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Title: In Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, cryptologist Sophie Neveu and Robert Langdon, a professor of symbology, embark on a mission to uncover Neveu’s past and many hidden truths. The title of the book has a literal significance; Leonardo Da Vinci’s artwork reveals clues throughout the novel. The title of the book refers to Da Vinci’s works: The Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and Madonna of the Rocks. The symbols presented in Da Vinci’s artwork are significant but veiled. Therefore, the art represents a coding, which the protagonists must decipher to find the meaning of the Holy Grail, and what it possesses.
Characters: The main characters of the story are Robert Langdon, Sophie Neveu, and Leigh Teabing. Robert Langdon is one of the major protagonist roles; he is of American heritage and is around his forties. Langdon is a symbology professor at the University of Harvard, his main strength is academic; he is gifted with symbolism and religious history. Regardless of Langdon’s clumsiness, he is a very trustworthy companion, “My husband obviously trusted you, Mr. Langdon, so I do as well.” (pg 442) Sophia Neveu acts as another protagonist; she is a cryptologist for the French Judicial Police. Throughout the story and she works with Langdon to uncover the secrets of her grandfather’s past. She is young, attractive, quick-witted, lively, and compassionate, “Slowly, she opened her eyes and turned to him. Her face was beautiful in the moonlight.” (pg 448) Langdon and Neveu serve the author’s purpose of representing the balance between male and female forces, thus they both complement each other as the role of the protagonist. The main antagonist of the story is Leigh Teabing. Teabing is an English knight and a devotee to the study of the Holy Grail. Primarily seeming loyal, he acts like an ally to Langdon and Neveu on their quest for the Holy Grail. The book goes through a turning point at the very end by revealing that he is the mastermind in the murder of Jacques Sauniere and the events that follow; “Langdon could not fathom that Leigh Teabing would be capable of killing them in cold blood…yet Teabing certainly had been involved in killing others” (pg 409). Even though Langdon and Teabing were associates for a very long time, he proved to be a disloyal and selfish.
Setting: Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code begins in the Louvre Museum in France, where a member of the Opus Dei murders Jacques Sauniere, master of the Priory of Sion. The story is set in the general areas of France and London, but the setting consistently changes because the novel is set in third person omniscient. The overall atmosphere of the story is mysterious and action packed; the third person omniscient point of view allows the reader to understand the feelings of all the characters involved. When Langdon and Neveu are in the Chateau Villette, Teabing’s private residence, Dan Brown contrasts the setting with events occurring in the Depositary Bank of Zurich. In the residence, Langdon, Neveu, and supposed ally, Teabing, discuss the secrets of the Holy Grail and the church; the mood is comfortable and private. On the contrary, the events in the bank are hectic; the police are trying to decipher where Langdon and Neveu are hiding. The constant change in atmosphere allows the reader to look at the situation from both perspectives but around the same time. The setting of a story allows the reader to make inferences on events that will happen and the character’s feelings. When a setting is ambiguous, the atmosphere becomes tenser around the character; as a result, the reader can often infer a change of events. The setting in this story makes events more thrilling and action packed.
Structure and Plot: The novel is written in third person omniscient; therefore, the reader knows the thoughts and actions of all of the characters in the story. Because the story portrays the thoughts of different characters, the reader is not limited to one plot, but a branch of events that relate to one topic. Brown also applies foreshadow in the narrative. When Teabing says, “I apologize if I am pressing, Miss Neveu. Clearly I have always believed these documents should be made public, but in the end the decision belongs to you.” (pg 295) This excerpt from Teabing later reveals his desperation to reveal the secret in the end of the novel, which results in betrayal. The novel begins at 10:46 P. M. in the Louvre Museum, where a monk of the Opus Dei murders Jacques Sauniere, the leader of the Priory of Sion and Neveu’s grandfather. Immediately, authorities contact Langdon, but agent Neveu warns him of the danger of arrest; they escape and gradually decipher the mysteries of the Priory of Sion. In the middle of the story, they manage to find the “keystone” which will also reveal the location of the Holy Grail. In London, Teabing, who is originally allied with Langdon, admits to his scheme with the Grail and the murder of Sauniere. Finally, when the case is resolved, Neveu and Langdon discover that she is a descendant of the Grail, and they discover the secrets of the Priory of Sion. The sequence of events gradually twists in the end allowing the plot to be more thrilling.
Theme: Faith and Religion- Every religion in the world depends on metaphors and things that cannot be explained, but faith is the acceptance of things that cannot be proven. Langdon expresses this belief when he says, “Every religion describes God through metaphor, allegory, and exaggeration… Metaphors are a way to help our minds process the unprocessible. “(pg 341) Langdon is not necessarily opposed to any religion, he believes that every church has the right to believe what they need to believe to become better people; “those who truly understand their faiths understand the stories are metaphorical” (pg 342). The metaphor that any faith implies allows people to understand the bible and apply it to their own lives.
Tone: Brown’s attitude toward the novel is suspenseful. Dan Brown made the narrator anonymous and third person omniscient, therefore the story consistently changes to different sun-plots; consequently, the chapters are very short and sacrifice detail. The novel begins with the murder of Jacques Sauniere, “Wincing in pain, he summoned all of his faculties and strength. The desperate task before him, he knew, would require every remaining second of his life.” (pg 5) Because the novel begins with tragedy, the events that follow the murder are suspenseful. Brown also applies many symbols in the novel, including the pentagram, the Holy Grail, and the chalice. These objects have religious meanings and are often controversial. The tension between the different points of views in the religious debate prompt a suspenseful atmosphere around the characters.
Literary Devices: “Should we wave a flag and tell the Buddhists that we have proof that the Buddha did not come from a lotus blossom? Or that Jesus was not born of a literal virgin birth? Those who truly understand their faiths understand the stories are metaphorical.” (pg 342) Symbolism is the use of an object, person, place or action that has both a meaning in itself and that stands for something larger than its definition, such as an idea, belief or value. In The Da Vinci Code, Robert Langdon explores the conflicts of religion with the real world. Langdon explains the allegorical element in every religion, and the effect it has on its followers. The lotus blossom and the virginal birth signify the birth of prophets that represent purity and salvation. The two symbols “are a way to help our minds process the unprocessible.” (pg 342) The symbols behind religious ideologies attract people to accept one ideal or another. Faith allows people to blindly follow certain beliefs and aspire to become better people.
Memorable Quotation: “Langdon smiled. ‘Sophie, every faith in the world is based on fabrication. That is the definition of faith— acceptance of that which we imagine to be true, that which we cannot prove. Every religion describes God through metaphor, allegory, and exaggeration, from the early Egyptians through modern Sunday school. Metaphors are a way to help our minds process the unprocessible. The problems arise when we begin to believe literally in our own metaphors.’” (Robert Langdon, pages 341-342) The metaphors that create a faith are so influential; many seek a faith to become a better person. The standards set by a particular religion have different meanings, and they can be perceived in one way or another. I believe Langdon is correct; faith relies on the writings of holy books, but there is no witness to prove the truthfulness of events. Faith plays a key role in people’s lives; the belief of the scriptures inspires people to become better.
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