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All the necessary arrangements are made for the Election of the Pope of Fools. A window on the chapel wall, opposite the marble stage, is chosen as the place for the faces to appear. In no time at all the chapel is packed with competitors. Coppenole directs the enterprise with utmost attention. The Cardinal and his staff leave. The Flemish dignitaries, Gringoire and his actors, and the populace are left behind to enjoy the show.
The display of grimaces begins, with the competitors presenting themselves at the window one after another. The onlookers, irrespective of class, rank, education or profession, are caught up in the fun of the occasion. The insulted Gringoire, who refuses to become involved, orders his actors to continue their performance.
The Pope of Fools is finally selected, and the audience goes wild with applause. The winner, who has a hideous countenance, is the one-eyed, bandy-legged, hunchback of Notre-Dame, whose name is Quasimodo. Working as the bell ringer for the great cathedral, he is considered to be totally grotesque, and most people refuse to even look at him, especially the women. Because of his ugliness, he is despised by all and even called the devil. Now, according to custom, Quasimodo, as the newly elected Pope of Fools, is supposed be carried through the streets and celebrated in every corner of the city.
In this chapter, Victor Hugo makes it clear that the fifteenth century Parisian people assert themselves in spite of the feudal system under which they live. Nothing can conquer their strong will. Once Coppenole suggests a new way to elect the Pope of Fools, the audience forgets all about Gringoire’s play and turns its attention to the competition. Both men and women take part in the merriment and the election enthusiastically. Coppenole directs the whole affair, proving himself to be a capable leader.
Gringoire makes a fool of himself. Instead of joining in the merriment, he orders the actors to continue to perform his play, but there is only a single spectator, the keeper of the seal of the Chatelet. Ironically, even he thinks the play is dull.
It becomes clear in this chapter that Victor Hugo is breaking with tradition in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. His main character, who becomes the tragic hero, is not from the upper class of society; instead, Quasimodo is a common man, who has been downtrodden because of his grotesque form and appearance.