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Variety, Eternity: Victor Hugo's Relationship with Architecture

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Victor Hugo crafted a relationship with architecture that demonstrated his nuanced experience of the "harmony" of historical monuments, as exemplified in the novel Notre-Dame de Paris. In the first chapter,

Victor Hugo crafted a relationship with architecture that demonstrated his nuanced experience of the "harmony" of historical monuments, as exemplified in the novel Notre-Dame de Paris. In the first chapter, I will introduce the largest aspect of Notre-Dame de Paris' contradictory nature: its role as both historian and revolutionary. The Gothic's rise to prominence is traceable in Notre-Dame, and Hugo presented the edifice as proof of France's enduring cultural significance. Notre-Dame was just as influential in its revolutionary capacity: Hugo believed that the cathedral acted as an invigorating force to the medieval public and was a vital component of revolutions that took place in the sixteenth century. The second chapter deals with the juxtaposition between the cathedral's identity as a victim of human society and as a figure who engages in its own strategic defense. Hugo categorized several kinds of damage inflicted upon Notre-Dame, with the severity of each category depending upon its source: time, revolution, and shifting taste, which was by far the most egregious. Notre-Dame proves itself to be a formidable opponent in the novel, however, by confronting a violent mob with blows of its own; it also demonstrates the ability to psychically wound its enemies through the infernal hallucinations of Claude Frollo. The final contradiction explored in the third chapter is the nature of the cathedral's spirit. In the novel, Hugo personifies Notre-Dame, giving the structure individual relationships with human characters and the ability to nurture and influence Quasimodo in particular. The bell ringer is presented to the reader as a man reared by a cathedral, and Hugo's exploration of the particulars of their relationship composes a significant part of this chapter. Quasimodo experiences Notre-Dame as an ageless, self-perpetuating universe, and Hugo's juxtaposition of this relationship with that of Frollo emphasizes the author's reverent attitude towards the edifice and its ultimate transcendence of the culture that created it.

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  • 2015-05