The night Esmeralda married Gringoire, Quasimodo had been the bell-ringer at Notre Dame for several years. This was thanks to his foster father, Claude Frollo. Quasimodo loved his job. He felt as one with the great church of Notre Dame. He’d grown up inside it. He was familiar with every inch of its walls, floors, and ceilings. The church had been his nest, his home, his country—his universe! But an evil fate seemed to stalk the poor orphan. The sound made by the huge bells had broken Quasimodo’s eardrums. He became deaf at 14. Before this, his hearing was the only thing that was normal about him. Now his soul was plunged into profound darkness. His sadness had become as complete as his ugliness! From the moment he lost his hearing, he decided to keep silent. In a way, this protected him from other people’s mocking laughter. His favorite activity was ringing the bells. When he pulled the ropes, the whole tower trembled. It was the only sound that broke through the silence.

Dose it mean: this sound just broke his silence.because he decided not to talk.

3 Answers 3


It states higher up in the text that

He became deaf at 14

and then

His favorite activity was ringing the bells. [...] It was the only sound that broke through the silence.

Here the author is implying that the sound of the church bells was so loud that he could here them, even though he is otherwise deaf.

So one could say it broke the barrier of silence that surrounded him after loosing his ability to hear.


On one hand, "the whole tower trembled", when he pulled the ropes. That is sound was so aloud, that vibration may come to deaf persons through their bones (this phisiologically - real). And this broke through into his personal silent world.

On the other hand, "he decided to keep silent", and sound of bells broke his personal rule about silent. Symbolically.

This is literature. And may be many meanings at the same time.

May be wrong.


"To break" as in "to break the silence" means "to interrupt". The silence (that surrounded Quasimodo since he never talked) was interrupted by the sound of the bells.

EDIT: actually the phrase is "to break through" here - this effectively has the same meaning when talking about silence. "To break through" means something like "to force one's way into". In this case, the silence is (forcibly) ended by the sound of the bells.

EDIT2: There is also the issue that Quasimodo is deaf, as @rasan076 points out. Not sure if the passage is talking about the silence in Quasimodo's head, but that could be another interpretation - the sound was so loud that even he could hear it. Or less literally, the sound was so loud that it interrupted the silence in his mind (it sounds like he felt empty inside and the bells might have been the only thing that got through to him).

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