The Hunchback of Notre Dame Essay Questions

Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Several men are in love with Esmeralda. Pick two of them and compare and contrast those characters.

    Claude Frollo is a frustrated, sarcastic churchman who has a history of lechery. He is well educated and influential but cunning and devoted to different unsavory vices. Esmeralda finds him generally unattractive, although he is generally kind to Quasimodo and to his own younger brother Jehan.

    Phoebus de Chateaupers is a military man, the Captain of the King's Archers. Handsome but betrothed to an upper-class woman, he is physically attracted to Esmeralda and she is passionately in love with him. However he does not want to marry her and is a very superficial, egotistical person. He believes Esmeralda stabbed him and loses interest in her as a result. His interest in Esmeralda is just as base as Claude Frollo's is. He is less intelligent than Frollo but far more physically attractive.

    Quasimodo is the deformed, deaf, and nearly blind bell ringer in the Notre Dame cathedral. He adores Esmeralda not for her beauty but for her kindness. Whereas Frollo allows Esmeralda to be executed for a crime that Frollo committed, Quasimodo risks his own life to save Esmeralda's. This earns him a place in what a modern reader might call "the Friend Zone". He is far less intelligent or physically attractive than Frollo or Phoebus but his motives are pure and his love for Esmeralda is sincere.

    Pierre Gringoire, a poet, is Esmeralda's husband. She married him on an impulse to save him from death by hanging, but does not love him or allow him to touch her. She regards him as a coward.

  2. 2

    Victor Hugo uses irony to heighten the pathos associated with Esmeralda's execution. Explain why Sister Gudule is important and why the revelation of her relationship to Esmeralda is ironic.

    Sister Gudule, formerly known as Paquette, had a daughter named Agnes. This child was stolen by Gypsies, who replaced the child with the infant Quasimodo. It is her sorrow over her lost daughter that causes Sister Gudule to withdraw from society. Had Gudule been more involved with her surroundings, she might have perceived that Esmeralda was in fact the missing Agnes. But she does not learn the truth until immediately prior to Esmeralda's death by hanging.

    Ironically, had Gurule and the other characters in the story known Esmeralda's true identity earlier, Esmeralda would most likely not have been condemned as a witch. Nor would she have been tortured to extract a false confession of murder. The clues to Esmeralda's identity are evident throughout the book, and most readers deduce her relationship with Gurule before the characters do. This creates a dramatic irony as well.

  3. 3

    Throughout the book, Victor Hugo asserts that architecture reflects not just the observations and artistic sensibilities of the architect, but the mood and perspective of the culture that created it. Show how the architectural symbolism of Notre Dame Cathedral is used to manipulate the tone of the story and to create allegorical criticism of the Church.

    Hugo describes the cathedral in a very ugly way, focusing on the grotesque and frightening gargoyles and the impassive statues of the saints. Such a setting creates a very dark and pessimistic mood, except Quasimodo identifies with the gargoyles in particular and considers them his protectors.

    The ugliness of the cathedral is reflected in the ugliness of the people who live near it and around it. Quasimodo, superficially ugly, is actually a well-intentioned and noble character, however Claude Frollo is a corrupt and insatiable lecher. To Frollo, the cathedral symbolizes an outdated, medieval, simplistic, and illiterate world that is destined to be superseded by science and independent thought.

  4. 4

    How does Victor Hugo depict love in this novel?

    In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which is a Gothic novel in the French Romantic tradition, love is a powerful, unpredictable, and irrational force. Very little of it is expressed in normal romantic or familial relationships. The elder Frollo brother's love for his brother, and his refusal to enable the younger Frollo's continued drinking and irresponsible behavior, is dysfunctional at best. Claude Frollo's love for Esmeralda grows into an obsession and inspires him to abuse his authority to have her abducted. Esmeralda's love for Phoebus blinds her to the attentions of at least two other good men including the one to whom she is legally married. Sister Gurule's despair over her long-lost daughter causes her to withdraw from society. Divine love, despite the religious setting of the novel, makes no obvious appearance.

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