content is reader-supported. "As an Amazon Associate, When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission." Learn more.

Notre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo | Review, Summary & Facts

Review, Summary & Facts about Notre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo

Review, Summary & Facts about Notre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo.

Notre Dame de Paris is the first romantic novel by French writer Victor Hugo that caused a sensation. The novel is set in France under the rule of Louis XI in the 15th century. 

Through the story of a pure and innocent Bohemian girl being brutally persecuted, it exposes the insidious despicableness of priests, the barbaric cruelty of the Inquisition, the debauchery of nobles, and the king's cruelty. Bossy and brutal. 

The works clearly embody the awareness of anti-feudalism and anti-church and the praise of the people. 

The story revolves around the relationship between Esmeralda and Phoebes, the archdeacon, and Quasimodo. Phoebes' love is frivolous and hypocritical, with elements of playfulness; Selfish, paranoid, even to the extent of perversion; only Quasimodo's love is dedicated, warm, and humble. 

As an image of beauty and kindness, Esmeralda has been indulging in love with Phoebes from beginning to end, and some superficial feelings make her unable to see clearly the essence of this prodigal son. 

At the same time, she fears and hates the archdeacon who brought her bad luck. Although she is grateful to Quasimodo, who is too ugly to be human, she can't fall in love anyway. 

In the end, Phoebes married his cousin, Ace. Meralda was executed by the archdeacon, who died at the hands of his adopted son Quasimodo, and Quasimodo committed suicide holding Esmeralda's body, fulfilling his wish to protect his sweetheart. 

Several relationships vividly portray love in the world. People are always so unequal in love relationships, and just the right love is so hard to come by. 

Book: Notre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a French Gothic novel by Victor Hugo, published in 1831. It focuses on the unfortunate story of Quasimodo, the Romani street dancer Esmeralda and Quasimodo's guardian Archdeacon Claude Frollo in 15th-century Paris. ---Wikipedia

    • Originally published: March 16, 1831
    • Author: Victor Hugo
    • Characters: Quasimodo, Esméralda, Claude Frollo, Phoebus, MORE
    • Genres: Novel, Romanticism, Drama, Gothic fiction
    • Dewey Decimal: 843.7
    • Language: French


About the author: Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo was a representative writer of French Romanticism in the 19th century. Born in Baisancon, France in 1802, he has two elder brothers. His father was a general under Napoleon. 

When he was a teenager, his family followed the army and migrated everywhere because of his father's occupation. Although the family environment was difficult, he continued to receive an education.

At the age of 13, he and his elder brother entered a boarding school, and both brothers became student leaders. 

Hugo was able to create outstanding verses at the age of 16. At the age of 21, he published a collection of poems and became famous.

At the age of 43, King Louis-Philippe of France gave him the position of member of the House of Lords and has since devoted himself to politics.

When the French Revolution broke out in 1849, King Louis of France was executed. 

During this period, Hugo traveled around advocating revolution, contributed a lot to the people, won the respect of the new republic, was promoted to the earl, and was elected as a national representative and member of Congress. 

Three years later, Napoleon III proclaimed himself emperor, and Hugo attacked it so much that he was exiled abroad.

After wandering around for 20 years, he completed the novel "Les Miserables" (Les Miserables) during this period, and the musical of the same name was adapted from this novel.

In 1870, France restored the Republic (Second Republic), and Hugo also ended his exile and returned to France. Both political and literary contributions have been made.

In 1885, Hugo died at the age of 83, and a state funeral was held in Pendela.

Book Summary: Notre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo

Who would have thought that under the holy cassock of the high-sounding archbishop, there is a sinister and despicable soul that is disastrous to the country and the people? 

And who would have thought that in the heart of the ugly and deformed bell ringer, there was a divine radiance of perfection, beauty, supremeness, and greatness? 

How should an abandoned baby who grew up under the wing of the bishop face the right and wrong that happened around him? 

The contrast between beauty and ugliness, and the contest between good and evil are vividly interpreted in the works of French writer Victor Hugo.

  This is a beautiful, romantic yet tragic story, set in medieval Paris. The pure and kind Jeep girl is attracted by the sanctimonious and evil-minded Vicar Claude because of her beauty. 

He ordered his adopted son, Quasimodo, an ugly hunchback, to snatch her back, but was stopped by the bodyguard Phoebes. 

Quasimodo is punished, but the kind Esmeralda brings him water. Quasimodo fell in love with her, but she fell in love with Phoebus during a date between Phoebus and Esmeralda. 

Phoebus was wounded by Claude, and Esmeralda was questioned about the murder, and would rather be strangled than agree to Claude. The angry Quasimodo killed Claude and died for Esmeralda.

  Beauty and ugliness, good and evil, appearance and heart are not necessarily harmonious. A person's heart does not determine everything, and the role played by the heart is far more important than appearance. 

Therefore, people should not overly pursue the beauty of appearance, and the purity and sincerity of the heart are what we need to have in our life. 

Similarly, to measure a person should start from his inner quality, not judge a person by his appearance. 

Because under the ugly appearance, there may be a fiery and pure heart; under the handsome face, there may be a dirty, shameful, despicable, and twisted heart.

  What is true beauty? External beauty is just a fancy thing, only inner beauty is the real beauty, the beauty we want to promote, and the beauty we want to pursue. 

Just like the vagabonds and beggars on Miracle Street, for the Virgin in their hearts, they splashed blood on the wall pillars of Notre Dame de Paris, and broke down the gate of Notre Dame with their flesh and blood; Modo sent water, which affected the heart of the bell ringer, just as the ugly king Quasimodo faced many hardships, for the sake of justice, he resolutely betrayed his vice-bishop, rushed out of the fog, and competed with the evil.

  Beauty and ugliness, good and evil, Hugo has perfectly interpreted on the stage of "Notre Dame de Paris". Close to the book, the story has long since ended, but this ancient story will be recited forever.

Book Review of Notre Dame de Paris

Paris in the middle and late fifteenth century seemed to be shrouded in haze, the Hundred Years War had just ended, the law was lingering between the royal power and the religious power, the nobles and dudes bullied others, the officials were corrupt but acted recklessly, and the people were ignorant and deeply superstitious. 

It will take another thirty years for the humanistic spirit to spread from Florence to formally take root in the land of France. Printing is devouring the soul of architecture.

    With this magnificent era as the background, under the overlooking of the ancient Notre Dame de Paris, Hugo wrote an elegy.

    "Notre Dame de Paris" roughly tells the story of a beautiful bohemian girl who is pushed to destruction by a priest who wants nothing from her, interspersed with various characters with distinctive personalities and the author's perspective on things, they undoubtedly enrich the wings of this book. 

However, the issues reflected in some plots in this book are still worthy of discussion. Here are a few humble opinions.

1. The court under the Pope

    Although we have memorized Babylon's "Code of Hammurabi" in our junior high school history textbooks, which shows that the human legal system has a long history, and Rome has also introduced related laws such as the "Law of the Twelve Tables", but from the bourgeoisie of the United States, Britain, and France Only after the revolution began did the rule of law gradually enter the track of practice.

    In medieval Europe, the power of the Holy See covered the sky with only one hand, and the red robe was not as strong as the black robe. The law was once reduced to a weapon for the church to expand its own power. 

At that time, the law will bow to power, bow to public opinion, and even be affected by the judge's personal mood. So there are several ridiculous scenes in the book, including but not limited to 

"the deaf judge interrogated the deaf defendant with a 'stern and selfless' face, and Fu Yi who entered the scene halfway was angrily sentenced because the deaf man answered wrong questions", "the plaintiff took it for granted that the Superstition distorts the facts, and falsely accuses girls of different races as witches" and "the judge tortures the defendant to extract a confession in order to obtain what the masses and himself believe to be the truth and not to delay his own lunch."

    Will this unjust judicial procedure make Juditia vomit blood... (Juditia is the goddess of justice in ancient Rome, usually with the image blindfolded holding a sword, and holding a balance)

    Also worth mentioning is "refuge". Because of the background of the era when religious power was greater than royal power in the Middle Ages, secular power could not enter religious places such as churches, sinners tried by secular courts could hide in churches for refuge, and secular courts had no right to interfere. 

This is also the basis for Quasimodo to save Esmeralda for Notre Dame. This is undoubtedly unreasonable. 

Today, death row inmates are commuted to life imprisonment because of "heaven's protection". Of course, unjust, false, and wrongly decided cases are another matter.

    In the face of criminals in the church, the secular courts can only stare blankly, but the religious courts have the power to arrest them. 

At the same time, not all cases will go to the religious court, so some people who escaped the butcher's knife will live in the church for a lifetime.

    It is precise because of the excessive power of the Holy See, the church’s “tithes” and indulgences in different ways to suck blood from the people, the clergy embezzling finances, theology blocking the development of science, and refusing to recognize the truth of all things. "Dark Middle Ages". 

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, in order to change this situation, many countries launched religious reforms and established centralized power. This is a later story.

2. Beauty and Ugliness

    Beauty and ugliness are actually the subjective feelings of each person's different aesthetics, and there is no clear scale. Beauty and ugliness are not confined to the body, they can also dwell in the spirit. 

For example, if you often go to museums, you may find that some people are stingy to give even a glance at the broken and dusty tiles in the showcase, while others look at them with great enthusiasm. 

That's because the meaning of a cultural relic has gone far beyond itself—it may reflect a wonderful story in a dynasty, or it may be engraved with the ancient wisdom of the ancients. 

At this time, the definition of beauty and ugliness does not depend on the eyes, but on the understanding, love, and awe of history.

    Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, is considered by many on the Internet to be a perfect example of being ugly on the outside but kind on the inside. I dare to question it today. Why is it generally believed that Quasimodo has a kind heart?

    It is true that Quasimodo saved Esmeralda on the execution ground after Esmeralda did not hold him accountable for helping the archdeacon snatch her and gave him water; It is also true that he respects him for the kindness of his upbringing. 

But because of his ugly appearance, Quasimodo was rejected by outsiders since he was a child, so he stayed in Notre Dame all day long, with a withdrawn personality. 

The bell on the tower was his most loyal partner. For such a person, he loved People, he will humble himself into the dust and repay them with Qiong Yao. 

For those who are malicious to him, he will beat them away with his own ferocity. At the same time, he buried the vicar who had nurtured him for Esmeralda. Is this kindness? No, this is love and hate.

    Beauty and ugliness are opposite concepts, but in the human species, there is no pure good, evil, beauty, and ugliness, and there is no black and white. 

In my opinion, Quasimodo is ugly on the outside, but his heart is close to the most primitive state of human beings, that is, animal nature and instinct. He is a natural man in society rather than a social man. 

In contrast, I personally think Bienvenu Bishop and Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables" are the real goodness. 

Although the former has some ideas that fall into the word "roundabout", he has done good deeds throughout his life and repaid evil with virtue. 

Under the influence of the former, the latter has set up a high moral standard. Although he sometimes struggles in his heart, his kind side will always overcome evil thoughts, he spent decades tremblingly, helping others without leaving his name, and finally, he lived up to his conscience.

    I love the ending of "Notre Dame Hunchback". The bodies of Quasimodo and Esmeralda hug each other tightly, and they turned into dust together under the touch of others. 

At this moment, the beauty and ugliness of the appearance are intertwined, there is no distinction between you and me, there are only two unfortunate souls, looking down on the ocean composed of the city peacefully and serenely above Notre Dame Cathedral.

3. The deformed love under the robe

    After reading the book, I went to the Internet to find guides of different translations.

    "exposing the insidious meanness of priests"

    "Profoundly condemned the hypocrisy and despicableness of the captain of the guard and the archdeacon"

     Is this how the guide introduces the characters now?

    I seem to see an adult pointing to a book of fairy tales and saying to a three-year-old child: The big bad wolf is a bad guy, and Little Red Riding Hood is a good guy...

    But "Notre Dame de Paris" is not a fairy tale, and the archdeacon is not a big bad wolf.

    The Archdeacon is undoubtedly the most complex and profound character in this book, even Quasimodo and Esmeralda are not as three-dimensional as him. His perfect blend of good and evil is breathtaking.

    Before meeting Esmeralda, Frollo was an upright, knowledgeable, devout, and kind person. He lost his parents when he was young, and raised his infant brother alone while taking care of his studies. He was ordained a priest at the age of twenty. 

He was thirsty for knowledge, and he probably read all the books he could read and was even favored by King Louis XI of France. Because of his kindness, he adopted Quasimodo, an abandoned baby who was so ugly that people thought it was a devil, and brought him up, giving him a position at Notre Dame. 

And the final ending, that is, Quasimodo, who was adopted by Frollo in order to accumulate virtue for his brother, killed Frollo’s younger brother, John, so it’s ironic.

   But when he met Esmeralda, his life trajectory was reversed by an irresistible force called love. Frollo first fell into endless pain. 

Since the eleventh century, priests have had to be celibate and dedicate themselves to God, but Frollo gradually abandoned himself after discovering that he fell in love with Esmeralda, and used an almost crazy desire for a monopoly to bring Esmeralda together with himself. to hell.

    I thought for a long time that Hugo should write such a character to criticize the Holy See in the Middle Ages rather than the character itself because the vicar is a product of that oppressive and deformed era. What makes Frollo tragic is his environment.

    The first is the academic aspect.

    After Frollo finished studying canons, he turned to medicine, refined herbs, and prepared ointment himself, but when he talked with the king, he didn't believe in medicine, but in alchemy. 

What drove him to abandon the rigorous and broad medicine that we see today, and instead pursue the illusory technique of "turning sunlight into gold"?

    That is the absolute authority of theology. At that time, science that was not conducive to the church and God was regarded as heresy and would be criticized and persecuted, such as Copernicus and his heliocentric theory. 

Under such a system, the development of scientific theories is greatly restricted. Frollo's medical knowledge may be irrational. 

He can find mistakes, but because of his life creed, which is the Catholic faith, he cannot question it. That is why he denies knowledge and sinks into nothingness.

    The second is the social environment.

    Humans are social animals, and communication is a necessary skill for a person, and it is also the premise and foundation for him to integrate into the world. 

On the other hand, Frollo, because he is obsessed with academics, is serious, depressed, and often wears a black robe, which makes many people timid, so there is a legend among the people that he is a wizard and Quasimodo is a demon who traded with him.

   Frollo was ostracized, and his few close friends were his brother John and Quasimodo. 

It is his character that caused his situation, and his character is influenced by the religion he believes in, bound by strict rules and regulations, and so on, this is the fault of the church.

    Finally, there is the psychological aspect.

    I have had this experience: I bought a bottle of Coke, happily shook the bottle like a fool, and then walked home with the Coke in my hand, unscrewed the cap - bang.

    Human nature is a carbonated drink that has been shaken, and no matter how long it is suppressed, it is possible to burst out.

    The rules of the church are oppressive and anti-human. Frollo's mind has spent more than 30 years like an ascetic. When he saw Esmeralda dancing like a butterfly, he was restless. 

Thoughts popped up uncontrollably one after another, and the image of Esmeralda flashed in front of his eyes. The priest found in despair that he was getting farther and farther away from heaven and closer to hell. 

So he finally abandoned gods, academics, religion, secularism, and precepts in the entanglement, just for the illusion of a beautiful future emotional life in his mind. 

After he stretched out his hand to the forbidden fruit called "love" with nothing, he got bad news: the girl he loves fears and even loathes him, and the girl he loves likes the young and handsome captain of the guard.

    Reality. No Romeo and Juliet. What a cruel reality!

    So the distorted psychology began to cause trouble. He forcibly occupied Esmeralda several times (attempted), he assassinated the captain of the guard and blamed Esmeralda, and when he got negative answers one after another, he would personally send Esmeralda to the gallows. 

The extreme and terrifying mentality of "destroy if you can't get it" and "take others to hell with you if you die" is very reminiscent of the order of xtl to blow up Paris in late World War II (still attempted).

    This sad and pitiful man may not have thought that he would die in the hands of Quasimodo, whom he raised so hard. 

He was pushed down from the top of Notre Dame, smashed to pieces together with his fiery and cold soul.

    If he hadn't met Esmeralda, if he hadn't fallen in love with her, as she said, he would have been very happy and would have continued to walk with integrity and kindness.

    No if. Only the word "fate" is permanently fixed on the wall tiles of Notre Dame de Paris.

4. "Architectural changes" that have nothing to do with the story

    Hugo was known to like to insert small essays in his novels. In "Les Miserables", it is "On the Reasons for the Defeat of Waterloo", "the emergence and Development of Slang", "the sewers of Paris", etc., and in "Notre Dame de Paris", it is "the changes of the urban layout and architecture of Paris".

    Every time I read content in this form, I feel dizzy and wonder why the author wrote these things.

    Later I gradually realized that these two novels are not pure novels, they contain the author’s viewpoints and opinions in the fields of politics and other fields. 

Provided valuable information, for example, according to the description in "Notre Dame de Paris", perhaps architects can roughly restore the style of Paris at the end of the fifteenth century.

    Then I began to wonder, how can a person know everything like a jack-of-all-trades and present knowledge in books?

    Hugo always drops God.

5. Notre Dame de Paris today

    In 2019, Notre Dame de Paris, a church that had existed for more than 800 years, was engulfed in a fire, and the Gothic spire collapsed in the thick smoke of the fire.

     But as the bells of Notre Dame rang again a year later, we learned — the resilience of civilization.

    The towers described by Hugo cannot be destroyed by a single flame, and neither can those real or fictional stories be erased by a single flame. Quasimodo's ten thousand bells ringing together, Napoleon's self-coronation... 

the accumulation of countless times will hover in the hearts of everyone who loves history and literature, and there is a humanistic spirit that lasts for a long time.

Conclusion: Notre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo

There is nothing to say about the quality of world-famous books, and Hugo's writing style is also excellent, vividly showing the scene of Paris. 

I have read two books in this collection of illustrations, one of "Great Expectations" and one of "Notre Dame de Paris" which can be included in my top ten books. 

Looking forward to the next Hugo of Houlang's collection of illustrations "Les Miserables"!

Muhiuddin Alam is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of He serves as a consistent contributor to various websites and publications, including Medium, Quora, Reddit, Linkedin, Substack, Vocal, Flipboard, and Amazon KDP. Alam personally read numerous books and, for the past 10 years, has been providing book recommendations and reviews. Find Me: About Me & Google Knowledge Panel.

Do you prefer to listen rather than read? If so, here’s a nice opportunity to try Audible for 30 days.

Need a bookish gift? Give the gift of reading to the book lovers in your life.