Study Guide

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame The Supernatural

By Victor Hugo

The Supernatural

In case you haven't picked up on it, people in the Middle Ages could be pretty superstitious. Satanic goats, baby-eating, coins turning into leaves, some guy named "Beelzebub"… people sure were imaginative back then.

Most of this superstition is attached fears about the gypsies in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. The gypsies aren't actually practicing all that witchcraft; everyone just thinks they are. The gypsies (along with Quasimodo) are what you'd call "the Other" in the story, meaning that they are viewed as exotic outsiders whose customs are seen as weird and different by your average Jacques in French society.

But hey, here's a thought: it's the two Other characters, Quasimodo and Esmeralda, who are the only really good characters in the novel. What does this tell us about the society Hugo depicts?

Questions About The Supernatural

  1. What is the narrator's attitude towards the characters' general belief in witchcraft? How can you tell?
  2. Why do you think sorcery keeps coming up in Esmeralda's trial?
  3. Why is Frollo convinced that Esmeralda is a witch? Or do you think he doesn't believe that she's a witch and is just using that as an excuse?
  4. Why do the characters in the novel attribute all that supernatural stuff to the gypsies?

Chew on This

The supernatural is used to demonize a particular group of people in the novel.

The supernatural is a convenient way for the justice system to prove people guilty in the novel.

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