The Phantom's Opera

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Melody 03-05-2015 12:25 AM

Why did Erik ask the slave girl to unmask him?
For those of you who have read Susan Kay's novel. you know the scene in Persia where Erik is given a concubine as a gift. And something he says in that scene has alway perplexed me.

"Very well. I have seen what lies behind your vail, my dear... Now you shall be accorded a reciprocal honor. Come forward and remove my mask."

Why would Erik ask her to take off his mask? Throughout the whole novel it shows how Erik hates being unmasked. Especially around attractive people. The gypsy fair, Luciana, the first meeting with the khanum, when Christine unmasks him. He fears and loathes it.

What do you think?

Designated Driver 03-05-2015 01:08 AM

Hi Melody-
First off, good question. It actually should go in the House on the Lake section because that's where book discussions go. I'm assuming one of the moderators will take care of this and get it to the correct section.

I really liked the way Kay described Erik's reaction to the slave girl. But there are a few things about the passage that I found outright unbelievable. The girl has been given a royal command: She is required to serve Erik. That means she must comply with his wishes, no matter what. The second is exactly what you asked. There is no reason for him to require her to remove his mask.

There's also a third thing I found outright unbelievable about the episode. When Daroga comments that the girl is just a slave, Erik explodes and is outraged. Yet, he himself just treated her as a slave by sending her back.

I can't say for sure why Erik wanted the slave girl to remove his mask. She was terrified of him before she was dragged to his feet. Did he suspect she wouldn't remove it if asked? Was the khanum behind all of this? Who can say. It's an odd passage that Kay added because it just doesn't further the story, in my opinion.

Melody 03-05-2015 08:26 PM

Oh, thank you for telling me. I'm new here so I'm still figuring this stuff out.
The slave girl was given to him as punishment from the shah. so I always figured she was ordered to reject him.
As to the third thing you said, I think it was to show us how unpredictable Erik is. One minuet he is condemning the whole country for "legalized rape", then he is threatening to take her by force then be executed, then tells them to say he is "incapable of using such a gift" and tries to "ensure she receives no punishment.
The yin and yang that is Erik's character.

If anyone wants to add Their two cents, please do! This question is going to haunt me. Lol

Designated Driver 03-05-2015 09:09 PM

I don't think the book comes right out and states that the odalisque was given to Erik as a punishment, does it? I thought the book was silent on the subject, making it a gray area for the reader. I can certainly see where she might be given as a punishment, but since Kay as silent on the subject, I'm not sure what type of punishment she would be to Erik. Had he chosen, he could have used her as he saw fit.

One other thing that somewhat contradicts this is Daroga's narration. He clearly sees the girl as a gift, one of the highest that can be bestowed upon a servant. I would think that if Kay wanted the reader to believe something was really treacherous, she would have had Daroga simply narrate it into the story.

You know that's an interesting point about the black and white of Erik's character. Perhaps that could be the reason why he asked the girl to remove his mask. It might have been the one time where he felt he could stand to have it removed.

Melody 03-06-2015 12:02 AM

I believe in the scene right before the slave girl with the shah and Nadir the shah tells Nadir to study Erik's reaction and report it back to him. And Nadir says something like " it seemed Erik was to be punished for his many weeks of absence" or something like that. I don't have the book With me right now.

Designated Driver 03-06-2015 01:03 AM

Melody, I agree with you that Daroga is suspicious of the shah's actions and comments that Erik is going to be punished. But no more comes of it once the girl comes into the story. Daroga relates that the odalisque is the greatest gift that can be bestowed upon a favored servant.

I can't speak for anyone else, but when I read that passage, it sounded to me like Daroga was very sincere in his belief that the girl was a great gift. Whatever suspicions or unease he had earlier must have disappeared because he never speaks about them again. In fact, he seems sincere in his surprise that Erik wouldn't accept the shah's gift. If he was suspicious, that would seem to me to be the time to share his suspicions with Erik.

It's hard to say what frightened the girl, but I actually think it was Erik's presence and his voice, similar to the experience Daroga had when they first met. Erik may have taken this encounter a few steps further. He removes the girl's veil, then baits her, adding to her terror by telling her to remove his mask. Then he threatens her with death and the next minute, takes the defensive, surprised and hurt that she would risk death rather than sleep with him. I don't know about anyone else, but this is reminiscent of Daroga's earlier comments about Erik, that he was playing with him, like a cat with a mouse, claws sheathed. Only in this instance, Erik's claws are exposed.

I said earlier that this girl would have been trained to sleep with any type of man, but it's clear Erik is a completely different sort. Maybe she was never trained to deal with a man who's very presence and voice are an experience in terror. She probably doesn't know how to respond to a man who is so adept at mentally playing with people.

Just one more thought. No one condemned the girl to death except Erik himself. Maybe that was the punishment the shah had in mind: Erik's own words would be used against him.

IamErik771 03-06-2015 07:47 AM

Fantastic topic! I moved it to the correct forum... If anyone has questions, feel free to ask. :grnsmile:

11:07 AM

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