“…The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, long considered a horror story, is everything but a horror story. This classic tale, written in 1831 by Victor Hugo, one of the most outstanding writers of the 19th century, is a masterpiece that touches the heart. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is the story of Quasimodo, a man borne with severe physical deformities who is forced to live a life of abuse, neglect and loneliness in a world of medieval superstitions, oppressive government, poverty, and religious ignorance. Because the people think of Quasimodo as a monster, fear and ridicule is their normal response to him.
After viewing the movie version many times and finally reading the book, I began to sympathize with Quasimodo. He endured abuse from his caretaker and was told that the people only wanted to make fun of him. He was told to stay in the Cathedral, safe from the humiliation of their insults. Quasimodo didn’t want safety, he wanted understanding and acceptance. Quasimodo would spend his life in the tower unless the attitude of the people changed and their fears replaced by understanding and knowledge. The attitude of the people is the real horror in this story.
Quasimodo is often described as “the deformed bell-ringer,” “the piteous Hunchback,” and so on. Neither of these descriptions reveals his true character and abilities. On the other hand the story reveals an inner person, capable and worthy of being loved and accepted. Quasimodo is kind and gentle with normal feelings and desires. You can see the inner man through his interaction with Esmeralda, the gypsy girl, after he saves her from execution. However, the people miss learning this about him because they won’t let go of their fear of his outward appearance.