Published in 1831 in French as "Notre-Dame de Paris", "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is a novel written by Victor Hugo that follows both the Gothic and Romantic literary traditions. Overall, this means the novel uses fiction to display aspects of horror, death, and romance. In addition to those traits, Hugo also includes other major themes, like the negatives of the legal system of the day and capital punishment. This viewpoint can clearly be seen in some of the heartbreaking events in the novel that come from wrongful convictions. Overall, the tragic end falls in line with the Gothic tradition.
The novel is set in 15th-century Paris and powerfully evokes medieval life in the city during the reign of Louis XI. Quasimodo is the hunchbacked horribly deformed bell ringer at the cathedral of Notre-Dame. Once beaten and pilloried by an angry mob, he has fallen in love with the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda, who took pity on him during this ordeal. When the scheming archdeacon Frollo, who is also obsessed with Esmeralda, discovers that she favours Captain Phoebus, he stabs the captain, and Esmeralda is accused of the crime. Quasimodo attempts to shelter Esmeralda in the cathedral, but she eventually hangs; in his grief and despair, Quasimodo throws Frollo from the cathedral tower. Later, two skeletons are found in Esmeralda’s tomb—that of a hunchback embracing that of a woman.