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MonkeyNotes-The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo
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Chapters 42 and 43

Summary

Towns in the Middle Ages viewed churches as sanctuaries, islands in which even criminals could take refuge from justice and the law. As long as the criminal stayed inside the church, he was safe from all threats. La Esmeralda’s sanctuary within Notre-Dame was a small cell at the top of the tower. As Quasimodo deposited her here, she wondered why she had been spared. Since Phoebus does not love her, she does not care if she lives.

Quasimodo brings La Esmeralda a bundle of clothes left by charitable churchwomen. When she sees the clothes, La Esmeralda realizes with a blush that she is nearly naked. Quasimodo, covering his face with his large hands, retires from the room so that she can dress herself. Later he brings her dinner and motions to the pallet on which she can sleep. When La Esmeralda looks into his face, she cannot hide her horror. Quasimodo tells her not to look at him. He also tells her not to leave the cathedral. After he is gone, she begins to cry. In the evening, she takes a walk in the high gallery to refresh herself.

La Esmeralda wakes up the next morning, after sleeping all night. She spies Quasimodo, but when he sees she is awake, he covers his face and tries to hide from her. The kind La Esmeralda runs behind him and takes hold of his hand, showing him that he need not hide from her. At her touch, his whole face shines with joy and tenderness. He then reveals to La Esmeralda that he is practically deaf and mute, but he communicates to her the depth of his feelings of wretchedness. La Esmeralda responds to him with all her heart though she is still uncomfortable when she looks at him. Before departing, Quasimodo gives her a small metal whistle and tells her that whenever she has enough courage to see him, she can use the whistle to call to him and he will come.


Notes

This chapter begins with a historical exposition about sanctuaries, which explains to the reader the full significance of Quasimodo’s actions. He has literally become La Esmeralda’s savior, carrying her off to a cell in the tower of Notre-Dame. Quasimodo also becomes her provider. He brings her food and gives her clothing, gathered by the charitable churchwomen.

In spite of his kindness, La Esmeralda has difficulty looking at Quasimodo, for his disfigured face and body horrify her. In spite of her revulsion, she reaches out to him in gentleness, taking his hand. Her touch delights Quasimodo and lights up his face; but he is sad that he cannot earn La Esmeralda’s love the way he wants. He knows that "the owl never enters the nest of the lark," although he has provided her "nest." Still, their daily encounters are touching, especially since they are total opposites in appearance. In truth, La Esmeralda’s simple beauty makes Quasimodo’s appearance seem more horrid. But he proves that his inner self is beautiful.

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