One Love, One Lifetime (or Why Christine was Smart to Choose Raoul)

They’re back, the random yet hopefully edifying Phantom of the Opera posts! You didn’t think they were gone, did you?

Within the phandom, you tend to see a lot of people insist that Christine should have chosen Erik for all the usual reasons–taught her to sing, more romantic, not a fop, etc. To me it just seems that Raoul gets a lot of undeserved hate. I’m not passing judgement here; I used to feel the same way. I was 15 when I read The Phantom of the Opera for the first time, and my 15-year-old self did not think much of the vicomte. He seemed like he was trying too hard at, well, everything, and instead of respecting him, I wanted to laugh at him. At the time I did think that Erik was a better choice because he managed to command more respect. Of course, considering that Erik was also a kidnapper and a murderer, I also reflected that maybe Christine shouldn’t have married either one of them.

As I got older, my understanding of love changed and became a little clearer, and the distinction between Erik and Raoul became more distinct to me. I realized the fundamental difference between the two men was the result of the difference in the way they approached love. Erik was willing to kill for Christine, but Raoul was willing to die for her. Erik’s love was selfish and possessive, driven by his own desire for a normal life, but Raoul was willing to sacrifice everything, including his life, to keep Christine safe. Sacrifice is intrinsic to love; there is no way to separate the two. Erik expected Christine to give up everything to be with him–it’s been awhile since I’ve read the book, but I’m pretty sure Erik was sacrificing nada in this relationship.

I want you to give up your friends, your career, and everything you knew to live in a cold, dark cellar with me. That's all I ask of you.

So, yes, Raoul may have been a bit pathetic and laughable, but it’s important to remember that he was still young–really, he was just a little vicomte; he was still working on being awesome when he grew up. Although his execution of his plans may have been lackluster, he had a pure and noble intention. I realize that now as an adult, and I respect him for that.

That’s not to say that I don’t still feel a smattering of sympathy for Erik–life was cruel to him, and he never really got a fair chance to prove that there was a man behind the face of the monster. But he had a whole lot of issues, way more than Christine would have been able to help him with, and the fact that he lied to her and kidnapped her were honking big warning signs that a relationship with him was the textbook definition of a Very Bad Idea. So in the long run, I’d say that Christine was smart for choosing Raoul. He proved his love for her in all of his actions, in his willingness to sacrifice everything, even his own life, to save her.

Sacrifice and love are inextricably entwined. Never forget that.

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