Course Hero Logo

The Hunchback of Notre Dame | Study Guide

Victor Hugo

Get the eBook on Amazon to study offline.

Buy on Amazon Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "The Hunchback of Notre Dame Study Guide." Course Hero. 28 Nov. 2016. Web. 28 May 2023. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2016, November 28). The Hunchback of Notre Dame Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved May 28, 2023, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2016)



Course Hero. "The Hunchback of Notre Dame Study Guide." November 28, 2016. Accessed May 28, 2023.


Course Hero, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame Study Guide," November 28, 2016, accessed May 28, 2023,

The Hunchback of Notre Dame | Discussion Questions 11 - 20


In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Book 3, Chapter 1 what does the narrator mean by "to measure the toe is to measure the giant"?

The narrator spends much of Book 3 describing the architecture of Notre-Dame Cathedral and the way it is linked to the history of Paris. His comparing of the cathedral to the toe of the giant is meant to show how intricately the architecture of the building is linked to the church as a whole, as well as "all the churches of medieval Christendom." If one were to attempt to measure the significance of Notre-Dame's architecture, they would, by extension, be measuring the significance of all the other time periods, places, and beliefs it is connected to. Hugo emphasizes this interconnectedness of all architecture with the beliefs and innovations of humankind.

What is Pierre Gringoire's role in The Hunchback of Notre Dame?

Pierre Gringoire is one of the first characters that Hugo chooses to focus on, before Esmeralda, Quasimodo, and Claude Frollo. It is soon revealed that he is the author and director of the morality play being staged (and constantly interrupted) in the Great Hall in Book 1, Chapter 2. His first appearance to the reader is one of embarrassment and resignation as he realizes that his play has been overshadowed. The novel then follows him through his connections to other characters: first as Esmeralda's accidental "husband," then as a former student of Claude Frollo's, and finally as an unwitting accomplice to Esmeralda's final kidnapping by Claude Frollo. Through it all, Pierre Gringoire maintains that he is a philosopher, and he portrays himself as a deep thinker. Yet all that thinking never leads him to any deep convictions, and he seems to merely float along at the mercy of others, such as the truants in the Court of Miracles and as Claude Frollo's accomplice. His character becomes deeper absorbed in art, writing, and philosophical ideas, yet his character never changes or grows. Hugo seems to use him as an unchanging constant against which the depth and actions of other characters can be measured. In some ways, Pierre Gringoire is possibly a representation of Hugo's own presence in the story, standing in for the author's own concerns as a writer and dramatist as he examines his own personality through the character.

In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Book 3, Chapters 1 and 2 why does the narrator explain and criticize the evolution of Paris's architecture?

The narrator criticizes the ever-evolving "fashions" of architecture, noting that "they have killed the building, in its form as well as its symbolism." A building such as Notre-Dame Cathedral was once the epitome of Gothic architecture, and it told a story of a particular time. But that story and art were diluted over time as different fashions and renovations "attacked the wooden bone-structures of the art." He claims that the building is "no longer a Romanesque church" (a previous style of architecture that provided the basis for the "High Gothic" style of Notre-Dame), "it is not yet a Gothic church." Panning out to provide a bird's-eye view of Paris's architecture at large, he laments the fact that the town has become "disfigured" and that "the historical significance of its architecture is being erased every day." Even the materials of building have changed for the worse: where once there was stone, now there is only plaster. In some ways, Hugo is asking readers to consider their own understanding of the past and how it affects the present. He is telling readers that everything they see around them means something intellectually and has roots in human motivation because he worries that society is devolving, becoming "plaster" instead of stone—cheap and superficial instead of strong, connected to the earth, and deep. How much do you know about your world? he seems to ask throughout the novel, using his own deep knowledge of architecture and history to inspire his readers to want to learn for themselves.

In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Book 4, Chapter 2 what does Hugo's depiction of Claude Frollo's boyhood reveal about his character?

Claude Frollo's experience growing up certainly shapes the character he becomes, and it yields some interesting insights. He had been "destined" for a career in the clergy from an early age, showing he had the serious and studious temperament required, and also his parents expected it from him. After his parents unexpectedly died, he took on the duty of caring for his younger brother, showing he did have some compassion, but did so "with the passion of a nature already intense, ardent, and reserved." His rescue of the young Quasimodo reveals the same care-taking instincts, and the contrast to the Claude Frollo who presents himself as unscrupulous and obsessive later in the novel and shows a steep decline in his morals. It is interesting how Claude Frollo's self-imposed chastity in sacrifice to his brother and the church leads to lustful obsession, while Esmeralda's chastity is supposed to lead her to her parents, which comes true. Hugo hinges the novel's plot on Claude Frollo's childhood decision to avoid human sexuality, and it is telling that it leads him and both chaste characters—Esmeralda and Quasimodo—to their dooms.

In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Book 4, Chapter 3 what does Hugo's use of metaphors to describe Quasimodo's relationship with the church reveal?

Hugo uses many metaphors to describe Quasimodo's relationship with Notre-Dame Cathedral. It has been for him, in turn, an "egg, nest, house, homeland, and universe." Hugo works here to establish Quasimodo's kinship with the building and the way in which he identifies so strongly with it—from climbing its walls to going deaf from ringing its bells. It is both a refuge and a prison for him, a source of both alienation and solace. Hugo goes further by describing it as "an instinctive sympathy between the old church and himself," likening their relationship to a tortoise and its shell. Throughout the novel, Hugo brings the church to life as a character, and so Quasimodo's relationship with it feels like one between two living, breathing things.

In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Book 5, Chapter 1 what does Claude Frollo's statement "the book will kill the building" suggest about the character and the author's beliefs?

Claude Frollo's statement reveals his lament over the fact that, with the invention of the printing press, books were rapidly replacing the church as a source of information and stories. For Claude and the narrator, buildings were the original books, long-enduring monuments telling the story of a particular era and its beliefs. When taken in context with the rest of his sentence, in which he also adds "small things overcome great ones," it shows the threat Claude Frollo feels at the idea that the church is no longer a sanctuary and font of knowledge and wisdom—which in a way usurps his role as a priest. In this light, Hugo uses Claude as a character in an interesting way: on one hand, Claude's love of "the building" and all of his knowledge of the secret symbolism held in its statues and design reflects Hugo's belief in the importance of preserving architecture. Yet Hugo puts his ideas in the mouth of a corrupt and manipulative priest, and there is also the fact that Hugo writes books himself. Hugo seems to offer Claude as a cautionary tale about people who can't move with the times or balance contradictory impulses. Claude Frollo represents Hugo's disdain for the hypocrisy and long-standing abuse of power inflicted upon the masses by the Catholic Church. And Hugo is separating his love of architecture from the ideologies the buildings stand for—or perhaps the corruption of ideologies, the "great ones" in his estimation.

In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Book 5, Chapter 2 what does the narrator mean when he claims "architecture was the great book of mankind"?

The narrator here expands upon the claim that architecture was, up until a certain era, the main form of human expression as both art and a source of information. He notes that "architecture began like any other form of writing," meaning that stones literally served in a way as an alphabet and their placement could be "read." Architecture's ability to convey information "evolved along with the human mind" and was thoroughly linked with art and religion, reflecting the innovations and ideas of any given era; pointed arches were an indication of liberty, for example. But even though architecture seems more durable than a flimsy book, the information in books is more easily disseminated to the masses. Hugo pauses the action of the novel for some time here to expound on this philosophy, which adds another layer to the history and plot of the story. In a way, this section seems like a place where Hugo is attempting to reconcile his reverence for architecture with the fact that he himself wrote books, weighing the merits of each as a way to spread ideas and information.

In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Book 5, Chapter 2 why does the narrator compare the changing of Europe's society to the changing of its architecture?

The narrator compares the two by equating innovations in society to innovations in architecture (as well as deaths). He says that "during the world's first six thousand years ... architecture was the great script of the human race." He mentions how, in Europe with the Crusades, "authority was shaken" and "the face of Europe was changed." At every new era, architecture changes with society, reflecting the transitions of ideas and power. He notes, for example, that "as Rome was gradually dismembered, Romanesque architecture died." To the narrator, architecture is a reflection of the time it exists in, and one need look no further than Paris to see the ways that architecture has changed to reflect social changes. Here, Hugo takes his philosophical debate about the importance of architecture one step further, and in doing so, he is making an argument to his readers about the era they live in, one which had begun to forget its original architecture (Notre-Dame Cathedral itself had fallen into disrepair) to make way for new styles. Ever the Romantic, Hugo seems to note here that though change is inevitable, it is also important to keep these architectural relics as reminders of lessons learned from the past.

In Book 5, Chapter 2 of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, what does the narrator mean when he says books are like "a flock of birds"?

The narrator is driving home the point that while architectural structures are stationary—one must visit monuments and buildings in order to see and understand them in terms of the stories, philosophies, and symbols they represent—books (once the printing press came along) can be widely disseminated. The ideas and information contained in books can endure even after the physical artifacts may be destroyed. If a building is destroyed, it is gone, along with the information and memories it contains. Books are "simpler and easier" to create and share than buildings, and printing allows ideas to spread all over the world, so much so that ideas become ubiquitous; the printing press scatters ideas like "a flock of birds" and ideas become far-reaching just as birds fly everywhere and propagate across generations.

In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Book 6, Chapter 4 why does the narrator point out the dramatic irony of Quasimodo's entrance into the Place de Grève?

Dramatic irony occurs when the reader is aware of something the characters in the story are not aware of. The dramatic irony of Quasimodo's entrance into the Place de Grève to be pilloried not long after he was paraded through the square as the Fools' Pope seems tragic. The narrator points out, "not a soul in that crowd, not even he, who had been by turns victor and victim, formed any clear idea of the contrast." This juxtaposition, obvious only to the narrator and the reader, sets the precedent for many tragic situations to come. The spectators revel in the glory of characters like Quasimodo and Esmeralda one moment, while encouraging their punishment the next—all for love of the spectacle. Hugo uses dramatic irony to show the hypocrisy and "crowd think" of Paris's medieval citizens as well as to carry out the point of Romanticism's rallying cry—for the individual to be fearless even if it means they stand alone against the crowd.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Hunchback of Notre Dame? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!