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The Hunchback Of Notre Dame English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2637 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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On the face value, this is a story of unreciprocated love between a horribly disfigured man and a beautiful lady who loves someone else. Quasimodos love for Esmeralda is weak as compared for his love for Claude Frollo, the Archdeacon. Quasimodos love for each of the two is in totally different manner, be is more true to the Archdeacon. Below the unfolding of Quasimodo’s love of La Esmeralda is a historical drama set in 1482, a time that reflects the political struggles of the nineteenth century. Almost the entire movie is set in the cathedral of Notre Dame and it portrays some spiritual setting in its character. . The paper has addressed the description of the main characters together with the main themes in the film. Criminal theories could also be identified within the film and have been discussed appropriately.

Overview of main characters and themes

Quasimodo, meaning half-formed is the misunderstood hunchbacked bell ringer of the cathedral of Notre Dame Cathedral in France during the 15th century. He is the protagonist of the movie. He is physically handicapped because of his hunched back and his guardian Judge Claude Frollo constantly tells him how ugly he is and that he could never be accepted by the outside world (Hugo, 1862).

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Esmeralda is a beautiful, talented streetwise and always barefooted gypsy girl who becomes Quasimodo’s friend and tries to show him that even though his exterior is not beautiful, his soul is. She is very much independed and dislikes the terrible way in which gypsies are treated. She tries to seek justice for people throughout the movie. She tries hard to convince Quasimodo that gypsies are good people and falls in love with Captain Phoebus (Hugo, V 1862).

Judge Claude Frollo is Quasimodo’s reluctant guardian who is ruthless and powerful. He is actually the main antagonist of the film and lasts for Esmeralda. According to him, he does not see any evil in his deeds and infact does everything in the honor of God even though his deeds are always disapproved by the Archbishop. Another character, Captain Phoebus is a man who comes back to Paris to be Captain of the Guard under judge Frollo. He falls in love with Esmeralda and later marries her. His integrity does not allow him to prove anything that Frollo does or thinks.

The theme of abandonment is illustrated in many instances in the movie with the most obvious being the abandonment of Quasimodo by his mother, who steals Esmeralda, who was more beautiful and exchanges her with her deformed son who is left in the cathedral halls. This was just the start of abandonment in Quasimodo’s life. According to Hugo (1862), the public also mocked and jeered him whenever he appeared outside his cosseted shelter. It can also be said that his physical senses abandoned him and left him with no power to speak or hear and this pushed him deeper into isolation. The death of the parents to priest Frollo and Lehan left them abandoned. On a different level, all the poor people of Paris were abandoned the rich monarchy which grew out of touch of the needs of the poor. This theme makes the reliability of Esmeralda and Quasimodo more extreme by contract

Betrayal is also very evident in the film when Quasimodo the most sincere and loyal character is betrayed. Frollo was the only person who shows him some sign of affection and therefore he could do anything to satisfy his master. So when Frollo asks him to kidnap Esmeralda, he obeys without thinking of the motives of the consequences. When it turns out that Quasimodo is tried and charged with a crime that demands severe beating as the punishment, he agrees that he does not deserve such a punishment. He is actually not the cause of that crime since he only followed orders from his master. Frollo’s loyalty is however not as Quasimodo’s since when he is punished unjustly, Frollo does not come to his rescue. Frollo shows another form of betrayal when he stabs Phoebus and still allows Esmeralda to pay the crime with her life.

Phoebus also shows some betrayal when he pretends to love Esmeralda and yet what he wanted was to win some few hours of physical passion. He even seats back and watches when Esmeralda is on the verge of being hanged for a crime that she never committed. Esmeralda’s blind love for Phoebus betrays her own safety when she hears Phoebus’ voice and comes out of the hiding. She believes that Phoebus loves her and she even turns herself into those people who want to see her dead.

The theme of obsession can also be identified in the movie, various men want to be close to Esmeralda and each of them has his own reason. Frollo and Quasimodo have the strongest desires which are born from different feelings. On one hand Quasimodo is truly in love with Esmeralda that he is ready to satisfy her needs without getting anything in return. As much as he wants to look at her, he doesn’t want his ugliness to be seen. He avoids this by serving her and leaving her alone even without them exchanging eye contact. He even goes to an extent of protecting her and yet he knows she does not love him.

On the other hand, Frollo is so obsessed with Esmeralda that he thinks of her every time and yet he does not know her. She arouses him by her female form, her beauty, the way she laughs and the way she moves and that’s why he wants to have her. He is driven away from his spirituality and rational thoughts because of this obsession. The carnal desires corrupt his lofty ideas and is ready to do anything to posses her including Gods commandments. He is driven to the dark side rather than the spiritual light because the obsession has taken over his body and mind. In other words the priests can also be the real devil while Quasimodo who is accused of being evil is more or less a saint.

Intolerance proliferates in the Hunchback of Notre Dame with the most conspicuous of being the intolerant which revolves around Quasimodo. People do not want to look at him since the day he was born live alone being around him and they keep on mocking him. The judge in the court of law is also so prejudiced by Quasimodo’s looks and he does not show concern about his inability to hear and express himself. He even mistakes Quasimodo of being disrespectful instead of noticing that he is limited in communication skills.

Overview of criminal theories

Classical theory

Classical theory says a crime occurs whenever the costs are lesser than the benefits. In other words when people pursue self interests and there is no much punishment that comes as a result of this, they will always stray. Crime is committed on free will since everyone is at liberty to choose how to act. Further more if someone commits a lesser crime and gets the same punishment as that who committed a huge crime, then he might as well commit another bigger crime because the consequences will be the same. If the cost of the crime is much bigger than the benefits, then the punishment can act as a restriction. The basic canons of classical theory reflect that individuals show free will when they decide to engage in crime and they act in a coherent manner when they make these choices. The courts should bestow punishment depending on how severe the crime committed. This theory bases its rational on the principle that humans are primarily rational and are free to do whatever they wish to do.

Rational theory

Rational theory is also known as rational action theory and is used to understand and model social and economic behavior. The ‘rationality’ described in this theory is different from everyday use of the term. In everyday meaning it means sane or acting in a clear and thoughtful manner. In this theory however, it means that a person should think first before taking any action. He should therefore balances between the costs and the benefits in whatever he does before taking action. It may be in activities like kissing, smoking or even murder. All the decisions made according to rational theory be it sane or insane are based on rational thinking where weighing of costs and benefits are made.

All the models in rational choice theory suppose that the decisions are made according to preference and limitations facing them. Those who support this theory are of the assumption that only good models can help in reasoning. Although rationality cannot be directly tested its results can be tested from the effects of the models.

Sub cultural theory

Sub cultural theory suggests that behavior is judged by the majority from the customs and values which lead to behavior and it is not transmitted biologically but socially. Subculture theory deals with behavior within the larger culture and should not be confused with counterculture. This theory suggests that those who live in the urban areas are in a position to create some sense of community despite the prevailing estrangement. This theory explains the crimes in society by focusing on the goals and objectives of the society and how the low classes are unable to fulfill the goals and instead replace them with crime and resistant behavior. These acts from the new norms are supposed to help them survive.

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The theory suggests that everyone has needs and the poor people cannot fulfill them and end up engaging in activities that could make them survive in this hardship. In that case this situation leads to crime. The mainstream ways of life are rejected and replaced with alternative ways of achieving success such as crime and fighting. If one associates with criminal definitions then he will learn crime. Of which these definitions may be those approving criminal conduct in general or justify crime under specific conditions. For instance interacting with peers that are antisocial may lead to criminal behavior and if not reinforced criminal behavior will in most cases be repeated. When such sub cultures of criminals exist, many individuals will learn to commit crime in the same location and the crime rate will increase.

Application of theories to the theme of the film

Classical theory is noticed when the Archdeacon Frollo becomes obsessed with Esmeralda and even renounces God and goes ahead to study alchemy and black magic because according to him winning Esmeralda will bring him more benefits than the cost he will pay for going against the church. He goes ahead and plans to trap her like a fly being caught by a spider using the web. The theory is further elaborated when the Archbishop follows Esmeralda and stabs Phoebus repeatedly because he was jealous of him ever since he so Phoebus dancing and talking to her in the Notre Dame. Frollo commits this crime on his on will and therefore he should not blame it on any one else. The court also acts in line with this theory when it sentenced Esmeralda to death even though she had not committed the crime. It was right for the court to do this because according to her confession, she had killed Phoebus and she was also a witch. The magnitude of these two crimes is huge and that’s why they are punishable by death.

If the court could not have sentenced her to death, then other people would also have committed the same or bigger crime knowing that nothing was going to be done to them and if at all there is, then the punishment was be that painful. It turns out that Phoebus did not die but he doesn’t want people to know that he was injured. Quasimodo is also put on trial and later sentenced to be tortured for two hours when together with Frollo they try to attach Esmeralda but the King’s Archers arrive on time and capture him (Hugo, 1862). He paid the price for his actions by being humiliated in front of a huge crowd of people leave alone being stretched and pulled apart.

The beggars who were hanged the night the hunchback was caught had to pay for their actions because they committed the crime on their own will. The classic theory acts on the principle that people show free will when they decide to engage in any kind of crime and they act in a rational manner. Since it was because of their own will that they engaged in stealing, no one should feel pity for them. The court should go ahead and instill such harsh punishments to them so that it may discourage others who were thinking of doing the same.

Rational theory comes into play when Quasimodo the hunchback is elected to become the pope of the fools because he is the ugliest person in Paris. According to this theory, rationality is different from the everyday kind of rationality whether it’s based on sane action. For this theory, whether it is sane or insane as long as they thought about it before they acted, then it is the right thing to do. For the people of Paris, it was right to choose the hunchback for this post because ideally he could not be associated with the sane. People used to mock him because of his ugly face but if this is the rational for electing him, then they are right to do it.

When a group of thieves and beggars were about to be hanged, Esmeralda moved forward and decided to marry the hunchback for only for years if only to save his life. If she had not done this, then he could be killed for a crime he didn’t do. She also used the rationality theory to provide Quasimodo by offering him something to drink when everyone else had given a deaf ear for his plea for drinking water (Hugo, 1862).

Sister Gudule screams at Esmeralda and calls her a gypsy child thief, because she blames her for the kidnapping of her daughter fifteen years ago. She was right doing this if at all the allegation is true because its so painful loosing a child and one could never forget this however long it may take. When Quasimodo swings on a roe and carries Esmeralda from the angry crowd, he saved her life because she was going to be executed. She could only remain safe by staying in the cathedral because no one could put a hand on her in the house of the lord. It is however also not right for the crowd to take the law in their hands and execute any wrong doer. They should leave it to the court of law or God.

Quasimodo did not act with rationality when he began fighting a group of vagabonds who had come to save Esmeralda when they heard that the parliament had ordered her out of Notre Dame. It would have been better if he understood what they were coming for by first talking to them. He killed most of them because of his poor prejudgment and yet they were all fighting for the safety of Esmeralda.

Sub cultural theory indicates that every human being has needs and he will do anything to survive however hard life might be. From the flash back to when Quasimodo was abandoned as a small kid in the church, we realize he had to do everything in his ability to survive. He is even faced with another obstacle of being humiliated for being physically handicapped. He was not even able to socialize because people were afraid of him and didn’t want to associate with him because of his ugly face. His only friends were the church statues and the bell which he rang on special occasions. These bells however deafen him and adding to his misery. Is therefore the society that shaped Quasimodo’s behavior and because of the loneliness he could not express his love for Esmeralda (Hugo, 1862).

Towards the end of the play, we see him taking his own life because of Esmeralda’s death. It is indicated that a gravedigger stumbles upon her remains and finds te skeleton of a hunchback curled around her. This is a clear indication that he took his own life when he realized that his love was dead.


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