Study Guide

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame Fate and Free Will

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Fate and Free Will

Let's talk about the F-word.

We mean fate, of course. It comes up a lot in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame; in fact, Victor Hugo tells us in his preface that the entire book is written on the idea of fate. Remember ANÁΓKH? Turns out it's not a fraternity.

The character who's most into this idea is Frollo. He's not really one to believe in choosing his own adventure. For him, it's all about fate as a kind of inescapable web. Why try to fight it when it is your destiny?

But fate seems to have a hand in more than just Frollo's wicked designs. He, like the other characters in the novel, is more caught up in it than he thinks—and fate, we'd like to point out, seems to have a way of not quite letting you know what it's got in store for you.

So what's fate, and what's free will? How much choice do the characters in this novel have? Let's find out.

Questions About Fate and Free Will

  1. Are we meant to see the hand of fate in the events of the novel as much as Frollo does?
  2. Does this novel set fate against free will? Do we have any instances of blatant free will in this story?
  3. Would you say that all of the characters' fates are intertwined? Why or why not? What might Hugo be trying to show about the nature of fate?
  4. Why do you think Victor Hugo chose this one word (ANÁΓKH, or fate) as the basis for the entire story? How does the preface change how we read the novel?

Chew on This

Everything is way too coincidental in this novel for us not to see the hand of fate behind everything that happens.

While Frollo asserts that everything is the work of fate, it's more his belief in fate than fate itself that drives him to do the things he does.

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