One of the most heartbreaking scenes in literature comes from The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Quasimodo, resigned to his life as an outcast, falls in love with the beautiful Esmeralda. Up until then, he accepted his misfortune: tucked away in the enormous cathedral of Notre Dame, away from the humans that mocked him. Alone, yet provided for by the benevolent Archdeacon, Claude Frollo.
But that all changes when he falls in love. His poignant words, spoken to Esmeralda:
“I never realized my ugliness till now. When I compared myself with you, I pity myself indeed, poor unhappy monster that I am! I must seem to you like some awful beast, eh? You,-you are a sunbeam, a drop of dew, a bird’s song! As for me, I am something frightful, neither man nor beast,- a nondescript object, more hard, shapeless, and more trodden under foot than a pebble!”
Tragic, yet beautiful.
Of all pains on earth…nothing more severe than unrequited love. Nothing more searing than the idea that you’ll be forever alone. That the mountain of affection you possess will go wasted. That you’ll never kiss the lips that tug at your soul.
The scene also exemplifies why Victor Hugo was great – he wrote about the naked truth. He told the pressing story that others were too frightened to tell. Political correctness be damned. Happy endings be damned. Men like Quasimodo exist…and their stories are tragic. Don’t try to gloss over it. Don’t try to put makeup on it – it’s real and it’s heartbreaking.
Not everybody finds love. Some people die alone, unable to share the ocean of affection they have to give. They cry a million tears that nobody hears. It’s called tragedy, and it’s an integral part of the human experience.