The genesis of Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame can be traced back to a single word. That word was “fate” written in Greek and carved into a wall on one the Notre Dame cathedral towers. From that chance discovery did the author fashion a timeless tale bursting with the power of myth in which each of the main characters represents a certain quality of human character which drives them. The theme of the novel is expressed in the fact that these qualities of human character are at the mercy of a controlling fate.
None of the characters undergo any remarkable transformation and likewise none are able to use the force of sheer will to transcend their destinies. Notre Dame takes center stage in the lives of the good—Quasimodo and Esmeralda—as well as the evil Claude Frollo. Its majesty is a place that draws those of every ilk, social strata and moral development. The cathedral does not intervene and it does no intercede; it merely stand uncrumbling through time a witness to the fates playing out within. The symbolism is obvious, but story and characters so powerful and the themes so universal that The Hunchback of the Notre Dame has been adapted into everything from multiple ballets and films to operas and rock musicals to a Disney animated feature and an early 80’s video game.