“Love is a universal language.” This popular quote from many movies and literary works describes the importance of love, and how there are no limits or barriers when dealing with love. Many people cannot even help whether or not they fall in love. There are many types of love and they need not be between members of opposite sexes. In Victor Hugo’s novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimodo’s love for Esmerelda is not as strong as his different sense of love for the Archdeacon, Claude Frollo. Quasimodo loves each person in a different manner, but is truer to the Archdeacon. The hunchback feels, among other things, a love described as Eros for the Mistress Esmerelda; whereas, for the Archdeacon the love he feels is known as Philia. While Quasimodo is drawn to Esmerelda by her inner beauty and personal qualities, he admires the Archdeacon for his powerful position in the social structure of the town. Throughout the story, Quasimodo does his best to protect Esmerelda. Contrarily, he is protected by the Archdeacon. There are four types of love, only one of which involves a man’s physical love for a woman and vice versa. This type of love is known as Eros.
All eyes were fixed on her, all mouths hung open. As
she danced to the rhythm of the tambourine which her
round, delicate arms held over her head, she seemed
to be some sort of supernatural creature. (22)
Quasimodo is taken by her loveliness just like most other men. However, because he is deformed and hideous, Quasimodo’s physical attraction to the Mistress is unrequited. Nevertheless, this attraction is uncontrollable. Although he never acts upon his urges nor openly displays his affection, the hunchback feels the type of love called Eros for Esmerelda.
Accordingly, he feels a different kind of love for the Archdeacon: Philia. Just as Eros as love stems from physical factors, Philia is a result of external factors. The Archdeacon is a man of God. He is considered the religious authority in Paris. Quasimodo resides in the Notre Dame Cathedral. He takes a great interest in God, and apparently shares this interest with the Archdeacon. Quasimodo was taken in by Claude Frollo when he was quite young. The two men grew quite close together:
When the poor bellringer became deaf the two men developed
understood by them alone. Thus the Archdeacon was the only
person with whom Quasimodo maintained communication. (65)
The hunchback feels a sense of love based on comradery and years of relations. He deeply admires Claude Frollo’s religious faith and charity: that is, the charity shown to Quasimodo when he was only a young, abandoned boy. The two men have a complex system of hand gestures and sign language which they use to communicate with each other. This illustrates their mutual correspondence and understanding. Through these experiences and this upbringing, Quasimodo develops a Philial love for the Archdeacon.
In the timeframe of this story, the late 1400’s and early 1500’s, the Catholic Church is a major factor and authority in virtually all of a town’s laws, transactions and business. This being the case, holding the position as Archdeacon, or head of the church, is a much coveted occupation. Quasimodo admires the Archdeacon’s powerful position. The hunchback himself enjoys authority as he possesses the power of rule over people. This is visible when he is elected Pope of Fools:
Quasimodo let himself be decked out in them with a kind
of proud docility. He was then made to sit down on a brightly
colored litter. Twelve officers of the Brotherhood of Fools
lifted it to their shoulders. A bitter and haughty joy spread over
the gloomy face of the Cyclops [Quasimodo] as he saw under his deformed feet the heads of all those handsome, straight and well-
made men. (17)
It is evident that he is happy to be exalted among normal men, even if only for one night and he is chosen because he wins an ugliness contest. Since Claude Frollo holds such a praiseworthy position, the hunchback respects him. He is also honored that such a figure as the Archdeacon even associates with he, a measly and horrid bell ringer.
As opposed to the Archdeacon, Esmerelda holds no real power or authority. Rather she has the ability to see beyond the exterior appearance of something, and learn about its true value. She accomplishes this with Quasimodo. At first, she is repelled by his terrible ugliness. The gypsy “often reproached herself for not being grateful enough to blind herself to his appearance but, try as she might, she could not accustom herself to him. He was too ugly (206).” Eventually, however, she overcomes her aversion to his appearance. She realizes that he is a caring and compassionate human being. He has feelings, he loves, and he can be loved. Quasimodo discovers Esmerelda’s ability to view someone from a different perspective. He also becomes aware than she is a decent and caring person on the inside, despite her reactions to his grotesque appearance. He then feels a sense of kinship and a deeper sort of love towards the Mistress that transcends Eros love.
Esmerelda is guilty of committing a grave transgression. She is sentenced to be hanged. Just before the platform is dropped from beneath her feet and her life ended, Quasimodo appears and strikes the two guards. Esmerelda is free. He brings her to the Cathedral as a sanctuary to take refuge in one of the towers. During the length of her stay in the tower, she is completely isolated from the outside world. Quasimodo is the only person always present in the church. He takes it upon himself to be responsible for keeping Esmerelda happy and comfortable. He brings her food, drink, any news and he does his best to answer any questions she may ask. One night, a violent mob, the vagabonds, wishes to enter the Cathedral and abduct Esmerelda. Quasimodo manages to fend off the entire mob until help arrives in the form of Phoebus, one of the King’s archers, and his squadron of soldiers.
Those who were not shrieking, those who were still alive, saw
into the thickest part of the crowd, making two black, smoking
holes in it, Dying men, half burned to ashes, were writhing and
groaning in agony. (241)
The hunchback throws stones, tools, anything he can find down on the attackers. He then sets fire to lead sheets. They become molten and the intensely hot liquid rains down, burning and melting the mob. Such desperate actions are surely a sign of love and a willingness to protect Esmerelda.
In contrast, Quasimodo does not, in any way, protect Claude Frollo. In fact, the opposite is true. The Archdeacon acts as a father figure to the hunchback. In turn, Quasimodo shows the utmost respect for Frollo. He takes punishment and scorn from Frollo, even when it is not deserved, and accepts it quietly. He does this while he is quite capable of defying the Archdeacon physically as he does with any other person that angers him:
Quasimodo came up to the priest, looked at him and fell to his knees Quasimodo remained on his knees, lowered his head and clasped
and gestures, the priest standing, angry, threatening and imperious; Quasimodo kneeling, humble and supplicating. Yet there was no doubt that Quasimodo could have crushed the priest with his thumb. (27)
This obedience signifies that the bell ringer is deeply thankful for the priest’s company and leadership. Quasimodo continues to show gratitude by obeying every command given to him by the Archdeacon. When the Archdeacon decides that Esmerelda should hang, even though Quasimodo loves her he could not defy the priest’s command: he sat quietly by and awaited the hanging. It is clear that this love stems from the protection of the Archdeacon through Quasimodo’s early years of life. This also exposes the fact that Quasimodo’s respect and obedience to the Archdeacon outweighs his feelings for Esmerelda.
Throughout the story by Victor Hugo, Quasimodo shows love to both Esmerelda, a beautiful gypsy, and to Claude Frollo, the Archdeacon that took the hunchback into his custody. Two types of love displayed are Eros, to the Mistress, and Philia, toward Frollo. Quasimodo’s protection of Esmerelda is seen inversely through his relationship with the Archdeacon. The Archdeacon and Esmerelda have diverse qualities that evoke separate types of love from Quasimodo. In the end, the bell ringer’s relationship with Frollo supercedes his emotions towards the Mistress. The Philial and brotherly love triumphs over unrequited erotic love.