Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Viewed from the outside, a more horrific being never lived. Everything he presented to the world: twisted legs, a deformed spine, oversized hands, and a monocled visage crowned by a mane of hair the rust color of autumn leaves, made him a most insufferable man in the eyes of the people. Ostracized from a society who never hesitated to jeer at his ugliness, Quasimodo, the monster of Notre Dame, bore all abuse with unremitting stoicism while taking shelter behind the walls of his refuge&emdash;the cathedral. Seemingly devoid of all feeling, Quasimodo’s hardened demeanor only added to his miserable existence as he appeared an even greater aberration from anything human, like one of the hideous gargoyles that rests quietly and defenselessly on the facade of the cathedral as passersby stop to gawk at its grotesque and frightening form. However, once this error of nature experiences the emotions of love and devotion, spawned by the arrival of the beautiful and sympathetic La Esmeralda, Quasimodo’s inner fortitude, strength, and benevolence transcend his distorted body, allowing the people to view him not as a helpless cripple, but instead as a real human being with the bearing of a king.
Lame and deaf, the one-eyed, misshapen curiosity of Paris, Quasimodo, dwells as a hermit in the Cathedral of Notre Dame during the 15th century. Taken under the care of Jean-Claude Frollo when only an infant, Quasimodo receives the occupation of bell ringer, and thus spends his life in constant devotion to the cold, exacting and insensate Archdeacon, extracting all earthly pleasure from his haven&emdash;the cathedral&emdash;and imparting all his passion to the ringing…
…e citizens, the courts, and the king, leaving them astounded at his “display of prowess” (190). After withdrawing into his den&emdash;Notre Dame&emdash;with his precious gem between his paws, Quasimodo ran to the highest tower “which housed the great bell,” and held the girl before the eyes of the city as he “roared savagely…`Sanctuary! Sanctuary! Sanctuary!'” (190).
Mounted on the bell tower of Notre Dame, Quasimodo stood before Paris in a regal coat of pride and power, shedding physical imperfection to allow an inner compassion and tenderness to emerge before the jungle of onlookers. After witnessing the valor and warmth of the lordly hunchback, neither the citizens of Paris nor Louis XI himself could deny that, for the moment, this beast truly reigned as king.
Hugo, Victor. The Hunchback of Notre Dame. New York: Bantam Books, 1984.