The novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” is a work by a world-famous writer named Victor Hugo who is also known for his work “Les Miserables”. The novel was published in 1831 and it is one of his famous books.
With this book Hugo tried out the “historical novel”. That type of novel was famous in the 19th century, and it remained popular until today. Despite the historical background, Hugo emphasized the medieval Paris and the gothic cathedral that represented eternal beauty.
The novel is divided into 11 books, and every one of them has 2-8 chapters with titles. In the first book the author left two notes and one of them is the prolog that tells us how the novel came to life.
His inspiration was the Greek word faith written in gothic calligraphy. Hugo found the word in the cathedral Notre-Dame while he was exploring it. The man who has written that word is dead, the word is fading away and the cathedral may have the same destiny. It was his inspiration because a book is no stronger nor permanent than stone.
Victor started to write the book on 25th June 1830, and the plot began on January the 6th, 1482.
Time: from the January 6th, 1428.
On January 6th, 1482 the whole Paris was excited because of two festivities that were about to take place and one of them was The Festival of Fools.
On one of them, they had a unique custom. People had to pick out the Pope of Fools and after that, he would be disguised and led through the city in a parade of laughter and offense. A crowd of people gathered to see the event and between them was a poor writer Pierre Gringoire.
The event was disturbed by student’s protest, Clopin Trouillefous’s begging and the arrival of the bishop.
One man stood out of the crowd and decided that this year’s “pope” had to make the best face. They chose the deaf hunchback of Notre-Dame named Quasimodo to do the part. But the face he had to make was his own.
Gringoire was disappointed because of the failure of his play and he was disgusted by Paris, so he left it.
Meanwhile on the square Esmeralda, a sixteen years old gypsy was dancing. She was accompanied by her goat. Everyone admired her dancing including the Arhdeacon Claude Frollo.
Her dancing was ended by the arrival of the Pope of Fools. Quasimodo kind of enjoyed his moments of power even thought they were only an illusion. He was only used to being mocked.
When he saw his ward, Frollo took off his crown and scepter and ordered him to leave the square. Quasimodo listened to him. Meanwhile, Gringoire was roaming the streets of Paris and, cold and starved, but then he saw Esmeralda and her goat. Two men attacked her. Gringoire was sure that one of them was Quasimodo, and he assumed that the other one was Frollo.
Quasimodo listened to Frollo when he ordered him to kidnap Esmeralda. He was stopped and captured by the captain of king’s archers Phoebus de Chateaupers. Esmeralda was impressed by his strength.
Gringoire fainted from a hit he got during the fight. He barely made it to the next neighborhood where a group of thieves captured him.
He was taken to the “king” Clopin Troillefou, and he was sentenced to death. He was told that they will spare his life if he marries a beggar and Esmeralda decided to marry him. Even thought she entered him into her home she never cared much about him because she was amazed by Captain Phoebus.
The third book has three chapters, and they are about the medieval architecture. Hugo compared Paris he knew to the medieval Paris.
The next book was dedicated to Quasimodo’s and Frollo’s past. 16 years ago Frollo found an abandoned child in his cathedral and the child was only four years old. He decided to keep him safe, and he named him Quasimodo.
Frollo’s parents died young, and he came from a small noble family. He also took care of his younger brother Jehan. As time passed by Frollo became a grown, but a bit weird man who was fascinated by alchemy.
Quasimodo was marked with malformation from the day he was born, and that’s the reason why the Cathedral was his comfort zone. Nobody saw nor disturbed him there. As he grew up, the Cathedral became his universe.
He was born an invalid, blind and hunchbacked. Frollo tried hard to teach him how to speak and when he was fourteen he became the bell ringer in Notre-Dame. He loved the bells, but they cost him his hearing. Since that moment on he only spoke when he was alone.
Frollo and Quasimodo were close, like a master and a dog. Everyone stayed away from them and joked around on their account, but they ignored them.
Frollo was a very smart man and the word about him spread out. He was visited by a friend of a friend that was interested in his studies.
Frollo told him everything about his search for immortality and his vision of the Cathedral. Everyone laughed at him, and the guest turned out to be Louis XI.
Then the story goes back to Quasimodo that was on a trial for trying to kidnap Esmeralda. The trial became a big mess because a deaf bell ringer was sentenced by a deaf judge to public humiliation with torturing.
During the torture, Quasimodo was laughed at by everyone. Frollo was passing by and didn’t even help him. Quasimodo was thirsty, but nobody gave him any water. Esmeralda felt sorry for him, and she gave him water and Quasimodo’s eyes filled with tears. Then one woman named Gudula cursed Esmeralda.
Gudula lived in a cell, and she walked up the door but left the window open. She did I because she cried for her daughter that was kidnapped. She especially hated Esmeralda because she was the same age as her missing daughter would be.
The plot continues a few week later. Phoebus was visiting his future wife that was observing Esmeralda while she was dancing. She invited Esmeralda to dance for them and then Esmeralda couldn’t hide her fascination with the Captain.
Despite his arranged marriage Phoebus decided to meet up with Esmeralda. Gringoar found out some detail about Esmeralda. He found out that she wears a particular necklace because she believes it will help her find her parents.
Frollo’s brother came to beg him for money and then he found out that Phoebus will meet up with Esmeralda. On the street, Frollo encountered Phoebus and made a deal with him that allowed him to observe the meeting of Phoebus and Esmeralda.
Frollo watched the meeting from his hideout, and he got jealous, so he stabbed Phoebus with a knife. Esmeralda fainted, and when she woke up, she realized she was falsely accused of murder. Even thought it was proven that the attack wasn’t deadly she was sentenced to death by hanging.
Frollo visited Esmeralda and offered to help her get her life and freedom if she accepts to be his wife for the rest of her life, but Esmeralda rejected him.
Phoebus has done nothing to help her. Furthermore, he got back with his fiancée.
Esmeralda’s hanging came. Quasimodo came out of nowhere, and he saved her and took her to the Cathedral. There she will be safe like he was because the law said that everyone inside the Cathedral is safe.
Frollo believed that Esmeralda was dead, but soon he found out she was alive and very close to him. Quasimodo placed her into the bell tower. Esmeralda was very grateful for being saved, but she couldn’t get used to Quasimodo’s appearance.
Quasimodo used to get her food and drinks while she was sleeping so she wouldn’t have to look at him. He also left her a whistle so she can call him if she needs him. Quasimodo decided to cheer her up by saying he’ll bring Phoebus to her. Phoebus did not want to visit her so Quasimodo lied that he couldn’t find him.
In the meantime, Frollo visited Esmeralda, and he attacked her, but Quasimodo defended her. Quasimodo was standing between two people he loved.
After that, Frollo encountered Gringoire and told him that he will bring Esmeralda to her hanging in three days. Gringoar organized a march on the Cathedral to save Esmeralda.
The march became something more – an attack on the king and the state. Many were injured in the fight, and Quasimodo was throwing rocks off of the Cathedral. Quasimodo didn’t understand that they were trying to save Esmeralda.
Gringoire was captured and almost killed, but he managed to run away. The king also sent him an army to fight the rebels. Quasimodo ran towards Esmeralda, but she was gone. Gringoire helped her escape, but they didn’t know that Frollo was following them. Gringoire left, and Esmeralda was left alone with Frollo. He told her he loved her, and he’ll save her if she stays with her, but she rejected him one more time, so he left her with Gudula.
Gudula was happy for finally getting her hands on Esmeralda, but she realized she was her daughter. It was too late because Esmeralda was hanged. Frollo laughed at her, and Quasimodo saw him so he assumed that Frollo was guilty of her death. He threw him off of the Cathedral.
Quasimodo disappeared after the two deaths. After two years two skeletons were found in the Cathedral, and it was evident that one of them hugged the other one before they died.
Characters: Quasimodo, Esmeralda, Frollo, Gringoar, Phoebus, Gudula, king, army
Quasimodo – the main character of the novel. The author described his inner beauty while his exterior was rather unpleasant. His appearance scared him for life. The only one who looked passed it was Frollo and he raised him. He was born an invalid, blind and hunchbacked. Frollo tried hard to teach him how to speak and when he was fourteen he became the bell ringer in Notre-Dame. He loved the bells but they cost him his hearing. Since that moment on he only spoke when he was alone. He was loyal to Frollo, but that changed when he fell in love with Esmeralda. He realized he was Frollo’s instrument, and Esmeralda got him back his self-consciousness. When he lost her, his life had no meaning, so he disappeared.
Victor Hugo Biography
Born in Besancon, France in 1802, Victor Hugo was a novelist, poet, and playwright whose voluminous works defined the romantic movement.
Hugo was educated both privately and in Paris schools. He was a precocious child, deciding at an early age to become a writer. In 1817 he was honored for a poem by the French Academy and five years later he published the first volume of poetry, “Miscellaneous Odes and Poems”. This was followed by the novel Han of Iceland in 1823 and BugJargal in 1824.
In the preface to his long historical drama Cromwell (1827) Hugo made a case for diversion from the classical restrictions. The plea quickly became the manifesto of the romantic school. Censors banned Hugo’s second drama Marion de Lorme which was based on the life of a French courtesan in the 17th century. Hugo answered the ban in 1830 with his poetic drama, “Hernani” which had a bestselling premiere.
The period of 1823-43 was the most prolific of Hugo’s career with the publishing of one of his most well-known novels “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and over a dozen other novels and books of poetry.
Hugo married his childhood friend Ade Foucher in 1822, and the two had five children together, four of whom lived past infancy.
In 1843, Hugo’s daughter Leopoldine drowned at the age of 19 along with her husband during a boating accident. Distraught over her death, Hugo turned from poetry and took a more active role in politics. In 1845 he was made a peer of France by then King Louis Philippe and in 1851, following the unsuccessful revolt against president Louis Napoleon (later Emperor Napoleon III) fled to Belgium.
In 1855 he started an exile on the island of Guernsey that would last for 15 years. While living on Guernsey, he created his longest and probably most famous work “Les Miserables”.
Hugo went back to France after the fall of the Second Empire in 1870 and took back up his role in politics. He was elected first to the National Assembly and later to the Senate. He was revered as a political figure in his time and died of pneumonia in 1885.
Hugo’s work set a standard for the rhetorical and poetic tastes of generations of French youth, and he is still considered one of the finest French poets.
After his death his body lay in state under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and was later bourne, in accordance with his wishes, on a pauper’s hearse and buried in the Pantheon, the burial place of many of France’s most famous citizens.