant of Box Five, be rehired, and that Box Five be left empty), Armand and Firmin decide to do exactly the opposite. They cast Carlotta, the demanding diva, in Christine's role, hire a new woman to take up Madame Giry's old job, and seat themselves in Box Five for the performance.

This flagrant display of disrespect for the Phantom results in deadly chaos. The Phantom unleashes his fury on the Opera House, causing Carlotta's voice to be mysteriously ruined, the chandelier to come crashing down into the house, and Madame Giry's replacement to be killed. This is arguably the first major "incident" of the book, and the one that sends a definite message: the Phantom means business. 

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