The Hunchback Of Notre Dame Essay

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Victor Hugo

I. Setting:Paris


II. Characters:

Quasimodo? protagonist. Hideously deformed with a hump on a back, protrusion from his chest, and a large wart covering one eye. Abandoned when he was a chile at Notre Dame. He was adopted by the archdeacon who attempted to make him a scholar even though hes deaf.

Archdeacon Claude Frollo? priest at Notre Dame who adopted Quasimodo. Intelligent, compassionate and always destined for the church. He loves his brother Jehan and tries to take care of him as their parents are dead. He attempts to mold Quasimodo into a scholar. He also has an obsessive lust for La Esmerelda.

La Esmerelda? Lost daughter of Sister Gudule. She is a mesmerizing gypsy street dancer. She is incredibly beautiful and capable of magical tricks. She wears trinkets around her neck in hopes that it will help reunite her with her lost family.

Pierre Gringoire? playwright. Married to La Esmerelda to save his life. Sees most that goes on in the village.

Phoebus de Chateaupers? captain of the Kings archers. Saves La Esmerelda only to watch her die later. Tries to seduce La Esmerelda as well as many other women. He is stabbed by Frollo and assumed to be dead.

III. Plot:The novel opens in Paris on the sixth of January, 1482 with the Festival of Fools.

The feast is not so coincidentally at the same time as the marriage of Louis XIs son to a Flemish princess. There are fireworks in the Place de Greve, a tree to be planted at the Chapel of Braque, and a play to be performed at the Palace of Justice. Though wanting to wait for the Cardinal, playwright Pierre Gringoire decides to appease the crowds riotous cries by instructing his actors to begin his original production of The Good Judgement of Madame the Virgin Mary. But the crowd is uninterested and begins focusing on a beggar named Clopin Trouillefou as he climbs onto the stage begging for charity. Gringoire tries desperately to interest people in the play, but all have lost interest…including the actors! Finally the Cardinal arrives with his Flemish entourage. No one seems to mind his tardiness. A person in the audience turns the attention of the crowd to the election of the Pope of Fools. It is decided that the winner shall be chosen by sticking their heads through holes in boards and the ugliest wins. Its not long before the misshapen Quasimodo is chosen as the winner. He is hoisted through the crowd like some sort of hero as all shout, “Cyclops”. But Quasimodo cannot hear the chanting. Upon hearing that La Esmerelda is dancing outside the Palace of Justice, attention is once again turned to something new.

Just as Gringoire is wandering alone searching for food and a place to rest his weary head, he spots the Pope of Fools procession and follows it toward the Place de Greve. By the time he reaches the “sinister spot”, there is nothing left for him. Gringoire then spots a bonfire surrounded by mesmerized spectators watching La Esmerelda. Suddenly a man screams out, “there is sorcery at the bottom of this!” La Esmerelda runs to her imitating goat Djali in somewhat of a panic. The rest of the crowd is so taken with her that they pay no mind to the stranger. Then, Quasimodo and his procession enter the square and the stranger grabs him and orders him to his knees. The stranger is recognized by Gringoire to be Frollo. Finding no place to lay his head, Gringoire resigns to following La Esmerelda. When she realizes she is being followed, Quasimodo attacks her. Gringoire sees Frollo lurking around and decides to try to save La Esmerelda. But before he can help her, Quasimodo knocks him out. Out of nowhere, the Kings archers appear and save La Esmerelda while capturing Quasimodo. Phoebus de Chateaupers introduces himself to La Esmerelda just before she disappears. Gringoire awakes with no clue of what has just occurred. He gets lost and ends up in the Cour des Miracles. A few beggars attempt to mug him, but upon discovering that he has no money, they took him before their king. Their king was none other than Trouillefou, the man who disrupted Gringoires play. They are about to execute him when La Esmerelda steps forward and announces that she will make him her husband for a period of four years. She takes the stunned Gringoire home with her and it is there he discovers that she does not love him, she only wanted to save his life. She barely speaks, but only to ask what Pheobus meant. She disappeared into her room and Gringoire spent the night on the floor.

Sixteen years earlier, in 1466, Quasimodo was laid down in a special bed for abandoned children after mass. When the crowd sees the hideous child, not one wants to adopt him. Until Frollo comes and wraps him in his cassock and carries him away. Frollo s parents died that same year and he adopted his brother Jehan. Seeing Quasimodo being mocked by the crowd made his heart overflow with pity and he took him in because he realized that it could have been Jehan that was left there. Frollo calls him Quasimodo because it meant half?formed. Being brought up in the church, Quasimodo thought Notre Dame was his world. He grew very attached to the bells and slept next to them as a child. He became the bell?ringer at fourteen and went deaf from the bells. He grew to be incredibly strong. He was able to scale the cathedral, even though he only had one operable eye. Frollo tried to instruct Quasimodo, but the ideas of mankind appeared skewed from him. He retreated from people entirely. His only love are his bells. He calls one of them Mary. Even though they made him deaf, he loves them. He behaves wildly when ringing them because he can “hear” the reverberation. He sees Frollo as a father, he therefore has more power over him than even his beloved bells. Though Frollo is sometimes harsh with Quasimodo, he is submissive to him. Frollo grows more of a recluse as time passes due to the fact that his brother Jehan has not followed his footsteps. He secludes himself in a room in the tower to secretly practice black magic. To others, he seems like a sorcerer and uninterested in women.

Quasimodos attack on La Esmerelda and the Kings archers has put him in the court of the Grand Chatlet under Master Florian Barbedienne, who also happens to be deaf. The crowd finds this amusing as Florian attempts to question Quasimodo as neither of them knows what the other is saying. Florian assumes from the laugher that Quasimodo is mocking him and sentences him to be tortured.. When someone does tell him that Quasimodo is deaf, he thinks he has done something else and sentences him to an extra whipping. In the Place de Greve, where Quasimodo will be tortured, there is a building called the Tour Roland where lepers or widows claim sanctuary. There are women bringing cake to Sister Gudule, who has spent the last eighteen years of her life there praying. She is famous for hating gypsies, especially La Esmerelda. She is compared with Paquette la Chantelfeurie who claims that Egyptian gypsies ate her baby and replaced it with a hideously deformed one. A woman bringing cake recalls the story and insists that Sister Gudule is Paquette la Chantelfeurie. Not far from that scene, Quasimodo is being attached to a spinning pillory where a man begins beating him. Just yesterday he was being celebrated at that very spot. He tried to break free at first, but then resigned to being beaten and didnt even flinch. Two attendants wash the blood off Quasimodos back and apply ointment to it and then the crowd starts hurling stones at him obviously offended by him. He sees Frollo appear and he begins to smile. But Frollo turns away and allows the punishment to continue. Quasimodo begs for water but the crowd keeps yelling things at him. Then La Esmerelda appears and puts water to his lips. He is so taken with her kindness and beauty that he almost forgets to drink. The torturer then releases him and the jeering crowd disperses.

Nearly two months later, as Phoebus is charming young women at the house of Fleur?de?Lys?de Gondelaurier, some of them spot La Esmerelda dancing and call her over. Phoebus does not at first recognize her until he spots Djali. When La Esmerelda sees Phoebus, she blushes. The young women are jealous of La Esmerelda s good looks and begin mocking her clothing. She remains silent and compassionately looks at Phoebus. They all notice Frollo watching La Esmerelda and comment on how much he hates Egyptians. Fleur?de?Lys?de Gondelaurier asks La Esmerelda what she has in the bag around her neck, but she will not tell her. She says it is a secret. When La Esmerelda isnt looking, Fleur?de?Lys?de Gondelaurier opens the bag and sees wooden letters. Djali spells out “Phoebus” with them. Outraged that she now must compete with La Esmerelda for Captain Phoebus affections, Fleur?de?Lys?de Gondelaurier calls her a witch and faints. La Esmerelda runs away with Phoebus on her heels. Frollo had been in his secret cell until he heard La Esmereldas tambourine. After watching her figure dancing in the square, he rushed down to find her. When he arrived there, she was gone. But Gringoire is there balancing a chair and a cat on his head. Gringoire sees Frollo and follows him back to the cathedral. Frollo demands to know where Gringoire had been for the last two months. Gringoire relayed his tale of his marriage to La Esmerelda, but Frollo did not care that Gringoire had been with beggars. He wanted to know about La Esmerelda. Gringoire tells him that she came from Egypt by way of Hungary and that she will remain chaste until she finds her parents. Gringoire and Frollo depart, but only after Gringoire embarrasses Frollo by asking why he wants to know so much about La Esmerelda. Later that month, Jehan realizes that he is out of money and decides to ask his brother, Frollo for money. Jehan enters Frollo s cell but Frollo does not notice him. Jehan takes notice of Frollos mumbles in Hebrew and Latin and of the magical inscriptions on his walls. He then exits the room and enters again pretending it is the first time he has come in. When he asks Frollo for money, he denies him saying how embarrassed he is that Jehan is fighting and drinking instead of studying. Jehan tries to convince him otherwise, but its no use. On his way out of the cathedral, Jehan runs into Phoebus. They are old friends and decide to go drinking together not knowing that Frollo is following them. Phoebus brags that he has plans to meet La Esmerelda as Jehan passes out in the mud. Frollo follows Phoebus and its not long before Phoebus takes notice of it. Phoebus confronts him but is unaware that it is him as he is hidden in a cloak. Frollo give Phoebus money to give him information about La Esmerelda and Phoebus takes him to the house where he and La Esmerelda are to meet. Just before she enters, Phoebus hides Frollo in a room with a spy hole. He watches as La Esmerelda declares her undying love for Phoebus and he pretends to love her just as much. Frollo watches as they kiss and Phoebus tells her he cannot marry her. Frollo dashes out of his hiding spot and repeatedly stabs Phoebus while La Esmerelda faints. She awakes to hear men say that a sorceress has stabbed their dear captain.

Gringoire begins to worry about La Esmerelda when he has not heard from her in nearly a month. Someone tells him something of her and an officer, but he does not believe it. He hears of a witch on trial for the death of an officer and hopes the trial will lighten his spirits. When he arrives, he sees that the woman on trial is his La Esmerelda. She insists that she did not do it. That it was a goblin priest. The owner of the house said that she saw a hooded figure enter and exit the house. But the court is convinced that it was a demon spirit that La Esmerelda conjured to kill Phoebus. They are given permission to torture her. The prosecutor asks her to confess three times, but she refuses. So he orders a doctor to stretch her body in four different directions. But she refuses to confess to crimes she did not commit, until the pain is too much for her to bare. The Judge condemns both La Esmerelda and Djali to be hanged before all of Notre Dame. As La Esmerelda is in her cell with no light awaiting her hanging, Frollo comes to her. She is horrified as she recognizes him as the man who killed her one true love. He confesses his love for her, telling her that he had her on trial for murder so that he could see her secretly and he begs her to love him. He says that he can save her. She tells him that they will never be together, not even in hell. She cries out for Phoebus, and as the shunned Frollo leaves he says, “he is dead.” Meanwhile, Sister Gudule is going through her own torture. She still laments for her lost child. That is until she hears the people cry out that La Esmerelda is to be hanged. She then springs to the streets to watch. Phoebus had completely recovered from his wounds. He returns to Paris after a long time away and is ready to take Fleur?de?Lys as his wife. As they are discussing their wedding plans, Phoebus hears the crowd outside. Fleur?de?Lys tells him a witch is to be hanged. As they both see La Esmerelda, Phoebus goes white. His fianc is still jealous of her and wants him to watch her public humiliation. La Esmerelda whimpers Phoebus name to herself and upon looking up sees him. She faints. Quasimodo, who was watching the spectacle, swung down on a rope from the towers and snatched La Esmerelda. He ran with her to the cathedral screaming, “sanctuary!”

Frollo runs to the hills in disbelief that he has sentenced the woman he loves to death. He begins to go mad. He is more demon than man. Upon seeing Jehan with a prostitute, he runs to the towers and thinks he is seeing La Esmereldas ghost, since he believes her to be dead. When La Esmerelda awakes, she is surprised to see Quasimodo standing over her. But it becomes routine for him to always be near her. The two form a friendship. Still, La Esmerelda can only think of Phoebus. She does not blame him for not speaking out when he saw her about to be hanged. She blames herself for confessing to his murder. She sees him across the square and calls to him but he does not hear her. Quasimodo offers to go fetch him for her. He waits outside Fleur?de?Lys house for Phoebus. When he finally comes out, it is dark and he does not believe Quasimodo. He assumed La Esmerelda to be dead and dismisses Quasimodo. He tells La Esmerelda that he could not find him. Frollo becomes ill when he discovers that La Esmerelda is still alive. Then he spies on her. He then steals the key to her room and at nightfall he sneaks into her room. She wakes up to find him standing over her and screams. He again begs her to love him. She again refuses and this time he climbs on top of her. She blows the whistle Quasimodo gave her and the hunchback comes to her rescue. Because it is dark, Quasimodo does not see that it is Frollo he is choking. When the light of the moon makes it clear who it is, Quasimodo releases his master. Frollo kicks him aside and says that no one shall have La Esmerelda.

Frollo finds Gringoire and tells him that La Esmerelda is about to be forcefully removed from Notre Dame and hanged. He tricks Gringoire into “saving” La Esmerelda. Then Frollo runs into Jehan. He says that he has changed his ways, and that he plans to be more serious and responsible. Then he asks for money. When Frollo refuses, he runs to join the vagabonds. They were not keen to taking him in. They were preparing to storm the cathedral and save La Esmerelda. They only accept Jehan when he tells them that he knows the cathedral very well. When they arrive at the cathedral, Quasimodo thinks it to be an attack to kill La Esmerelda. The vagabonds cry out that they want to save La Esmerelda. But Quasimodo cannot hear. So he crushes some of them with a beam, kills other with melted lead. Others are scared and run away. Jehan would not give up though. He climbed up a ladder on the side. Quasimodo found him, moved the ladder, crushed his skull against the wall, and threw Jehan to his death. Meanwhile, Gringoire is brought to the King of France as a prisoner. He agrees to let him go only if he will help them hang the “sorceress.” Back at the cathedral, Quasimodo is about to surrender to the vagabonds when Phoebus and the Kings archers show up. They clear out the remaining vagabonds and prepare to arrest La Esmerelda. Quasimodo believes that they are there to help La Esmerelda and rushes to tell her the news. When he gets to her room, she is nowhere to be found.

During the storming of the castle by the vagabonds, La Esmerelda awoke to screams. She decides to leave. Just as she is about to exit the cathedral, she sees Gringoire and a mysterious stranger. They offer to save her and she agrees. They get into a boat traveling down the Siene. As they pass Notre Dame she hears people scream, “death to the sorceress!” She faints at the thought of so many people wanting her dead. When she wakes, Gringoire is gone and only the mysterious stranger remains. They are near the public square where she is to be hanged. The mysterious stranger is Frollo. He begs her to love him and says that she has a choice. She will either leave with him or be turned over to the authorities to die. She asks to die. Before Frollo leaves for Notre Dame, he leaves La Esmerelda with Sister Gudule since he knows of her hatred for gypsies. Sister Gudule begins yelling at La Esmerelda and asks why gypsies like her ate her baby. La Esmerelda begs to be released and says that she has done nothing to harm her. Sister Gudule shows her a little satin shoe she made for her baby. La Esmerelda pulls an identical shoe out of her bag. They both hug realizing that they have been searching for one another for fifteen years. Just then the executioners arrive. Sister Gudule is not willing to give up her daughter now that she has finally found her. She pushes La Esmerelda back inside her cell and tells the soldiers that La Esmerelda has escaped. They believe her and are about to leave when Phoebus rides by. A few men say his name and hearing this, La Esmerelda thinks he can help her. She calls out to him and is found by the soldier. They begin dragging her toward the scaffold. Sister Gudule begs them not to take her daughter. They apologize and say that Louis XI wants her dead. It must be done. She claws at them but it is no use. When they reach the scaffold, the prosecutor, the man who tortured her before was there to hang her. Sister Gudule leaned forward and bit his hand off. But it was too late. Back at Notre Dame, Quasimodo was frantically searching for La Esmerelda. He went to the top of the towers in hopes that he would be able to spot La Esmerelda. When he reached the top, he saw Frollo looking down upon La Esmerelda hanging in a white dress from the scaffolding. He picked up Frollo and tossed him to the ground. Looking at Frollo and Esmerelda he called, “there is everything I ever loved.” He was never seen again. Year upon Years later when a gravedigger found La Esmerelda s remains, the skeleton of a hunchback was curled around her.

IV. Conflict:man vs himself

V. Theme: essence precedes existence

VI. Point of View:third person omniscient

VII. Reaction: My initial impression of the Hunchback of Notre Dame was merely what I had seen in the Disney movie. Reading the book, I see that it was definitely different. In a good way. I really enjoyed it. It started out a little bit slow for me, but I really got into the plot. I was actually somewhat sad when it was over.

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