I need to brush up on my gothic lit a little more but it occurs to me that Raoul is written like a gothic heroine suffering from far too much sensibility while Christine is written more like a gothic hero.
YES YES YES. This is one of my favorite things about the novel. Initially, you just assume that Raoul’s going to save the day while Christine swoons away every five seconds. Raoul’s certainly brave—he works with the Daroga to rescue Christine, after all, literally risking his life in the process for the woman he loves—but he’s not the typical knight in shining armor. He’s much more driven by emotion than Christine is. She becomes aware of the incredible intricacies of her situation and navigates them with surprising finesse, given what she’s dealing with.
That’s not to say that she’s emotionless—far from it! But she certainly thinks things through more than Raoul, who is often driven by impulse. “I must spy on you in your dressing room NOW.” “We must run away together and get married NOW.” “I am going to have an emotional outburst NOW.” Whereas Christine’s more like, “SAVE THE EMOTIONAL OUTBREAK FOR LATER BECAUSE I AM TRYING TO PREVENT US FROM GETTING KILLED, THANK YOU.”
And we can’t forget that Raoul, like Erik, is very much prone to jealousy. Remember when he demands to know where she’s been after those weeks she spent with Erik? She puffs up and says something akin to, “There is only one man in the world who has the right to know where I’ve been, and that is my husband. Well, I don’t have a husband, and I never shall.” Holy cow. Five hundred points to Gryffindor for feminist independence, Christine.
In the end, of course, she ends up saving everyone, even though you’re meant to think that she’s the damsel in distress, up until the moment when she kisses Erik. Her compassion and bravery redeem Erik. Her love for both men saves the lives of Raoul and the Persian—and, arguably, quite a sizable chunk of Paris because Erik was poised to blow up half the city if she didn’t choose him. Her strength throughout the ordeal is certainly more typical of Gothic male heroes than female heroines. It’s a wonderful character trope inversion on Leroux’s part, and all the more reason to love Christine as a character. Both Erik and Raoul attempt to dominate her in their own ways, but ultimately, she calls the shots, sticks to her guns, and saves lives in the process. Superhero in a bustle, folks.