The Hunchback of Notre Dame was Hugo's first novel after a series of successful plays. It is set in 1482 in Paris, in and around the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. The book tells the story of a poor Gypsy girl, La Esmeralda, and a misshapen bell-ringer, Quasimodo, who are both victimized by a corrupt priest (Claude Frollo). The book is largely a work of social criticism.
In fifteenth century Paris, the townspeople are celebrating the festival of Epiphany where Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer, is elected the King of Fools. His master, the archdeacon Claude Frollo ends his play, and as the two pass through the thieves quarter, Quasimodo attempts to kidnap the beautiful gypsy, Esmeralda, with whom Frollo has grown increasingly obsessed. Esmeralda is saved by Captain Phoebus, with whom she falls madly in love. Quasimodo is put on trial for the attempted kidnapping of Esmeralda, and he is flogged. Afterwards, Esmeralda has pity on Quasimodo and brings him water to ease his suffering. At this time, we meet Sister Gudule, a recluse who blames all gypsies for the kidnapping of her child sixteen years ago.
The structure of the novel closely follows that of a play, especially in this first section where Hugo uses the technique of exposition to "naturally" introduce the major themes and characters of the novel without emphasizing the presence of the author. For example, by placing Gringoire in an awkward situation, Hugo lets his character introduce himself to any of the spectators that will listen. Indeed, at one point, he simply declares, "My name is Pierre Gringoire." Moreover, the Festival of Fools allows Hugo to introduce Quasimodo and emphasize his physical appearance as seen from the point of view of the outside world. we can form a definite and nuanced impression of him as well as allow for future character development as the reader begins to learn more about him from the inside out. Hugo also introduces Jehan Frollo, the brother of the novel's major...
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