“The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” is a story set in 15th century France with a quirky and contrasting approach. The novel exposes the hypocrisy of religion, declares the bankruptcy of asceticism, praises kindness, love and self-sacrifice of the lower working people, and reflects Hugo’s humanitarian thoughts. “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” is a tragedy in which the good innocent people were tortured and persecuted under the autocratic system. The heroine Esmeralda is a kind and pure young girl.
When the peddler poet, Granger, strayed late at night into a gathering place for vagabonds and beggars in Paris, and was about to be killed, she came forward and offered to marry him, taking him under her protection, though she did not love him. When Quasimodo was whipped in the blazing sun and cried out in pain of thirst, she was the only one who sympathized with the hideous bell-ringer who had hijacked her in the middle of the night. She thought the world was as pure as her, and she died in passionate love with the heartless Phoebus. She was steadfast in character, willing to die before Claude’s insolence. She was the darling of the vagabonds and beggars of Paris, but self-supporting and undefiled.
Hugo put such a bright image in the dark background of the Middle Ages, describing how the society ruled by despotism and rampant with the power of the church threatened her and persecuted her like a huge net, strangling her by horrible means. The religious fanaticism of Bohemian maidens, the vicious plots of church figures to satisfy their vile and animal desires, the brutality of the despotic state regime… all of these are described by Hugo in a romantic way as terrible as a nightmare.
Through this description, the author shows the darkness of the feudal autocratic society and highlights an anti-feudal theme of the work. Whether it’s Crowder or Quasimodo, they’re people of society at the end of the day. The division and conflict in their hearts reflected the division and conflict between theocracy and human rights, ignorance and knowledge seeking in their time, between the huge and heavy dark system and the struggling of vulnerable individuals, which finally led to the tragic end of all the characters.The literary value and social significance of “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” have a far-reaching influence. This novel, breaking the shackles of classicism, is a milestone in romantic works. Since its release, the novel has been adapted into numerous films, cartoons and plays.