Evolution of the Protagonists in Pride and Prejudice and The Phantom of the Opera

Evolution of the Protagonists in Pride and Prejudice and The Phantom of the Opera

A Story by Judy Maxwell

This was for an assignment for school. I plan to rewrite it, as this is a rough version, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.



Evolution of the Protagonists in Pride and Prejudice and The Phantom of the Opera


            Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is known as being a classic love story; some would even go as far as to call it the original “chick flick” story. The plot of the story is based around the romantic relationship between the novel’s two main protagonists: Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. One of the things that sets this love story apart from the many other romances out there is the actual nature of Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship. Theirs is not a case of love at first sight. This story focuses on the evolution of their relationship. Interestingly, in this way Pride and Prejudice can be compared to the popular story of The Phantom of the Opera: the Andrew Lloyd Webber play and the novel by Gaston Leroux. In The Phantom of the Opera the main characters, Christine and Erik (the phantom), have a very unusual relationship that evolves through the story. This relationship between Christine and Erik is similar to the relationship between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in several ways. In both stories the level and means of attraction between the two characters changes over time. As the stories progress, the hero and the heroine change their views of one another as a cause of certain revelations they have of each other. Their own personalities also change through the course of the story, and much of this change is caused by their interactions with one another.

            In Pride and Prejudice, neither Elizabeth nor Mr. Darcy seem to actually be attracted to each other in the very beginning of the story. Mr. Darcy even expresses this lack of attraction himself when he states his opinion of Elizabeth, saying, “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.” (Austen 13) In this simple statement Darcy illustrates the lack of romantic interest between himself and Elizabeth upon their first encounter. The basis of the novel is the transition from this lack of interest to actual love between the two characters, and how they undergo the change. Elizabeth and Darcy start the story with a feeling of animosity for each other. Elizabeth is certain in the beginning of the novel that she will never romantically fall for Darcy. She sees Mr. Darcy as a proud, conceited man who would never be interested in her, and she likewise feels she would never be interested in him. Mr. Darcy has very similar feelings. Darcy believes that Elizabeth is not even of the appropriate class and he feels that he certainly shouldn’t have any feelings for her. By the end of the novel Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy seem to have developed very different feelings since they eventually learn to love each other, but this change in feelings is caused by more interaction between them, and they change their mindsets as they get to know each other better.

            In The Phantom of the Opera the situation is quite the opposite from Elizabeth and Darcy’s, but the transition of feelings works in the same way. The beginning of The Phantom of the Opera finds Christine taking lessons from a mysterious teacher who never shows his face. Christine is intrigued by this mysterious voice who is teaching her how to improve her singing, and in a way, Christine begins her relationship with the phantom already in love. Erik, also known as the phantom, has a similar feeling about Christine. She is almost as mysterious to him as he is to her. Erik has gone through his life up to this point with very little contact with other humans, and his relationship with Christine is really his first attempt at intimacy with another person. Erik knows very little about women and when he first establishes a connection with Christine he is as much in love with his own fantasies as with Christine herself, if not more. Both of these characters are not so much in love with each other as with the fantasy they are experiencing in each others presence. Christine perfectly expresses this fantasy in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s play when she sings, “In sleep he sang to me, in dreams he came. That voice which calls to me and speaks my name. And do I dream again? For now I find the phantom of the opera is there . . .” Once Erik actually reveals himself to Christine, however, this fantasy begins to unravel. Their first touch establishes each of them as being true flesh and blood humans, and this is the first step for them to realize that there is more to the other than only what they imagine, or wish there to be. When Christine removes Erik’s mask for the first time she is shown the darker side of the phantom, and at that moment her illusion is shattered forever. Erik takes a little longer to come to this realization, but eventually he realizes that Christine has her own wants and needs, and she is not just there to serve and care for him. By the end of the story, both characters have learned enough about each other that they realize their relationship just won’t work the way they had hoped it would.

            Both novels contain a turning point where the hero and the heroine learn a great deal of information about each other in one simple action. In Pride and Prejudice this turning point is Mr. Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth where he explains the truth about something Elizabeth had been holding against him without actually knowing all the facts. The actual information that Darcy reveals is not so much a turning point as the fact that Elizabeth realizes that she had been unconsciously judging Darcy. Darcy, in turn, realizes that he had not been as open with Elizabeth as he really should have been. When our protagonists come to these realizations they then change the manner in which they interact with each other. Both Elizabeth and Darcy become more open in their perceptions of each other, as well as being more open in their interactions.

            In The Phantom of the Opera, the main turning point is when Christine first removes Erik’s mask. In this moment Christine learns much more about Erik than she has been able to learn so far in her limited interactions with him. In the action of pulling off the mask, Christine sees Erik’s face for the first time, and by seeing his physical imperfection her fantasy begins to crumble. Erik’s reaction to Christine taking his mask, however, reveals quite a lot about Erik’s character. Erik reacts in anger and hides his deformed face from Christine. Christine is given a glimpse of Erik’s true personality, as opposed to the fantasy persona Erik had been presenting to her. This simple action of taking the phantom’s mask changes the relationship between them from one of fantastic lust to a very real relationship that Christine begins to realize just might not be the best one for her. Through this action Erik’s true personality is revealed to Christine, just as Elizabeth sees Mr. Darcy’s true personality from his letter. They may each take different courses in the direction with their relationships, but Christine and Elizabeth both learn a great deal more about their partners through simple revelations such as these.

            In the end of Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have shaped their own personalities and learned enough about each other that they have learned to be more than compatible, even though when they first met they didn’t believe that such a thing would be possible. They have worked through their differences and changed their mindsets greatly in order to mature in their relationship and come to love each other. The case of Christine and Erik is much different, however. They, too, have evolved their personalities, but in the end they find themselves apart. Christine realizes that she really is not as interested In Erik as she had previously thought, and she, too, matures as she stops investing her emotions in fantasies. The final change in Christine’s view of Erik is expressed in her words when she finally tells him she no longer has any interest in him, “This haunted face holds no horror for me now. It’s in your soul where the true distortion lies.” This statement shows that Christine has matured in way of thinking, similarly to how Elizabeth matured, though Christine didn’t come to the same conclusion that Elizabeth did in her relationship.

            Pride and Prejudice and The Phantom of the Opera certainly do not follow the same plotline, but the interactions between the hero and the heroine are notably similar. In the case of Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy evolve in their relationship to the point where they are able to be much more intimate with each other than they had previously imagined. In Christine and Erik’s case, they, too, evolve, but in the opposite direction. Christine matures to the point where she learns to stop investing her emotions in dreams and fantasies, and therefore she realizes that Erik is not the mysterious man she had originally fallen in lust with. The characters help each other learn not only about each other, but about themselves and what their own shortcomings are. Elizabeth teaches Mr. Darcy to open up a little more while Mr. Darcy teaches Elizabeth to be a little less judgmental. Christine teaches Erik about feelings and the fact that other people, not just Erik, have them. Erik teaches Christine that she had been placing her hope and love in fantasies and illusions. In both of these situations a great deal of evolution takes place, and in turn the characters are made better for it.

© 2008 Judy Maxwell

Author's Note

Judy Maxwell
Again, this is rough and is going to be rewritten eventually. I just wanted the basic idea thrown out there.

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This is good. I liked how you developed your idea. Comparing the two stories was a good idea. Nice work.

Posted 13 Years Ago

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Added on February 5, 2008


Judy Maxwell
Judy Maxwell

Canton, GA

I'm a student at Reinhardt College. English major. I plan to go on to an institute of even higher education and try for a doctorate after I graduate. If you steal my essays I will track you down and .. more..

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