Study Guide

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame Appearances

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You've probably heard the old spiel about not judging a book by its cover. Well, the saying exists because people do tend to judge covers. Sometimes, an entire identity is constructed around a cover. Books, people, you name it—we all judge.

In The Hunchback of Notre-Dame,the idea that you can't judge a book by its cover doesn't just apply to Quasimodo, the character most ruthlessly judged on the basis of his appearance. Frollo is convinced that Esmeralda is evil because she's sexy; Esmeralda is convinced that Phœbus is noble and heroic because he's hotter than Johnny Depp in the desert… you get the picture. There's a lot of cover-judging in this book—and a lot of catastrophe as a result.

Questions About Appearances

  1. Do any of the characters in the novel overcome their initial dependence on appearances by the end of the novel?
  2. Why are appearances so important to everyone in the novel?
  3. How does a preoccupation with appearances fit in with a novel about a cathedral?
  4. Do you think that Victor Hugo is simply telling us not to judge things by their appearances, or is there more to it than that?

Chew on This

Appearance is pretty much the only thing that matters to anyone in the novel.

Appearance in the novel is complicated: Quasimodo and Phœbus are misjudged for their appearances, but Esmeralda and Frollo aren't.

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