‘The Da Vinci Code’ is the fourth novel written by Dan Brown and the second novel in the Robert Langdon series. Its three predecessors were not very successful, but it was ‘The Da Vinci Code’ that brought Brown to the literary spotlight and even cast light on its predecessors who also went on to join the bestseller list. The book debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and as of 2005, the novel had been listed in the New York Times bestseller list for ninety-six weeks.
‘The Da Vinci Code’ generated a lot of reactions. On the one hand, we had reviews like that of Janet Maslin, who in her review of the book for the New York Times said:
In this gleefully erudite suspense novel, Mr. Brown takes the format he has been developing through three earlier novels and fine-tunes it to blockbuster proportion
On the other hand, Peter Millar, in his review for the London Times, said that the novel is:
without doubt, the silliest, most inaccurate, ill-informed, stereotype-driven, cloth-eared, cardboard-cutout-populated piece of pulp fiction that I have read
Whatever the case, its status as one of the greatest novels ever written has remained unchallenged for years. It is a deeply meaningful work with a thrilling story conveyed through a simple and realistic style.
Thought Provoking Story
The plot of this story imprisons your attention from the very prologue and hangs you over a cliff at the end of every chapter. It also makes you reconsider everything you’ve been taught about the historical facts it twists and makes you wonder if its theories have some logical truth.
‘The Da Vinci Code,’ like most thrillers, begins with a murder but does not leave you guessing who the murderer is and almost immediately reveals the murderer and the motive behind it. What then grips the reader are the turns, curves, near-capture escapes, and revelations within the story. Dan Brown’s multi-layered fiction starts by deconstructing the traditional interpretation of Leonardo’s artistic works, develops by self-reconstructing the symbolic system of the artistic and religious world, and finishes with an indefinite thought-provoking ending.
Here, Harvard professor Robert Langdon is urgently called to help in the investigation of a murder which has some symbological evidence, and from there, we get thrown into an incredible story that expands into a manipulated battle between the Opus Dei and the Priory of Sion, tells about Jesus’ descendants and disputes religious facts/ historical moments we thought we knew as fact.
The story is indeed thought-provoking, such that Christians said that even though they knew that the theories he put forth could not be true, they still found themselves researching the claims made. He certainly set the stage for controversy with the “Fact” page at the beginning of the novel, which implies that the ideas discussed in the novel are true. The story was both entertaining and educative because it spurred the reader to research the theories and views it tells which in turn enables readers to learn new historical facts.
Interesting and Rounded Characters
In ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ we get a host of characters and for some reason, the major characters come in paired teams. We have Langdon and Sophie, Fache and Collet, Bishop Aringarosa and Silas, and Teabing and Remy. The characters are well presented, and the author shines enough light on each to justify their actions throughout the book.
Robert Langdon, Harvard symbologist and author of several books on religious symbols and iconography, plays the role of historical guide and protagonist. Langdon exhibits an appropriate emotional response to his situation—grief over Sauniére’s death, fear for his own safety and reputation, and a blind desire to trust the police despite Sophie’s warnings—making him a believable human character. Despite knowing the “truth” about the history of the church and the suppression of the divine feminine, he still thinks it best for the secret to remaining hidden to avoid the drastic repercussions it might have on the Christian world. This makes him a more logical and empathic character than Sir Leigh Teabing, who sought to release the truth no matter the cost.
Of all the characters, Bishop Aringarosa had the most character development. Despite starting out as a villain driven by ambition to make the Opus Dei relevant once more, he was able to know when he had crossed the line and was compassionate enough to try to make amends and stop Silas from committing more murder instead of letting him take the fall.
The most interesting character is The Teacher/ Leigh Teabing. In order to truly appreciate Teabing’s role as The Teacher, you almost have to read the book twice. His evil genius becomes all the more impressive once you realize that he set the entire story in motion.
His skills at manipulation are beautiful: to Silas and Bishop Aringarosa, he’s a devout believer motivated by his devotion to the Church. To Rémy he’s a co-conspirator, a trusted ally in their espionage. To Langdon and Sophie, he’s their knight in shining armor, willing to overlook their fugitive status for the greater good.
Brown embodied each character with a quality that defines their actions. For Langdon, it is curiosity, for Sophie, it is justice, for Bishop Aringarosa, it is ambition, for Silas, it is fanaticism and blind loyalty, for Sir Teabing, it is anger and obsession, For Fache, it is pride, for Collet, it is loyalty and for Sauniere it is sacrifice.
‘The Da Vinci Code’ follows the traditional principles of thriller fiction by starting with a ruthless murder and developing suspense through the detective process. The narrative mode of the detective fiction provides it with breathtaking suspense emerging in the process of decoding the mysterious, symbolic codes in the paintings of Leonardo and in the anagrams of Sauniere. At several points in the book, the readers find themselves sitting on the edge of their seats, wondering what the next twist would be and waiting for the next piece of the puzzle to be revealed.
Aside from the story, Brown has the special gift of being able to transport the reader into the world he creates. ‘The Da Vinci Code’ is able to seem so relatable to readers because Brown is able to convey with great accuracy the human condition and situation. When he describes the locations of the characters, it feels like we, the readers, are present with them and people who have actually visited those locations can picture the characters playing out their roles in real-time.
While not every reader may love ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ it does contain an inescapable universal appeal in its plot and the “factual” theories it puts forth. It makes the reader reconsider a lot of things, including the world we live in, what hidden meanings symbols may have if messages were left by past civilizations for their successors etc. It is unequivocally an entertaining and thought-provoking work of literature.
The Da Vinci Code Review
Lasting Effect On Reader
The Da Vinci Code Review
‘The Da Vinci Code’ is an unforgettable thriller that shook the very foundation of the Christian Church. It is a feat of literary excellence that raised the standard for literature to involve incorporating the most realistic descriptions of the characters, locations, and historical references. Characters are well-rounded in this novel, and the unpredictable twists in the plot make for an unforgettable read. With ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ Brown was able to plant ideas that made readers question certain facts and promote discussions about the history of Christianity.
- Fast-paced and thrilling
- Unpredictable twists that build plot
- Gives us a familiar protagonist
- Beautiful description of locations and real references
- Several instances of deus ex machina
- Has an ambiguous ending
- Misleading “Fact” page