Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

The Hunchback of Notre Dame


First published in 1831.

This translation by Isabel F. Hapgood.

Contrary to the English title of the book (which, in fact, Hugo disliked preferring his own, more accurate french title, Notre Dame de Paris) this book is not just about an ugly hunchback that stalks the dark towers of Notre Dame. It is more, much more. It is about the Cathedral of Notre Dame and how the lives of some random strangers are connected together in an intricate web of love, hate and despair. It is about the curse of love and how it comes to consume us and destroy us and elevate us and beautify us. It is about the power of the printed word and the transformation of human communication and expression. It is, as all books most certainly are in some small way, about life. There is a caveat however, that an iron patience is a necessity to enjoy this book. (Many times I found myself saying "O you gods, Give me that patience, patience I need"). A long book, "Notre Dame de Paris" has a patient author. Hugo takes his time developing the characters, coloring them with humanity and emotion, delaying the action to develop or introduce another character, creating a believable, realistic setting, until finally when the characters are so developed that they seem to be breathing off the pages, he brings in the La Guillotine. One should take care to know that the book is a tragedy and there will be no happy endings (unlike the loathsome Disney monstrosity) so if you have tears prepare to shed them in this book.--Submitted by Shihab Dider.

For though he was gentle and kind, it was Quasimodo's crime to have been born hideously deformed. But one day his heart would prove to be a thing of rare beauty. She was Esmerelda. The victim of a coward's jealous rage, she is unjustly convicted of a crime she didn't commit. Her sentence is death by hanging. Only one man can save her--Quasimodo

Fan of this book? Help us introduce it to others by writing a better introduction for it. It's quick and easy, click here.

Recent Forum Posts on The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Difficulties understanding...

Ok, so I have started The Hunchback (in French) some time ago now, but, though I understand the words, the notes in the French edition are not nearly as good as the ones in the Les Misérables-edition I have. So, I find myself understanding the plot and not much more... Anyone help? (It's not for homework) Hugo starts his book with an introduction about how he came to write this plot and comes to a word in Greek, carved into the wall of the Notre Dame Church, but now effaced by restoration: ANÁΓΚΗ If I understand it well, it can mean anything from fate to torture, to intimate relationship... In that, the image of the ladder, very important in the novel according to one of the notes, also inevitably leads up, but also to a necessary end... Esmeralda, I find interesting. Because, from the start, she is paired with fire/passion (?). Dangerous for Frollo as a priest. But what about the goat with her? Is she also linked with Satan (the goat) or is that only a weird impression of mine? As I understand, the Notre Dame rather functions as the protagonist than the characters. At least the times in which the story plays, are the ones of the great France (which according to the notes the majestic Notre Dame would evoke. Also fallen in disrepair, it would evoke the disrepair France had fallen into... with in the back of our minds what was going to happen which Hugo wrote in Les Misérables 30 years after he Hunchback). Can anyone give some guidance here, or at least a useful link other than sparknotes? There is a lot of crap (excuse the word) on the net, but not a lot of good stuff to find at first sight; The French version of Wikipedi unfortunately doesn't give any information at all (which is not their habit). If anyone knows of anything, it would be most welcome.

Esmeralda - The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Hello! In the first book of The Hunchback of Notre Dame - chapter VI, Hugo mentions for the first time the presence of Esmeralda in a public square : (extract) “Comrades!” suddenly cried one of the young rascals at the window, “Esmeralda—Esmeralda down in the Place!” I'm a little confused...Wich is this square? It's the square of Palais de Justice or the square in front of Notre-Dame (the Parvis)? Thank you very much!


I am surprised by some of the hostile comments to Hunchback on the novel's title page. Sure, Hugo is a flawed author, and isn't quite the realist that Zola purportly is, but the story is relevant, poignant, and probes several themes: the nature of righteousness over hypocrisy, the lack of justice in social hierarchy, how ignorance creates cruelty, and zealousness leads to evil, and the ability of the human spirit to triumph despite suffering. Notre Dame is also a love story, between beauty and beast, in some ways kindred souls, between Paris and its people, high and low, between knowledge and superstition, and between the spiritual, the profane, and how art mediates between the two. Joanne

Esmerlda's Character

I'm sure that if you have seen any film adaptions of Notre Dame De Paris the characters have the very same basis: Quasimodo:Tormented because of his appearence, exceptionally kind. Frollo:A lustful preist, still maintains some good but loses himself because of his sexual obsession. Esmerelda:The kind gypsy who befriends Quasimodo. But why is Esmerelda always viewed as kind? In my opinion, Esmerelda was completely two-faced. I mean, look at the scene where Quasimodo took two vases, an worn down pot full of beautiful flowers (Repersenting himself) and a beautiful pot full of dead flowers (Repersenting the Phoebus' lack of morals). She went up, grabbed the dead flowers and pinned them against her chest. It's understandable, her not loving Quasimodo, but she could at least so some decency towards him. Being afraid of his terrfying apperence was okay, but even after he saved her she still yelled and demanded to see Phoebus. Also her treatment of Frollo was exceptionally cruel, when Frollo poured out his heart to Esmerelda, she cursed him for being old and ugly. I laughed when Esmerelda died in the novel, the b-word deserved it. Quasimodo didn't deserve his tragic end however, I only wish he would have gotten a true friend before his death, not la Esmerelda, who only tolerated him because she would have been dead otherwise.

Esmeralda's destiny

What a book...I really enjoyed from 1st to last page, Hugo made a great job! But one thing is maybe a little unreal in this novel. When Esmeralda waited for her to be hanged for killing Phoebus, and she knew he was alive; actually he was captain of those soldiers, not some nomad, he was well known so why than didn't she or anybody else(Pierre mostly, he was really clever) said:''Wait a minute, but he is alive, so she didn't killed anybody and there are no reasons for her to be hanged!'' I am aware of democracy or non-democracy of those days, but there is surely something what could be done, no matter of Claude Frollo's power. Brave Quasimodo just wasn't enough... Moderators, please change thread's topic in Esmeralda's destiny, my mistake, sorry.


Hi, I'm new to Online Literature. I love this book (and the film too!) and it touches me every time I read it.

What this book is about..

Hello. I'm Lithuanian, and don't good read English, so sorry. In this summer I readed this book, I was shake, and charm. This book is brilliant middleage Paris chronicle We are XXI century people and I think, that is astonishing to can see XV century people life, they custom, they architecture, and so they love, they love is different, than now, it can feel in this book. This book isn't only about love, this book is about everything.

P.S. Sorry for my English mistake.

No Subject

This book was, by far, the most boring book that I have ever read. I kept reminding myself to read this book with an open mind and to just take my time and enjoy it... WRONG!!
With this book, there is no such thing as taking your time... if you did that, then it'll take you forever and a century to finish the book.
It was boring, confusing and worst of all, you can barely understand the dialogue. The characters have no personality (except for Quasimoto... who just wants a damn friend in his godforsaking life).
I consider myself to be a pretty bright person, and I can comprehend almost anything, but you've got to be someone extremely special to like this and ESPECIALLY understand it.
Cheers and Kudos to those who see through it! I take my hat off to you!

May I call you Victor?

I once read a review of The Hunchback of Notre Dame that made the claim that the characters are two dimensional, and the plot cliche. I was not much surprised at this comment because I found the same thing to be true myself. But I would not say that this is necessarily a criticism of the book, rather I found it to be an observation that only rendered the work all the more fascinating. If indeed it is not our limited understanding, or our own failure to read more into the novel, that keeps the Characters underdeveloped, if indeed Claud Frollo is only a priest being tormented by lust, Esmarelda a naive although kind hearted orphan, Pheobus a womanizing soldier and Gringoire a complacent failure, then what, I would ask, makes this book a long admired and adored classic? (please pardon my incorrect spellings)
I first read the book when I was 15, over summer vacation. When I was 18, I went camping with my college roomates and one of them brought along the copy of Hunchback. Just seeing the cover of the book again rekindled my interest in Quisimodo, Frollo, La Esmerelda and the rest, and I began to feel myself haunted by images of midievel Paris, until finally I couls stand it no longer and reread the book myself, looking for deeper meanings I had missed the first time around.
Now I find myself in roughly the same place I was at 15. The Characters are still two dimensional, and at the same time terribly evocative, and I keep wondering why?
Please, if anyone has any comments feel free to e-mail them to me!

Post a New Comment/Question on The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Quizzes on Victor Hugo
Related links for Victor Hugo

Here is where you find links to related content on this site or other sites, possibly including full books or essays about Victor Hugo written by other authors featured on this site.

Victor Hugo

Book First

Book Second

Book Third

Book Fourth

Book Fifth

Book Sixth

Book Seventh

Book Eighth

Book Ninth

Book Tenth

Book Eleventh

Sorry, no summary available yet.