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Written by R A Williams
There exists in this era, for thoughts written in stone, a privilege absolutely comparable to our current freedom of the press. It is the freedom of architecture.
Throughout the book, Victor Hugo makes reference to the Gothic architecture of Notre Dame Cathedral. It is massive, outdated, and somewhat frightening. The decorations feature gargoyles and similar stone carvings which reflect the ugliness of human nature.
Although human society changes and moves on, architecture is a form or art not easily lost, moved, or destroyed. Unlike printed matter which is limited to the literate, architecture can be seen and experienced by everybody. Furthermore, an architect is generally permitted great latitude in terms of symbolism and content even in eras where painters, poets, and writers can be easily censored.
This will kill that.
Claude Frollo was raised in the Church, his parents having died of the plague when he was a young man. Yet he is very ill suited to the role, and resents some of the restrictions of his religious life. He is intensely attracted to women, to arcane power, and to other things forbidden to him. But he is also looking for a higher meaning or significance that might justify the sad events of his life.
As a failed alchemist and silent critic of the Church, Claude Frollo foretells that the book he is reading ("This") will eventually "kill" or replace "that" (the cathedral). He is foretelling a transition from religion to science in the social discourse. Hugo's contemporary readers in France, familiar as they were with the French Revolution and the subsequent reduction in prestige experienced by the Catholic Church in France, would have read Frollo's remark as prophetic.
Love is like a tree: it grows by itself, roots itself deeply in our being and continues to flourish over a heart in ruin. The inexplicable fact is that the blinder it is, the more tenacious it is. It is never stronger than when it is completely unreasonable.
Victor Hugo is showing that unreasonable love, such as Esmeralda's unrequited passion for Phoebus, is stronger and more compelling than more "reasonable" attachments. In this novel, love is the motivation behind Frollo's attempt to kidnap Esmeralda, his attempt to murder Phoebus, and Quasimodo's decision to kill Frollo (his father figure and one of the only people who has ever been kind to Quasimodo) for laughing during Esmeralda's execution.
The saints were his friends, and blessed him; the monsters were his friends, and guarded him.
Quasimodo, deprived of real human companionship, forms one-sided attachments to the statues of saints and to the gargoyles. Since the cathedral is his entire world, he is drawn to the human and animal figures within it. In his imagination, the statues respond to his need.
Why was I not made of stone like you?
Quasimodo has just helped Esmeralda escape. She is riding off with Pierre, who his her husband in name if not in actual fact. He knows she can never return, and that he will never see her again. He expresses his sorrow to a stone gargoyle, which is incapable of feeling pain. Quasimodo believes that he physically resembles the gargoyle, but was born a human being capable of suffering emotional hurt.
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