The Hunchback of Notre Dame Literary Elements

The Hunchback of Notre Dame Literary Elements


Gothic tragedy

Setting and Context

Paris, France. Specifically the Notre Dame cathedral. Late Middle Ages, during the reign of Louis XI.

Narrator and Point of View

The narrator is a third person limited omniscient narrator who occasionally deviates from the main plot to describe aspects of various characters' past so as to better explain their words and actions.

Tone and Mood

The mood is melodramatically somber.

Protagonist and Antagonist

The two main protagonists are Quasimodo and Esmeralda. The main antagonist is Claude Frollo, a churchman who raised Quasimodo but who is a very conflicted and frustrated man who is obsessed with Esmeralda.

Major Conflict

The major conflict is the love triangle between Esmeralda, the handsome Captain Phoebus, and the sinful Claude Frollo. It is this love triangle that sets off most of the plot developments.


The climax of the story is when the Gypsies charge the Cathedral in an attempt to rescue Esmeralda, who has taken sanctuary there.


Quasimodo's lack of understanding causes him to participate in Frollo's initial attempt to abduct Esmeralda, and it leads to his critical and fatal decision to turn away the Gypsies and help Esmeralda escape with her husband, who takes her to Frollo, who betrays her and turns her over to be executed. Quasimodo also mistakenly helps the King's Guards to find Esmeralda under the mistaken belief that they were going to help her.


The citizens of Paris elect Quasimodo the Pope of Fools due to his appearance, but his naive, childlike simplicity is real.


The book makes many references to the occult. Claude Frollo, for example, is a failed alchemist. Esmeralda is condemned by the King as a "witch".


The stone gargoyles appear throughout the book and are described in detail. Quasimodo bonds emotionally with the stone statues of saints and gargoyles. He views the latter as protectors and identifies strongly with them due to his perceived physical similarity to them.


After Quasimodo rescues Esmeralda from hanging, she is safe so long as she is in the cathedral, yet the longer she is in the cathedral the more attention is drawn to her plight and the more dangerous her situation becomes.


As a gesture of kindness, Esmeralda gives Quasimodo a drink of water while he is suffering in the stocks. This act saves his life and earns her his undying love and devotion. Later, as Esmeralda is about to be hanged unjustly for her role in Phoebus's stabbing (she did nothing; it was Frollo who stabbed Phoebus and who allowed Esmeralda to be convicted instead), Quasimodo swings down on his bell rope, snatches Esmeralda, and whisks her to safety inside the cathedral.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

The Gypsies, angered by the treatment of Esmeralda and determined to rescue her from the cathedral, act as a group to storm the cathedral and try to release her.


By electing Quasimodo the Pope of Fools, the people of Paris are attempting to personify mental and emotional simplicity.

Update this section!

You can help us out by revising, improving and updating this section.

Update this section

After you claim a section you’ll have 24 hours to send in a draft. An editor will review the submission and either publish your submission or provide feedback.