The basis of the story is quite simple - that of the infatuatuion of the alchemist Frollo for the gypsy, Esmerelda, whom he attempts to abduct through his servant Quasimodo, the hunchback bell-ringer of Notre-Dame. The plot is foiled and Quasimodo is captured. Esmerelda is accused of having murdered Phebus, a captain of the guards, and is condemned to death. As she is led off to her execution, Quasimodo, whom she has befriended, breaks loose and rescues her. In a violent scene, Quasimodo defends her and himself. The two are overcome and go to their deaths.
The idea for The Hunchback of Notre-Dame went back to Victor Hugo's youth, and his interest in gothic art. As he carefully examined the architecture of Notre-Dame, he gradually conceived of this macabre novel. Apart from writing an engrossing story, Hugo's purpose was to write something of the little understood Christian eras, their saints, martyrs, cathedrals, and their faith. Thus he did not find his subject, as did the Classicists, in the pre-Christian cultures of Greece and Rome. The result of his new approach was the first great historical romance in French literature.
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