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Man's Eternal Search for Affection Explored in The Hunchback of Notre Dame

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Victor Hugo penned a fantastic, picturesque story of passion and the human spirit in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The dramatic emotions of the characters play out on the stage of fifteenth century Paris, France. Quasimodo, a repugnant physical defect of nature, lived severed from human contact, excepting that of the solemnly aloof priest, Claude Frollo. For his part, Frollo strove for knowledge until he encountered the captivatingly gorgeous gypsy dancer, Esmeralda. She existed solely to adore an arrogant captain of the King's Archers, named Phoebus de Chateaupers, for saving her from being kidnapped. Enticed by Esmeralda's dancing to the depths of his being, Frollo outwardly denounced her as a sacrilegious sorceress, but his body raged for her out of lust, accounting for his repeated attempts at having her prohibited from dancing near the cathedral, or stolen away. Esmeralda, furiously in love with Phoebus, nearly sacrificed her virtue to gain his heart, before Frollo gravely wounded him. Tortured into confessing witchcraft and condemned to die by a court with church officials, the gypsy enchantress obtained sanctuary in Notre Dame cathedral, rescued from the hangman's noose by Quasimodo. At this point, Frollo attempted to claim Esmeralda's merciful and virtuous heartfelt forgiveness for his passion, failing miserably because his efforts appeared feeble and lascivious. Frollo and Esmeralda perished, however, after a storming of the cathedral and gruesome battle, dying sacrifices on the altar of human emotion.

How emotion may exist in a studious and solemn man, having only acquired knowledge of books for a score of years, seems impossible. But desire for Esmeralda arrived after Frollo had “discovered that a man needs affection ...


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...her temptation had accomplished this; therefore her cruel effect must have been fate. As she awaited death, one character noticed the incidence of destiny when she remarked that “‘God has it all written down in His book'” (182). One aspect of Victor Hugo's work, his revelations of themes, philosophies, and morals through humorous characters, seems reminiscent of Sir Walter Scott's usage of a comparable pretext. Through the philosopher/poet, Gringoire, Hugo presents a moral that “‘the temptations of the flesh are pernicious and malignant'” (276). Certainly there exists some truth to this supposition on a central idea of the novel, the animosity stirred by mortal sensitivity, that during man's eternal search for affection--even when he possesses it, he still craves more.


WORKS CITED

Hugo, Victor. Notre Dame de Paris. Paris, France. (publisher unknown). 1831.


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