The Hunchback of Notre Dame | Study Guide

Victor Hugo

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame | Book 10, Chapters 1–7 | Summary

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Summary

Back at his tower, Claude finds Jehan waiting for him. Jehan tells him he wants to begin leading a better and more honest, honorable life—but in order to do that, he once again needs money. When Claude refuses, Jehan tells him that he will make money by becoming a criminal. Jehan begins to leave, but Claude runs after him and throws him a purse full of money.

In Chapter 1 at the Court of Miracles, Gringoire learns that Esmeralda was rescued and has taken asylum at Notre-Dame Cathedral, and though he is glad to hear it, he is not tempted to visit her. One day, he is astonished when he receives a visit from Claude, who looks dramatically different—his hair has turned white and his eyes are sunken. As they speak, Claude catches a glimpse of Phoebus riding by and asks Gringoire if he feels envious of men like him. Gringoire replies that he'd rather be philosophical and independent, even if he were dressed in rags. Claude abruptly informs Gringoire that Esmeralda is to be hanged in three days, but he thinks Gringoire can help save her by coming to the church and disguising Esmeralda in his clothes so that she can be smuggled out. Gringoire worries that he will be hanged in her place, but Claude reminds him that he owes Esmeralda his life, which she once saved. Gringoire considers it but offers an alternative: they will have the gypsies and truants who congregate at the Court of Miracles help them kidnap her. In Chapter 3, which takes place later that evening, the truants combine their weapons and prepare to march, accompanied by Jehan.

Chapter 4 begins at Notre-Dame Cathedral, where Quasimodo makes his final rounds for the night. He climbs up to the top of the north tower and sits watching Paris below him, feeling anxious because he has noticed in recent days men prowling around the church. Suddenly, he notices a crowd flood into the square under the cloak of darkness. He resolves to defend the church to his death against whatever they are planning. The narrator notes that in medieval times police didn't exist, and chaos reigned among competing forces of lordships, so it was not unheard of for parts of the population to rise up in protest. The crowd suddenly lights their torches, revealing their numbers. Their leader, Clopin, addresses the church, demanding Esmeralda's return or else they will sack the church. An enormous wooden beam drops on the crowd, and those who aren't wounded attempt to break down the door. Stones begin to rain down around them, thrown by Quasimodo.

Jehan finds a long ladder to lean against the balcony, where he knows a door is always left unlatched. He reaches the top, with many truants scaling the ladder below him. Suddenly, Quasimodo emerges and shoves the ladder away from the balcony, sending all who were climbing it to their deaths. Jehan hides behind a statue, terrified. Quasimodo finally notices him, and Jehan shoots an arrow at him with his crossbow, which sticks in his left arm. Quasimodo pulls out the arrow and breaks it over his knee like it's a stick. He pounces on Jehan and throws him off the building to a swift and terrifying death. The truants redouble their efforts, furiously attacking and scaling the church.

In Chapter 5, the narrator says King Louis XI is staying at the Bastille across the city, holding a meeting with some noblemen and Flemish ambassadors. The men go to look at a prisoner cage that has been built to punish offenders. A voice calls out from the cage, begging for mercy, claiming to have been left in the cage for 14 years. The men are interrupted with an announcement that there is currently an uprising in Paris. Two men they captured from the band of truants are brought before the king—one is Pierre Gringoire. Gringoire begs for mercy from the king, who would have him hanged. The king agrees that he can be let go. When it is revealed to the king that the uprising is against him on account of the sentencing of Esmeralda, he grows furious. He orders the rebels "exterminated" and Esmeralda hanged, even if it means breaking the laws of asylum.

Gringoire scurries away to meet with Claude, and they go over their plan to kidnap Esmeralda while the church is under siege. In Chapter 7, the king's officers arrive in the square, led by Phoebus. The truants are outnumbered and outpowered, so those still left alive flee. Quasimodo, triumphant, climbs to Esmeralda's tower only to find her room empty.

Analysis

Claude's manipulation of Gringoire in his plan to kidnap Esmeralda shows yet again how Claude only operates for his own interests. With Gringoire's help he'll be able to rescue Esmeralda, yet he'll also be able to dispose of Gringoire, who will be hanged in her place—and then Esmeralda will be in his hands alone.

The narrator's insight that police forces didn't exist in medieval times reveals the interesting social classes at play in the truants' siege of the cathedral. Because Paris lived under a feudal system, there was no central governing force that could control such matters. Rather, it was akin to a city having a hundred different police departments with different rules and laws. It's clear that the truant army doesn't know what it is fighting for, as witnessed by the man who is captured alongside Gringoire, who thinks that they are merely "going to take something from someone's house." Even though Clopin attempts to rally them around the idea of saving Esmeralda, many of the truants seem more interested in ransacking the cathedral for its silver.

Through the narrator and the king's conversation with his attendants, Hugo reveals his interest in the role played by class differences in revolutions. Many of his readers would have remembered the French Revolution that occurred in the late 18th century. The attack on Notre-Dame in 1482, during which King Louis XI hid in the Bastille, alludes to the storming of the Bastille in 1789, which kicked off the revolution. Throughout the novel, Hugo uses the past to echo the present, as though time resounds in both directions. The reader hears the past echoing, but the characters in the novel are unaware of the future and do not hear it. The reader knows what is ahead for them and hears the sounds of the future for them. During the French Revolution, tensions between the nobility, the church, and the lower class came to a head that resulted in the monarchy being overthrown and a new form of government established—one that didn't recognize the former powers of the nobility and the church. The king shows himself to be arrogant and full of his own self-interest, as evidenced by his lack of compassion for the man who has been locked up and begs him for mercy—the king can only comment on the price of the cage. It's telling that the doctor is able to take advantage of the king's fears about his health because it shows that the only man he can trust is just as self-serving and ambitious.

Quasimodo defends the church and Esmeralda, which again shows his close kinship with both of them, and he treats them with the same fervent loyalty and protectiveness. The cathedral at times seems like an extension of his own body and soul, though he is unaware that the people he is attacking are there to help Esmeralda escape. His assault on them, particularly Jehan, who is his adopted brother, seems horrific, but it also shows his singular motive—to keep Esmeralda safe.

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