Having already left the cathedral, Claude Frollo knew nothing of what had happened. Wanting to be alone, he had taken a boat across the Seine. There he walked in the hills, lost in his dark thoughts. “By now, she is dead,” he whispered to himself. “I have killed her!” Frollo felt no sorrow for what he had done. If he had to, he would do it again. He would rather see her in the hands of the hangman than in the arms of the captain. But then he thought of her at the last hour—the cruel rope about her neck! Suddenly, the first waves of guilt swept over him.

Sorry mybe my question is easy but as none native speaker I doubt whether its meaning is:

1:He thought of The time they wanted to hang the girl?

2: He thought of her for the last time?

I think 1 is correct.

2 Answers 2


The cited usage isn't particularly common, but it's really just an alternative version of the exceptionally common usage as covered by Cambridge Dictionary ...

[at] the last minute - the latest possible opportunity for doing something
He always leaves his homework until the last minute.
At the last minute, we found our tickets.

Personally, I don't think the cited usage represents a good choice by the translator (the context seems to be a translation of Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre-Dame). I'd have preferred something like in her last few minutes (the last few minutes before she was hanged), if we suppose that singular the last minute was too short a time when interpreted literally. But note that it's not usually a literal reference to 60 seconds.

In case it's not obvious from the above, the "answer" here is neither of OP's suggestions. What Claude Frollo was thinking about was the girl who was hanged [Esmeralda?] - specifically, about her (her circumstances / feelings / etc.) when she knew she was just about to be hanged / near the point of death.

  • It is more than (or less than!) a translation; it's something 'adapted' for a series called Saddleback Classics, a product of Saddleback Educational Publishing (Irvine, California). It appears to be an enormously condensed or abridged version. A retelling in fact. I would therefore blame "at the last hour" on a certain Emily Dickinson. Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 17:09
  • @MichaelHarvey: Oh. I was kinda hoping we might have a dedicated French student of literature here on ELL who could post the exact original text. I know a bit of French, but not enough to know whether there's a French equivalent for what Arlo Guthrie referred to as in my last remaining seconds on this earth in his surreal recital of The Motorsickle song (when he's flying off a mountainside road at 100mph, contemplating his impending demise, and deciding to pen the one last song describing events that he somehow survived to entertain us with for many years to come! :) Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 17:21
  • I have the same idea. I've been trawling through the full Gutenberg translation by Isabel F. Hapgood, here and comparing it to the PDF of the adaptation here. Just looking at the first page of each you can see that the latter is so condensed that I think it may be rather difficult to pinpoint any exact place in the Hugo original text here Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 17:28
  • However, the Linguee Dictionnaire français-anglais says that "ma dernière heure" can be understood as "my last minute". Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 17:33
  • @MichaelHarvey: Ah right, ma dernière heure does ring a bell now. Incidentally, my first thought was that I'd always expect the English version (with possessive, rather than the definite article since it's usually in a context involving one specific person about to die) to be in my final hour[s]. But NGrams claims otherwise. Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 17:48

He is thinking of her feelings when her death was imminent.

In the Saddleback Classics adaptation:

But then he thought of her at the last hour—the cruel rope about her neck!

In an English translation of the full work:

it occurred to him that it was perhaps the very minute when the hideous chain which he had seen that morning, was pressing its iron noose closer about that frail and graceful neck.

The original French:

il lui vint à l'esprit que c'était là peut-être la minute où la hideuse chaîne qu'il avait vue le matin resserrait son noeud de fer autour de ce cou si frêle et si gracieux.**

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .