He packed up his things and raced out of the station. He was hungry and tired and had no idea where he would go. (1.5.44)
Poor Hugo really has no one at the beginning of the book. Uncle Claude is a total deadbeat and he doesn’t even know children his age.
Increasingly, Hugo felt like he had to try. If he fixed it, at least he wouldn’t be so completely alone. (1.5.54)
In a way, the automaton is a stand-in for Hugo’s friends, or at least another presence to live with him in the dingy little apartment. But seriously, having a robot as your only friend is… depressing, to say the least.
“I’m trying to help you. Why are you being so mean?” (1.8.21)
Hugo isn’t used to having friends anymore. In fact, he tends to rebuff any attempts to befriend him, and when Isabelle comes along, he even gets mad at her for trying to help him. It might take him a while before he's ready to accept help and affection.
“Etienne works at the movie theater near my home. He sneaks me in because Papa Georges won’t allow me to see any movies.” (1.8.34)
Isabelle, however, does have friends—and she wants to share them with Hugo. When Etienne comes along, he invites them both to the movies, and it's Hugo's first experience with having a partner (or two) in crime.
Without warning, Hugo wrapped his arms around Isabelle’s neck and gave her a big hug. He could tell she was surprised. (2.10.17)
Aw, these two are too cute. Oh, but wait. You may think that Hugo is finally being a good friend when he hugs Isabelle goodbye, but you would be wrong. He’s actually stealing her necklace without her knowledge. Looks like Hugo hasn't quite gotten the hang of this whole friendship thing yet.
Eventually, with no customers and nothing else to say, Isabelle tended to the loose ends of Hugo’s bandages and took out a book. She began reading. (2.6.4)
After the whole episode with the breaking chair and Papa Georges’ fever, Hugo and Isabelle have to join forces to keep the toy booth open and buy medicine for Papa Georges. Spending all day together, they start to get along. You might say they're fire-forged friends.
Between Hugo’s injured hand and Isabelle’s sprained foot, it was extremely difficult for them to get up the staircase and the ladder, but they each helped each other and at last they came to the glass clocks that overlooked the city. (2.6.30)
Soon, they’re trusting and even helping each other out. Hugo even shows Isabelle the view of the city from the glass clocks—something that he’s never showed anyone else before. It’s obvious that he considers her a friend by now, because friends share moments like these.
And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, two of my dearest friends, a young cameraman and his wife, were killed in a terrible car accident. (2.8.12)
Friendship ain’t all roses and butterflies. The death of Georges Méliès’s dear friends is what pushes him over the edge and into his life of depression and full-on curmudgeondom.
He had a little drawer just for the ticket stubs of the movies he and Isabelle saw together. (2.11.2)
How sweet! By the end of the book, Hugo and Isabelle aren’t bickering at all (well… maybe). Instead, they’re going to the World's Fair and seeing movies together. They’ve become true chums.
She then handed Hugo a photo she had taken of him with his old friends Antoine and Louis. They all had their arms around one another’s necks and they were laughing. (2.12.11)
In the end, Hugo has everything that he wanted—a family, a place to fix and make things, and most of all, friends he can rely on. Antoine and Louis may be the friends at school that he’s been reunited with, but it’s the girl who takes the photo, Isabelle, who has become his truest friend.