The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, “tells the story of the beautiful Esmerelda, condemed as a witch by the tormented archdeacon Claude Frollo, who lusts after her. Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer of Notre-Dame Cathedral, having fallen in love with the kindhearted Esmerelda, tries to save her by hiding her in the cathedral’s tower. When a crowd of Parisian peasants, misunderstanding Quasimodo’s motives, attacks the church in an attempt to liberate her, the story ends in tragedy.” ~goodreads
I can’t say I liked the story and I can’t say I didn’t like the book. I was surprised that Quasimodo and Esmerelda aren’t in the story very much. The first part of the story, Paris is having a festival and they are about to elect “The Pope of Fools.”
“He who makes the ugliest face is chosen Pope by the popular vote . . .” (p.39)
However, during the celebration, we meet Pierre Gringoire, a poet and philosopher, who is one of the main characters in the story. I was disappointed in Gringoire. He had so much potential as a character, he could have been so much more.
We also meet, Quasimodo, the bell-ringer. (p. 44)
“He looked like a giant who had been broken in pieces and badly soldered together again.” (p. 44).
Probably right here I should say, I didn’t like the festival at all.
We meet Esmerelda, a young girl of sixteen and her trained goat Djali early in the story.
“It was the gypsy girl who was singing. Her voice, like her dancing and her beauty, was indefinable, something pure, sonorous, aerial, winged as it were.” (p. 59).
She’s referred to as a Bohemian, Gypsy or a witch throughout the story. She was innocent, kindhearted and was guilty of nothing but entertaining people with her dancing and her trained goat.
Claude Frollo, the antagonist, knew better. He raised his brother after his parents died. Claude was an intelligent man, highly educated. Frollo and his brother were very much alike. However, Claude Frollo hid behind clerical robes. His brother did not.
Frollo was not a good man at all. He lusted after Esmerelda and caused much suffering in her young life.
This is a heavy story and it’s shocking. When I finished reading it, I had to walk off the feelings I was experiencing from reading it. As far as I could tell, this book had the elements of a Gothic. There are a couple of boring chapters in the book that describe the architecture of Paris. And of course, Notre Dame is in the center of it all. There were superstitions, injustices and hypocrisies’ throughout the book and mob rule! It’s a story of suffering and dark thoughts and evil intents of the human being with brief glimpses at kindness, gentleness and compassion.