Joe's Reviews > The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo
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Jul 17, 08

bookshelves: classics, top-20
Read in July, 2007

"Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." This has created a theme that stories have focussed on for centuries. It is one that we try to teach different ways with more unique characters.

When one first reads a synopsis of "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame", they would easily assume they will be reading another author's method of bringing this theme into their story. However, very shortly into the novel one finds that Quasimodo is not orginally this fully rejected outcast for his appearance. At the beginning of the novel he is actually being praised by a large crowd. His rejection comes as different incidences are misinterpreted and people begin to make the wrong assumptions.

As the story continues on this happens to more characters than only Quasimodo. And other characters make mistakes by acting too quickly. It turns out that this story is about making the wrong judgements based on appearences. Only, it's not about the appearences of the characters, it's about the appearences of what is happening around our characters.

When I noticed this, I realized that the whole book turned out to be about ignorance (the ignorance of the characters in what they were doing and the assumptions they made). If any of the characters would stop and figure out what had truly been happening, things would have been solved, but everytime this was a possibility they would make a new assumption and the problems would escalate. To me, the most stunning aspect of this was that the consequences did not only take effect on those that had been ignorant.

In the same way, the end of the novel was only that upsetting if we remain ignorant of the fact that everything is finally brought to a close and those characters we care most about wanted something they could only come closest to through the way the novel ended (Hugo knew what he was doing in the titles of the chapters). Though it may be one of the most disturbing novels I've read, it has also taken it's place among my top ten favorites.
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