Study Guide

The Invention of Hugo Cabret Truth

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“I want to see what’s in your notebook.”

“You can’t. That’s a secret,” said Hugo.

“Good. I like secrets.” (1.7.10-12)

And so begins the rollicking adventure of Hugo and Isabelle’s search for the answers to some very big secrets…

“I will decide how long you must work for each of the items you stole, and it will be up to me to decide when you have earned back your notebook, if it still exists.” (1.7.39)

Hugo needs to know whether or not his notebook still exists, but Papa Georges just won’t tell him the truth. Is he just trying to get some free labor at the toy booth, or does he want to see if he can trust Hugo first?

“Are you listening to me, Hugo? This is not your father’s!” (2.1.6)

Isabelle discovers that the automaton signs Méliès’ name and realizes the truth—that the mechanical man must be somehow linked to her godfather. The truth starts slowly trickling out, but the kids just can’t make sense of it yet. Not without some help.

Hundreds of pieces of paper of every shape and size scattered across the floor. Hugo saw that they were all covered with drawings. (2.2.7)

When Mama Jeanne directs them into the bedroom and they find all of Papa Georges’ pictures, the facts start clicking together. Papa Georges obviously had something to do with the film industry, but what? And how?

“Died? He’s not dead…” Hugo said out loud.

“Who isn’t dead?” said Etienne, who had been reading over Hugo’s shoulder.

“Georges Méliès.” (2.4.28-30)

The film world thinks that Georges Méliès is dead, but Hugo knows the truth—or at least part of it. And he’s going to reveal it to Rene Tabard and Etienne in order to see if he can get some more answers.

“This is how we can find out everything. Don’t mention this to your godmother yet.” (2.5.28)

Isabelle is unsure about whether she should let Monsieur Tabard and Etienne come over at first, but when the possibility of finding out everything is dangled in front of her, she can’t resist. She needs the whole story.

When Hugo finished, Isabelle was quiet for a few moments, then she said, “Thank you.” (2.5.31)

Hugo’s not a very buddy-buddy kind of kid, but he trusts Isabelle enough to tell her the truth about his background, and about why he lives in the train station. And that’s the moment when their friendship really becomes solidified.

“My parents were shoemakers, did you know that?” (2.8.10)

Papa Georges launches into a speech about his life, revealing to the kids exactly all that they were hoping to find out. And he starts at the very beginning.

“The clocks in the station should have stopped working when he drowned since no one was taking care of them… but they didn’t.” (2.9.9)

The truth finally comes out—Hugo’s uncle is dead and everyone knows it. When this bit of news dawns on him, it’s the beginning of the end for Hugo’s time at the station. He can’t just stay there and continue his life as it is anymore.

It can tell you the incredible story of Georges Méliès, his wife, their goddaughter, and a beloved clock maker whose son grew up to be a magician. (2.12.8)

The automaton reveals all in the end. Not the one that Hugo fixed over the course of the story (though that one definitely brought Hugo and Isabelle the truth about Méliès), but the one that Hugo builds in the end. The automaton tells the entire story… writing and drawing it out bit by bit.

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