Phantom the the Opera Mask

Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel, The Phantom the the Opera, has been filmed at least a half a dozen times, turned right into a very successful Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, and also used as inspiration for among the many ubiquitous halloween masks. Behind masks, us hide our true selves. Carl Jung would certainly say those room masks of the persona: the ego adapting come its circumstances. Yet the physicial mask the hides the horrible, or a challenge to it is in pitied (or both)? That’s unique to Romantic fiction. Especially to the fear genre. And also certainly to Phantom of the Opera.

You are watching: Why does the phantom of the opera wear a mask

THE NOVEL (1910)

For Leroux, the mask as symbol is rather complex; in addition to having his phantom, Erik, hide a hideous visage, Leroux writes that “none will ever be a true Parisian who has actually not learned to wear a mask the gaiety end his sorrows and one the sadness, boredom, or indifference end his inward joy.” we are challenged to face that we all stay masks — not just the ghost the the Opera home that longs because that the beautiful Christine. In the gothic heritage to i beg your pardon Leroux’s novel belong (along v all the adaptations that come later), the masked face is definitely romanticized.

The tale is familiar (well, to world like me it is): Erik hears Christine sing, and also is captivated. However he knows himself to it is in so deformed that Christine will be repulsed by him. Therefore he waits, covertly aiding Christine is her career. Minor characters are literally disposed of, and the main characters eventually find themselves at a pivotal moment when the mask will come off. Hideous boy will stand prior to beautiful girl, and also all will certainly be revealed.

But all what? Disgust? Pity? Overwhelming love?

Here’s wherein the novel and also its numerous adaptations differ.

In the novel, as soon as Erik is alone through Christine — far from she suitor, Raoul (whom Erik has imprisoned) — he elevator his mask, revealing his deformity, and also kisses her on the forehead. She returns his kiss. Erik then reveals that he has actually never received a kiss — not even from his mom — and also is rather overwhelmed with equal components sadness and also joy. He speak Christine the he has actually never felt therefore close to another human being, and turns indigenous wicked means — releasing Raoul. Why? The novel makes it clear: he has actually been conserved by love. Indeed, Leroux has actually him dying due to the fact that of love in ~ the end of the novel. Christine buries him, then takes off through the handsome Raoul.

THE silent FILM (1925)
Lon Chaney, The Phantom the the Opera (1925)

Fifteen year later, in 1925, global would adapt the novel to the silent silver screen. That producer Carl Laemmle (who would later on go on to produce both Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931) for Universal), decided Lon Chaney — the man of a thousand faces — because that the main role. And in a write-up World war I people where the horrors of battle left mutilated men, it is not past reason come assume the Chaney based at the very least some the his makeup on the poor broken souls who had actually returned from Europe with faces torn apart by German shrapnel.

Noseless and also lipless, through a sunken-eyed confront that looks an ext like a skull 보다 that the a man, Chaney’s phantom goes method beyond the novel v the level of Erik’s deformity, and also it alters the entirety tone of the story. In spite of Christine still gaining the attention from the phantom the leads to he success at the Opera house, her fear — our are afraid — is real. This phantom illicits fear — or at the an extremely best, our pity. And also instead that Erik lifting his mask in an plot of love, Chaney’s phantom is considerably unmasked, through Christine, in one of cinema’s many written-about reveals.


Erik’s unmasking is no his own decision. It is sudden. The is terrifying. And it leaves Christine horrified top top the floor. A recorded Raoul — again, Christine’s suitor — can only it is in freed if Christine provides a choice of 2 levers. A difficulty is do by Erik. One lever will complimentary Raoul. One will certainly blow increase the Opera House. But there’s a catch: cost-free Raoul, and agree to marry Erik.

The stress and anxiety is palpable. The audience sees Erik together a true monster, and also wants so an extremely much because that Christine and also Raoul to be together. And also that is what castle get, in a sacrifice do by Erik. That tricks Christine. His on purpose was reportedly to totally free Raoul every along, and also escape the Opera house with Christine. Only he is thwarted through an upset mob who attacks him and throws him into the Seine. Christine and also Raoul? They room seen ~ above honeymoon at picture’s end.

Still, the filmmakers initially intended to maintain the original ending of the novel. Lock filmed scenes in i m sorry Erik dies of a broken heart at his organ after Christine leaves him. However the preview audience reportedly hated this ending. They want the monster punished, and the lovers to it is in reunited.


Throughout the countless adaptions — from Claude rains in 1943, to Herbert Lom in Hamer’s version of 1962, to Brian de Palma’s bizarre Phantom that the Paradise (1974) — the stories change.

Music i do not care the true love of the phantom in some. Disfigurement at brith due to the fact that a catastrophic encounter through acid in another. However the main theme beneath all is this push and also pull between the beautiful chanteuse and the disfigured musician. Occasionally repulsion. Occasionally attraction. Always Romantic in the Gothic novel feeling of the term. Except, perhaps, in DePalma’s work, where the Gothic gives way to Glam.

THE music (1986 — present day)
Phantom of the Opera musical

But exterior of the novel, no variation is more romanticized than the Andrew Lloyd Webber music — i beg your pardon manages come fuse so many elements of the tale told end the last hundred years. In the mix of outcomes, the best and worst case scenarios for bad Erik co-exist. Yes, the is hideous. However he is romantic. And also despite Christine’s love because that Raoul, over there is a bond in between her and also the phantom — one that regularly finds that way, as with most musicals, into song — and a gift the a ring come Christine.

The unmasking has actually mixed reaction — at first fear, but it quickly becomes pity. This pity leads to tenderness. And also tenderness, come love. At the end, Erik realizes that in spite of his love for Christine, he must release her to Raoul. The rightful pair begin to escape Erik’s subterranean lair, but not prior to Christine decides come return the ring that Erik had offered her together a token of his love. She finds instead a crowd that has descended right into the lair to kill the phantom. However as she lifts aside the cloak whereby she to trust Erik come be, she finds only… a mask.


Masks play a central role in all adaptations of the Phantom of the Opera. Some room there for sudden horror (kill the monster!). And some are there because that romantic imaginings (where walk the bad tortured artist go?).

Masque of the Red Death

Some masks are also there to more hide the true persona — or possibly remind us all that despite love or terror, fatality awaits united state all. In countless adaptations, In Lon Chaney’s silent film, Erik attends a round dressed together Poe’s Red Death. His mask is a skull. Memento Mori. The reminder that life is fleeting, and also that we all have to die.

See more: How To Jump Start A Chrysler 300 From The Trunk? Jump Starting Question

In the end, that is the use of the mask — and also the unmasking — that addresses our very own extremes the attraction and repulsion. And also that moment of revelation in the unmasking is important the most dramatic event in The Phantom the the Opera — be it novel, film, or musical.