Study Guide

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame Lust

By Victor Hugo

Lust

We're gonna level with you, folks: sex is a major player in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.

Or at least, the desire to have sex is a major player. The problem is, that desire is usually unrequited. What we end up with is a lot of sexual frustration that then manifests itself in some pretty ugly ways. We're talking, of course, mainly about Frollo here (though Phœbus is also a pretty lusty character). Frollo's lust makes him jealous, possessive, evil, and violent—yet he insists in calling his feelings for Esmeralda "love." We're not so sure, but regardless of what Frollo calls his feelings, one thing is for sure: they drive him crazy.

But wait, what's the difference between love and lust? That's a tough one, but rest assured: Victor Hugo has some ideas.

Questions About Lust

  1. Is the line between love and lust immediately clear in the novel? Is there a line between love and lust at all?
  2. Frollo obviously doesn't handle lust very well. Does he act out of uncontrolled lust, or is he just an evil person? What's the difference?
  3. How would you compare Frollo's feelings for Esmeralda with Phœbus's or Quasimodo's feelings for her?
  4. According to the novel, what causes Frollo to act out his feelings for Esmeralda in such over-the-top the ways? How do we make sense of his actions? What makes him so evil?

Chew on This

Frollo's lust gets out of hand because he allows himself to use things like sorcery and fate as justifications rather than recognizing his lust for what it is.

Frollo's lust gets out of hand because he knows that he isn't really supposed to feel lust.

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