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The Hunchback of Notre Dame | Study Guide

Victor Hugo

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Course Hero. "The Hunchback of Notre Dame Study Guide." November 28, 2016. Accessed June 6, 2023.


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The Hunchback of Notre Dame | Preface | Summary


Victor Hugo organized The Hunchback of Notre Dame into 11 books, each of which has 2–8 chapters. This study guide analyzes the text at the book level for the purpose of summary and analysis.


Victor Hugo tells the reader how he came to be inspired to write the book. He visited Notre-Dame Cathedral, where he found the word fatality carved in Greek into the walls of one of its towers. He was struck by how medieval and Gothic the carved word looked, and by its sentiment as well. Hugo tried to guess who might have been tormented enough to carve it. Yet upon his return to see it again, it had vanished, and Hugo laments this erasure is all too common in the "marvelous churches of the Middle Ages." He blames not only the priests but the architects and the populace as well.


"This book was written about that word," Hugo comments about the word fatality he once glimpsed carved into the wall at Notre-Dame Cathedral. Hugo's preface sets the stage and tone for the tragedy to come, a tragedy that is personal, political, and historical. For Hugo, all these elements are inextricably linked to the erasure of the past through its architecture—he notes the man who carved the word is long forgotten, as is the word itself; possibly the church itself will be demolished some day. Hugo sees this erasure as a tragedy because he believed his modern France had much to learn about its present by studying its past.

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