The Fantastical Elements of Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera
In Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera fantastic literature is displayed at its best. Originally published in 1911, this French writer produced one of the most famous novels in French history. Created into a play and a musical produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber, this story has touched millions. However, this transition from a novel to a theatrical performance has caused much of the story to be left out of the production. When viewed in its entirety, the novel exhibits many fantastical elements. Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera meets all of the requirements of fantastic literature. These characteristics do not resemble those of Magical Realism extensively.
The novel has many realistic qualities that may mask the fantastic elements. The background and setting are recognizable as a French opera house set in Paris. The characters use familiar, if out dated, dialect. The era in which the story takes place, the late eighteen hundreds, is also very realistic. Horses and carriages are still used as the mode of transportation, the musical pieces sung in the novel are pieces that would be sung at other operas during that time period, and the style of clothing is what would be expected of the era. This base of reality is common to both Magical Realism as well as Fantastic literature.
The attitudes of the characters are also very realistic. At the masked ball, the Parisians take part whole heartedly, accepting the idea of masking their identity as the normal ball activity. In today’s time, the dressing incognito idea is an unusual one. The characters do not accept the idea of the “Opera Ghost” as a real ghost and many exhibit a disbelief, as they would in rea…
…re into a masterpiece that would be famous for almost one hundred years after its publication date. He also creates a false history of the tale, claiming it can found in any French records, if one only takes the time to look. Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera meets all of the requirements of fantastic literature. Through meeting these requirements of the Fantastic, this work also pulls itself out of the category of Magical Realism. Written in such an eerie tone, and with the horror found in its pages, it is no wonder that The Phantom of the Opera is included as horror or mystery besides its standing as a classical novel.
Leroux, Gaston. The Phantom of the Opera. New York: Signet Classic, 1987.
Todorov, Tzvetan. The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Form. Cleveland: The Press of Case Weston Reserve University, 1973. pp 168-174.