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The Hunchback of Notre Dame | Study Guide

Victor Hugo

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame | Quotes


This was the first taste he had ever had of the delights of vanity. Hitherto, he had known only humiliation, contempt for his condition and disgust for his person.

Narrator, Book 2, Chapter 3

The narrator describes Quasimodo's experience of being paraded through the streets as the newly crowned Pope of Fools, and contrasts this brief moment of joy and celebration with the misery, scorn, and shame Quasimodo experienced at the hands of the same people who are now exalting him.


It is hard not to regret, not to feel indignation at the numberless degradations and mutilations, which time and men have wrought simultaneously on this venerable monument.

Narrator, Book 3, Chapter 1

The narrator describes Notre-Dame Cathedral in great detail and takes care to characterize it as a living, breathing thing early in the novel. The narrator feels the building has been disrespected and torn apart over the centuries, tarnishing what should be revered.


Great buildings, like great mountains, are the work of centuries.

Narrator, Book 3, Chapter 1

Here, the narrator continues an extended metaphor in which architecture is something that reflects the innovations and transformations of cultures. Notre-Dame Cathedral was built over a period of centuries, and so it is a building of "transition." It is meant to endure and catalog history much in the same way that a mountain will endure and reflect the changing climate around it.


So deep was the instinctive sympathy between the old church and himself ... that he somehow adhered to it like the tortoise to its shell.

Narrator, Book 4, Chapter 3

The relationship between Quasimodo and the cathedral is an intimate one, and this quote continues to portray the cathedral as a living, breathing character. Quasimodo has known no other home, and due to his isolation, the cathedral becomes more than a home—it becomes a friend and a necessary protection against the world.


He had picked up the weapon with which he had been wounded.

Narrator, Book 4, Chapter 3

Here, the narrator describes Quasimodo's mutually antagonistic relationship with "the external world" and how it shaped his temperament. He has no friendly relationships outside of Claude Frollo and the cathedral, and so he is suspicious of the outside world that taunts him for his appearance. Their viciousness makes him vicious as well. Because he has been treated only with cruelty and mocking, he returns the same attitude to the world.


The book will kill the building!

Claude Frollo, Book 5, Chapter 1

Claude Frollo utters this sentiment as a response to a question about what books he studies. The narrator further reveals the belief that before the advent of the printing press, architecture—particularly churches— expressed ideas and stories about humanity. Claude's way of life as a priest is threatened by this new invention. Because information is spread more easily through books, architecture is slowly eroding.


He was being pilloried on the self-same square where the day before he had been saluted, acclaimed and conclaimed Pope and prince of fools.

Narrator, Book 6, Chapter 4

Here, the narrator observes how quickly the crowd has turned yet again on Quasimodo, "victor and victim." He notes that nobody in the crowd seems to notice the irony of the contrast because they are merely hungry for the spectacle of it. This fickle crowd is a constant presence throughout the novel.


Poor dancer, poor predestined fly!

Claude Frollo, Book 7, Chapter 5

Claude is gripped by a revelation when he observes a spider entrap a helpless fly in its web. He sees a parallel to himself and Esmeralda, in which he is the spider who has ensnared her in his web and she is the "predestined fly." He feels their fates are intertwined, and neither can do anything to prevent it.


That protection for a creature so unfortunate should have come from another creature so deformed, that a condemned girl should have been saved by Quasimodo, this too had its poignancy.

Narrator, Book 8, Chapter 6

The novel is grounded in contrasts, juxtapositions, and tragic ironies, and the relationship between Esmeralda and Quasimodo is no exception. Though they are opposites physically, they both share kind, compassionate natures and an orphaned past. In this way, they seem fundamentally linked to each other despite their physical contrasts, as Hugo emphasizes.


And what is inexplicable is that the blinder the passion, the more tenacious it is.

Narrator, Book 9, Chapter 4

Although the narrator applies this statement to Esmeralda's love of Phoebus, it could be applied to nearly any main character in the novel. Esmeralda falls in love with Phoebus without knowing him, and she can't bring herself to see that he has merely used her for his own ends. Claude Frollo has a tenacious passion for Esmeralda that causes him to be blind to its consequences.

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