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MonkeyNotes-The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo
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Chapters 38 and 39

Summary

As La Esmeralda awaits her execution in prison, her life is unbearable. She sits by herself in darkness and misery. Each day she is given only a crust of bread to eat and some water to drink. One day a man enters her dark prison cell with a lantern. He tells La Esmeralda that he is a priest. He speaks to her with such kindness that she cries; but when he takes her hands, she shudders at how cold he is.

During the visit, La Esmeralda realizes that her visitor is the man who stabbed Phoebus. In fear she shrinks from him. Frollo then tells her how her singing and dancing have distracted him. He also states that her beauty must come from Hell, for it torments men, especially him. He then confesses that he is madly in love with her and tells her his love is true and genuine, unlike the love of Phoebus. He tries to convince her of his worthiness. Next he tells her Phoebus is dead. Totally distraught, La Esmeralda says there is nothing left for her but death and falls with her face to the ground.

In Rolande’s Tower, Pacquette (Sister Gudule) caresses the shoe of her little lost daughter and talks to it as if it were a living thing. She then weeps until she overhears a group of boys discussing the execution of La Esmeralda. She rushes to the window where she can see the gallows.


Notes

Left all alone in the darkness of the prison dungeon with little to eat or drink, La Esmeralda longs for death. Then one day, Claude Frollo, the priest, comes to visit her.

As he tries to comfort her, La Esmeralda realizes that this is the man who stabbed Phoebus. When she shrinks from him in fear, he tells her how he is tormented by her beauty and loves her madly. He also tells her that Phoebus is dead. La Esmeralda reacts to this tragic news by falling and burying her face in the ground. She can hardly wait to die to escape the pain of her life.

In Rolande’s Tower, the insane Pacquette (Sister Gudule) is weeping for her lost daughter, who was stolen away from her as an infant. However, she stops crying when she hears that La Esmeralda is to be executed. She rushes to the window to make certain that she can see the gallows and eagerly looks forward to seeing her die, for she has hated all gypsies since some of them took her daughter. The tragic irony is that she does not realize that La Esmeralda is her long lost daughter. It is also ironic that both mother and daughter are victims of fate and are locked away in different kinds of prisons that stand next to each other.

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