The Hunchback of Notre Dame compares and contrasts the grotesque and the beautiful… and the variations between. As i Victor Hugo’s writing is sublime.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame compares and contrasts the grotesque and the beautiful… and the variations between. As is Hugo’s talent, a multitude of characters weave in and out of the story, creating a tapestry with depth and meaning.
Thanks to Mr. Disney (who has created a fairly decent, though rudimentary, replication of this book) we are aware of the comparisons of Claude Frollo and Quasimodo (“Who is the man, and who is the monster?”); the age-old cliché of not judging a book by it’s cover. But Hugo’s take is so much more complex than this. EVERY character in his book is contrasted with the figure of Quasimodo. And against Quasimodo, every figure falls short and appears deformed. (Example: Even Claude Frollo’s name is a play on his inner deformity. “Eia! Eia! Claudius cum claudo! [Hey, Claude with the cripple.]” p. ___)
Quasimodo is braver than Gringoire (but then … who ISN’T braver than Gringoire – that Spineless Chicken!). He is the savior to Esmeralda that Phoebus should have been. His beauty (or lack thereof) is compared to Esmeralda, but her beauty cannot save her from being blind to Phoebus’ shallowness, something Quasimodo can clearly see:
“On waking one morning she saw in her window two vases full of flowers. One was in a bright, handsome crystal vase but cracked; it had let all the water escape, and the flowers it contained were faded. The other vase was of earthenware, rude and common, but had kept all the water, so that its flowers remained fresh and blooming. I know not whether it was done to convey a message, but La Esmeralda took the faded flowers and wore them all day in her bosom (p. 378).”
We can even find a comparison with King Louis XI. Quasimodo was King of Fools… but perhaps a better king even so.
Hugo has taken the most abhorrent, ugly, grotesque (thing) he could imagine and compared it to every other character in his novel as if to weigh the scales … and in the end, “It” alone stood most beautiful, most holy, most true.
Layer this with the comparison of Quasimodo and the structure of Notre Dame, both pieced together in haphazard fashion, yet standing as a symbol of strength and security. “And it is certain that, between this creature and this edifice, there was a sort of mysterious and pre-existing harmony (p. 148).”
*** Some would say that Hugo has his digressions. To me, those chapters were perfection in their own right. Perhaps my favorite was “The Book will kill the Edifice” discussion.
“Printing! And make no mistake about it! Architecture is dead, irrevocably dead, killed by the printed book, killed because it is less durable, killed because it is more costly (p.186).”
“The Bible resembles the pyramids; the Illiad, the Parthenon; Homer, Phidias. Dante in the thirteenth century is the last Romanesque church; Shakespeare, in the sixteenth, the last Gothic cathedral. Thus to recapitulate briefly, the human race has two books, two registers, two testaments: architecture and printing, the stone Bible and the paper Bible… The press, that giant engine, incessantly gorging all the intellectual sap of society, incessantly vomits new material for its work. The entire human race is its scaffolding. Every mind is its mason... Every day a new tier is raised… Certainly, these too are structures, growing and piling themselves up in endless spirals; her, too, there is a confusion of languages, untiring labor, incessant activity, a furious competition of all humanity, a promised refuge for the intelligence against another deluge, against another submersion by the barbarians. It is the second Tower of Babel of the human race (pp. 187-88).”
* I also loved Book III, i the “Notre Dame” chapter! ...more
This was hard for me to love at first. I knew it was trying to be funny, but I kept taking it too seriously. Previous to chapter 16 I was prepared toThis was hard for me to love at first. I knew it was trying to be funny, but I kept taking it too seriously. Previous to chapter 16 I was prepared to write this review: "Didn't like it as much as I wanted to." After my husband explained the nursery rhyme that was meant to be the heading to chapter 19, I lightened up and found myself laughing as I had hoped at the beginning. It's a bit like a Monty Python movie... or Zoolander... the first time it just seems like stupidity... but then you find yourself laughing when you look back on it. The ending was fun. I started the second one a few weeks ago. I'll pick it up now with less trepidation....more
While character development is really lacking in this novel, the concept is fascinating!
Truly this book never reached it's full potential. The capacitWhile character development is really lacking in this novel, the concept is fascinating!
Truly this book never reached it's full potential. The capacity for greater symbolism and motifs in names (multiple Biblical names, foreign names... why hadn't the community stricken these symbolic names from their vocabulary?) and emotions was there. Ms. Lowry barely scratched the surface.
It's possible that the sequel novels will expand on these ideas and themes, but I have been discouraged by several people from reading the series. I'm contemplating my feelings for the way in which the author ends this book, as I've seen many comments that readers didn't like it, and I'm guessing that her intent was merely a hook for the reader to want to read the next installment.
Overall, this was a quick, enjoyable read with substance....more