The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

3.7 237
by Victor Hugo

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame, by Victor Hugo, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics&…  See more details below


The Hunchback of Notre Dame, by Victor Hugo, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

One of the first great novels of the Romantic era, Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame has thrilled generations of readers with its powerfully melodramatic story of Quasimodo, the deformed hunchback who lives in the bell tower of medieval Paris’s most famous cathedral.

Feared and hated by all, Quasimodo is looked after by Dom Claude Frollo, a stern, cold priest who ignores the poor hunchback in the face of his frequent public torture. But someone steps forward to help—the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda, whose single act of kindness fills Quasimodo with love. Can the hunchback save the lovely gypsy from Frollo’s evil plan, or will they all perish in the shadows of Notre Dame?

An epic tale of beauty and sadness, The Hunchback of Notre Dame portrays the sufferings of humanity with compassion and power.

Isabel Roche teaches French language and literature at Bennington College. She specializes in the nineteenth-century French novel.

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From Isabel Roche's Introduction to The Hunchback of Notre Dame

In the case of Quasimodo, the central duality is that of the opposing poles of the sublime and the grotesque. From the beginning to the end of the novel, his physical incompleteness leaves him hopelessly suspended between the states of man and animal. Quasimodo is defined by his animal-like strength (proven in numerous scenes such as the early, failed abduction of Esmeralda and the assault on the cathedral) and by his animal-like mentality, which is at once a result of his incomplete intellectual faculties and a conditioned response to the (unkind) way he has been treated by those around him, save his "adopted" father, Claude Frollo, to whom he is completely devoted ("Quasimodo loved the archdeacon as no dog, no horse, no elephant, ever loved its master." But unlike the archdeacon, who is rigidly locked into his dual(ing) nature, Quasimodo is transfigured by Esmeralda's simple gesture of kindness to him during his torture on the pillory. All the difference is there. Indeed, from that moment on, Quasimodo undergoes an awakening, during which his dormant soul comes alive and expands exponentially, as witnessed in the scene in which Quasimodo—proud and glorious—swoops down from the top of the cathedral to save Esmeralda from being hanged: "For at that instant Quasimodo was truly beautiful. He was beautiful,—he, that orphan, that foundling, that outcast; he felt himself to be august and strong; he confronted that society from which he was banished . . . he,—the lowliest of creatures, with the strength of God." Quasimodo's devotion to Esmeralda supplants the cherished role previously held for Frollo, and he subsequently does everything in his power to ensure her safety and happiness. In attempting to repair her relationship with Phoebus, in warding off Frollo's unwanted visits, and in endeavoring to save Esmeralda from the "attackers," in whom he mistakenly perceives a threat to her safety, Quasimodo risks everything in Esmeralda's name.

Yet in the end this transfiguration, this conversion from grotesque to sublime—unobserved by Esmeralda, so caught up is she in Phoebus's aura of false brilliance—is of a profoundly personal nature and passes virtually unnoticed. It is the reader who is charged with recognizing its final expression in the account given in the novel's last chapter of two anonymous skeletons found sometime later in the vault at Montfaucon, locked in an embrace. Without naming them, the description leaves no doubt that one is Esmeralda (identifiable by the remnants of her white gown and the empty bag that once contained her childhood shoe) and the other is Quasimodo (identifiable by the remains of his hideously deformed body), who disappeared from the cathedral the day of Esmeralda's death. More remarkable than the embrace, however, is that the male skeleton's neck is intact, leading to the irrefutable conclusion that he came to the cave not already dead, but to die. The self-imposed nature of Quasimodo's death thus implies that the completion of this conversion must necessarily occur outside the boundaries of the social and historical world of the novel. For the only place where his opposing poles can be truly reconciled is in the cosmic whole; it is in leaving his shell of a body behind (it significantly crumbles into dust when separated from that of Esmeralda) that this awakened soul can take flight.

This message that redemption and salvation are possible, but never in the world as it exists now, is the thread that binds all of Hugo's novels together like a quilt whose squares, when viewed carefully, each reveal the same intricate pattern. Everything that is in The Hunchback of Notre Dame will be retraced, retold, reinvented in Hugo's four subsequent novels. Quasimodo's dilemma, his struggle between two opposing poles, will become that of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, that of Gilliatt in The Toilers of the Sea, that of Gwynplaine—another "monster" horrific on the outside and pure within-in The Man Who Laughs, and that of Gauvain in Ninety-three. Only through their deaths and a corresponding cosmic expansion or rebirth are Hugo's fictional heroes able to find acceptance, transcendence, reconciliation of their internal oppositions, and affirmation of their individual moral potential. Time and again, the message of Hugo's "new" novel is that historical existence as depicted, with its blindness, failures, and shortcomings, is incompatible with, or at the very least less significant than, the realization of this personal and often private promise.

In spite of Hugo's lingering hesitancy surrounding the genre—a thirty-year period of novelistic silence separates the wildly successful Hunchback of Notre Dame from Les Misérables—it is without a doubt the form best suited to the scope and breadth of his all-encompassing vision, one that, to his own mind, was not at all fatalistic. On the contrary, Hugo preferred to view his novels as a "series of affirmations of the soul" (Oeuvres complètes, vol. 14, p. 387; translation mine). While contemporary readers and critics did not always agree—citing The Hunchback of Notre Dame as particularly ambiguous in its meaning—Hugo's profound and overwhelming belief in both individual and collective man's potential for progress is perhaps more evident to us today. Indeed, while the inadequacies of each past society that he examines and of the present in which he wrote pervade Hugo's fiction, his presentation of core, universal truths relative to the human condition show an unwavering faith in the future, in our future, to which his aspirations for the historical and social worlds are deferred.

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Heinle Reading Library 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 237 reviews.
terpsichorean More than 1 year ago
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame is an exquisite novel written by Victor Hugo during the Romantic era. The original title of the book was "Notre-Dame de Paris", as it was written as a statement to preserve the Notre-Dame cathedral. This book was finished on January 14th, 1831, just as Victor Hugo was running out of ink. Because of this, he was greatly tempted to title the novel, "What There Is in a Bottle of Ink". At the time Hugo was writing, respect for the cathedral's Gothic architecture had been lost. Notre-Dame was collapsing precipitately, as the damage it had suffered during the French revolution was continuously ignored. Throughout the novel, Hugo strives to represent the cathedral of Notre-Dame as the cultural and political symbol of Paris, and accordingly, France. Upon the publishing of the novel, Parisians progressively came to see Notre-Dame as a national monument of France. Shortly after, a restoration program of the cathedral began. Hugo claims the inspiration towards writing this novel came after discovering a carved word on a wall inside the cathedral of Notre-Dame: "anake," or fate (in Greek). Consequently, this is a story of destiny and fate. The characters within the novel do not believe in free will, but in fate, a subduing destiny that eradicates the very prospect of escaping such guidance. The pitiful Pierre Gringoire believes that it was providence that led him to la Esmeralda; in turn, archdeacon Claude Frollo deems that he is fated to love her. The characters' intense belief that fate overcomes free will is epitomized during a captivating scene in which Frollo watches as a fly is ensnared in a spider web. Indisputably, Hugo's illustrious characters become entwined vividly in fate as they compliment an unaltered destiny themselves; passionate albeit melodramatic, they each transpire as unchanging victims of fate. These characters are intricate and profound. As the novel unfolds, it depicts the tragic romance between the crude Captain Phoebus de Chateaupers and an abused gipsy named la Esmeralda. Also enveloped within this story of love are the lustful archdeacon Frollo, the homeless and broke poet Pierre Gringoire, and the lonely hunchback, Quasimodo the bell ringer. Quasimodo, for example, is contrasting and elaborate; although he embodies innocence and naiveté, he is loathed by the citizens of Paris because of his deformation. And despite the fact that Notre-Dame's church bells are his greatest passion, he is also deaf. Much like Quasimodo, the abandoned cathedral was not cared for, and was considered to be a heinous architecture. In this sense, Quasimodo is an amalgamation that mirrors the cathedral's own architectural deformities. The antagonist, archdeacon Dom Claude Frollo, is not a black-hearted person. As an orphan, he was like a father to his brother, Jehen, and even brought up the abandoned Quasimodo. Once an epitome of virtue, he becomes tormented by his corrupt love for a gipsy, and dehumanized as jealousy consumes him. Therefore, I am compelled to say that within a bottle of ink there resides a delicate story of love and tragedy that sincerely demonstrates the genuine power a pen may possess in order to revive a cathedral that embodies such splendor and passion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"It is so wordy/rambling!" Yes. In Hugo's time, authors were paid by the word. Besides, Hugo is infamous for being long-winded and for managing to use his ramblings to create atmospheres that are second to none. This novel is Hugo at his wordy best, the somber and melancholy mood is greater than any other I can think of. "There are too many French words!" Aside from street names and titles, which are indeed merely proper nouns, this complaint holds no merit and I can assure you that a reader who knows not even one syllable of French will not find the language to be a barrier to enjoying this beautiful novel. "So many Catholic refrences and I'm not Catholic!" This one always cracks me up. Notre Dame. Notre Dame! Consider it a lesson in Catholicism if necessary, but my being a non-Catholic never kept me from finding the religious refrences to be anything but informative about the structure of a faith that I otherwise know very littly about. Relax and don't be scared off by these silly complaints. The novel is beloved for a very good reason and if you give it a good try, your literary experiences will be immesurably enriched for having read this. Enjoy!
dancer13092 More than 1 year ago
I fisrt wanted to read this book because I like comparing movies to books. I wanted to see how close the 1996 Disney movie was (there are similarities but there are also alot of differences). This book did take me a long time to read, but it was mostly the first part. As boring as i found the first part, it is nessiary; it sets up the story and the characters. Once I started the secound part, it really picked up. I found myself wanting to read it more and more. Don't give up because you find the beginning boring, it will get better.
GraceC More than 1 year ago
This is truely one of the best well writen books I have read. The first few chapters are pretty boring and hard to get through, but I promise the story will pick up and that you should just stick to it. Beside the amazing story the novle has a great deal of historical details of everyday life and of the architecture of Paris during the time. I felt very acomplished and releved when I finished this book. Because it is long, but worth reading!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its a great book but its kind of sad. Esmerelda didnt have to die.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
May be my new favorite book. Love the back story on Frollo.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This particular translation of the story is excellent. I first read this book when I was still in grade school. I loved it then & I loved it now. My daughter & I had the good fortune to spend 2 weeks in Paris not long ago. We made a bee-line to the Cathedral & savored exploring every nook & cranny both inside & out. We made the climb to the bell tower & we felt the spirit of Quasimodo all around us. (I made my daughter read the story when she was in high school). Victor Hugo is such a romantic. He does have a tendency to "go on" a bit, but I think it's important because he is so immersed in the story & characters so deeply. This should be required reading in all high schools. Victor Hugo is at the top of my list for favorite writers!
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lost-in-lit More than 1 year ago
I thought this work was very good in some aspects- the characters for example and the setting, as well as plot. But I found the descriptions of the city itself hard to understand (on a first reading level). The langauge I liked as well as how loveable Quaisomodo is and how dispicable Claudo can be at times. Pheobus I personally thought was an okay guy with his flaws and all. I felt that Esmerelda was the character was the most relateable from a female perspective- her naivete, beauty, history- I all found interesting and great to read as well as her story. In terms of length I would say the pages are well worth the read. Claudo is a great villian and his hipocrsy is alarming and the impact of his emotions on the whole city is enormous. I'd recommend this for anyone who likes medival settings, a lustful archdeacon, a naive young lady and an outcast who come together for their own goals in life and their journeys both physically and spiritually. I'd have to say after reading this and comparing it to the Disney Movie- the movie wasn't that far away from the actual truth but understandable why they edited out things.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Long, to be sure, but good. I was so saddened by the ending, but I guess I should have expected it. I read it when I was 12 so I didn't get much out of it. I was surprised and shocked sometimes
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