Esmeralda, cosmologist

In my blog posts I’ve compared similar passages across different novels, and I’ve got several passages from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” that I want to link to other novels: “Moby-Dick,” “Huckleberry Finn,” “Tom Sawyer,” “The Lord of the Rings,” “Matilda,” and one nonfiction book, Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot.”

Compare this declaration by King Louis XI, railing against those feudal lords who still defy the king’s authority –

“The day must surely come when in France there will be only one king, one lord, one judge, one headsman, just as in paradise there is only one God!”

– to this declaration in Melville’s “Moby-Dick”:

Ahab seized a loaded musket from the rack …, and pointing it towards Starbuck, exclaimed: “There is one God that is Lord over the earth, and one Captain that is lord over the Pequod.—On deck!”

Compare this passage, concerning the Seine River and the borough of medieval Paris known as “The University” –

The ground of the University was hilly; Mount Sainte-Geneviève formed an enormous mound to the south; and it was a sight to see from the summit of Notre-Dame how that throng of narrow and tortuous streets (to-day the Latin Quarter), those bunches of houses which, spread out in every direction from the top of this eminence, precipitated themselves in disorder, and almost perpendicularly down its flanks, nearly to the water’s edge, having the air, some of falling, others of clambering up again, and all of holding to one another.

– to this passage in Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn”, concerning the Mississippi:

On the river front some of the houses was sticking out over the bank, and they was bowed and bent, and about ready to tumble in. The people had moved out of them.  The bank was caved away under one corner of some others, and that corner was hanging over.  People lived in them yet, but it was dangersome, because sometimes a strip of land as wide as a house caves in at a time.  Sometimes a belt of land a quarter of a mile deep will start in and cave along and cave along till it all caves into the river in one summer. Such a town as that has to be always moving back, and back, and back, because the river’s always gnawing at it.

Compare this, in Esmeralda’s dungeon cell –

A single thing still mechanically occupied her ear; above her head, the dampness was filtering through the mouldy stones of the vault, and a drop of water dropped from them at regular intervals. She listened stupidly to the noise made by this drop of water as it fell into the pool beside her.

This drop of water falling from time to time into that pool, was the only movement which still went on around her, the only clock which marked the time, the only noise which reached her of all the noise made on the surface of the earth.

– to this in Twain’s “Tom Sawyer”:

The poor unfortunate had starved to death. In one place, near at hand, a stalagmite had been slowly growing up from the ground for ages, builded by the water-drip from a stalactite overhead. The captive had broken off the stalagmite, and upon the stump had placed a stone, wherein he had scooped a shallow hollow to catch the precious drop that fell once in every three minutes with the dreary regularity of a clock-tick—a dessertspoonful once in four and twenty hours. That drop was falling when the Pyramids were new; when Troy fell; when the foundations of Rome were laid; when Christ was crucified; when the Conqueror created the British empire; when Columbus sailed; when the massacre at Lexington was “news.”

It is falling now; it will still be falling when all these things shall have sunk down the afternoon of history, and the twilight of tradition, and been swallowed up in the thick night of oblivion. Has everything a purpose and a mission? Did this drop fall patiently during five thousand years to be ready for this flitting human insect’s need? and has it another important object to accomplish ten thousand years to come?

Compare this hallucination by Frollo –

Claude, in the state of hallucination in which he found himself, thought he was seeing with his living eyes the steeple of hell; the countless lights distributed along the whole height of the horrifying tower appeared to him like so many openings into the huge inner furnaces; the voices and murmurs coming from it, like so many cries, so many death-rattles.

– to Frodo Baggins’ vision, possibly hallucinated, in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Return of the King”:

No taste of food, no feel of water, no sound of wind, no memory of tree or grass or flower, no image of moon or star are left to me. I am naked in the dark, Sam, and there is no veil between me and the wheel of fire. I begin to see it even with my waking eyes, and all else fades.

Compare Claude Frollo here, when he visits Esmeralda in her dungeon –

“In doing wrong one must go the whole way.  It’s crazy to stop half-way in what is monstrous!  The extreme in wrong brings delirious joy.”

– to the titular character in Roald Dahl’s “Matilda”, explaining how the villainous Miss Trunchbull gets away with her abuses:

“Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it’s unbelievable.”

And for my “Pale Blue Dot” series:

Evening came, she thought the night so beautiful that she made the circuit of the elevated gallery which surrounds the church. It afforded her some relief, so calm did the earth appear when viewed from that height.

[Book IX, chapter 2]

So Esmeralda joins Cicero, Marcus Aurelius, and Sancho Panza in viewing the earth from a great height and finding it Good.

But all those men before her had traveled far above the earth in vision, dream or thought. Esmeralda is standing on one of the taller inhabited structures of that time period, so she joins Señor Sagan by viewing the distant earth with her waking eyes.

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