Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame: what makes a monster and what makes a man?

'Kay so last week I ragged on how bad Disney got it wrong.  Well okay the Disney version didn't get everything wrong.  They actually highlighted one of the many themes in the story very well. the opening song of the Disney version asks the question what makes a monster and what makes a man, and that is what I want to talk about today.

In the hunchback of Notre-dame we have three central male characters; Claude Frollo, Phebus, and Quasimodo. Each of them has in them qualities of humanness and monster-ness. the question is who is the monster and who is the man? We will look at this according to what they look like and how they treat Esmeralda, the gypsy girl.

Claude Frollo is a man of some importance.  He is a high ranking official of Notre-Dame and has always shown great promise.  He has (at least as far as he is concerned) separated him from sin and worldliness.  Yet he peruses the ability to have power over the world, and not natural power.  Religion for him is a public office; a means to get more power int he end.  And when it comes to the gypsy girl Esmeralda she becomes a different object of his desire.  A desire so powerful that he will let no one else have her, and will let her die for crimes she didn't commit if she will not be his. He is a monster in the shape of a man.

Phebus is hansom, Phebus is strong, Phebus is everything any women could ever want in a man.  Rich, brave,  he walks and every girl on the corner swoons.  That boy has Charisma.  And he knows it.  He knows he can talk any girl into anything he wants.  What he wants is a night with the gypsy girl, Esmeralda.  Just one night, she is a common gypsy after all, he has a reputation to protect, and that means he can't just be with any girl.  In the end she is no more then a toy for him to play with today and throw away tomorrow.  He is a monster in the shape of a man.

Then there is Quasimodo.  he is ugly, deformed, deaf, mute, and only has one eye that can be used.  people are cruel to him and he is cruel back.  He is seen following his master through the cathedral and people think 'he is a daemon that will one day take Frollo's soul to hell.' but then on the pillory in the midst of people mocking him and beating him, a young gypsy girl offers him kindness.  That kindness changed him and he never forgot it.  in repayment for this kindness he rescues her from the crowd.  He stands guard over her the door to her little room in the cathedral.  the narrator tells us that Quasimodo loves Esmeralda.  Yet he tells her that he know he is ugly.  He says to her, "The owl never goes into the nest of the lark." She is his sunshine, but he knows she will not really be his.  He is a man in the shape of a monster.

1 comment:

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