Notre Dame is the geographical and moral center of Hugo's fictional Paris. The French title of the novel is
Architecturally, Notre Dame is an "amalgamation" that mirrors Quasimodo's own deformities. Indeed, at the time Hugo was writing, Notre Dame was falling apart and there was very little respect for its architecture. Nothing had been done to repair the damage done to it during the French Revolution. However, the Romantic literary movement seized upon the cathedral as a symbol of France's glorious Christian past. For example, in Eugène Delacroix's famous depiction of the 1830 Revolution,
Claude Frollo is not an average antagonist bent on causing pain and suffering. In fact, he is very bright and compassionate. He dearly loves his brother, Jehan, and does everything in his power to make Jehan happy after their parents die. He extends the same compassion to Quasimodo, whom he tries to mold into a scholar like his brother by teaching him how to read and write. Hugo explains Frollo's descent into black magic through his failure to bring up both Jehan and Quasimodo. Jehan drinks and gambles all his money away, completely neglecting his studies, while Quasimodo's deafness makes it virtually impossible to teach him anything. The hunchback's complete devotion to Frollo becomes both a symbol of Frollo's failure as a "father," and a powerful tool of vengeance to wreak his frustrations on the world. Moreover, his supposed hatred of women is a desperate attempt to mask his infatuation with La Esmerelda. Indeed, despite Frollo's heinous deeds, the emotions driving him to such extremes are quite tragic. From Jehan's poor behavior to La Esmerelda's disgust and fear of the "goblin-monk," Frollo suffers a broken heart and the pangs of unrequited love, just as La Esmerelda does for Phoebus and Quasimodo does for La Esmerelda. Like these two, Frollo is also an orphan, which urges the reader to both compare him to the novel's two victims as well as feel sympathy for him.
Claude Frollo has rejected God and believes only in fatality. This recurrent theme dominates
In effect, when Frollo later accosts La Esmerelda in the dungeon of the Palace of Justice, he insists that it was never his intention to fall in love with her nor harm her in any way, but he "felt the hand of Fate" upon him. He then insists that "Fate proved more mighty than I it was Fate that caught thee, and threw thee among the terrible works of the machine which I had secretly constructed." Hugo acknowledges that fate plays a powerful role in the novel, but implies that free will is possible. Hugo suggests that Frollo's deterministic attitude and resignation of free will is what allows him to become such a horrible person. Hugo suggests that we must all exercise our free will to retain our sense of morality and the responsibility for our actions.