‘The Da Vinci Code‘ is a book that holds hostage the attention of the reader due to the nature of the subject at the center of its plot. The themes and elements contained in the book give it more flavor and help to pass Brown’s message, which is to promote discussions about the introspection and exploration of the Christian faith, and having a subjective opinion about the things around us.
Themes in The Da Vinci Code
The Thin Line Between Faith and Ignorance
Belief in God and the events of the Bible are based on faith since no one can prove the existence of God. It is alright for the Church to encourage people to believe in a higher power, but when a document that could shed more light on the past and the life of Jesus is being suppressed by the church because it goes against the current belief system, then that has moved from preaching faith to promoting ignorant.
Brown strongly depicts this ignorance in the person of Bishop Manuel Aringarosa. Along with other Opus Dei followers, he believes that the church should retrace its steps and adhere to the strict dictations of the bible. He usually countered anyone who challenged his faith by saying that he has opted to follow the Catholic doctrine as rigorously as he can in his own daily life.
He is a man that believes in strict interpretation and application of religious ideals as well as extreme adherence to the church’s doctrines. This is why it made a lot of sense that he was trying to obtain the San Greal, not to release it but to use it to blackmail the church into solidifying the place of Opus Dei.
While this is fiction and a fictional character, many Christians share the same view and that was one of the reasons Brown chose to write on this subject. According to him, he wrote this book not to cause disbelief of or departure from the church but to motivate readers to move from ignorance and encourage discussions about the true history of the church. After all, a few changes in details in the history of Christianity should not take away the faith of a true Christian.
One cannot have any form of discourse about ‘The Da Vinci Code’ without acknowledging the outstanding use of objects and images to represent ideas and pass messages across. So many symbols were used in ‘The Da Vinci Code’ that it would be impossible to explore them all.
One of the very first symbols we see in this book is the Pentacle, a member of the oldest symbols on earth, used over 4000 years before the birth of Christ. It is a symbol that ancient pagans used in their worship to refer to the feminine half, and most specifically symbolizes Venus, the goddess of female sexual love and beauty.
The most prominent use of symbology is in the use of the Holy Grail. According to most popular knowledge, the Holy Grail has been suspected to be the cup Christ used at the last supper. According to another tradition, it is the cup with which Joseph of Arimathea used to hold the blood of Jesus, which dripped when he was on the cross. All in all, it is said to be a cup related to Jesus. But in ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ Brown gives us a Holy Grail that symbolizes something completely different.
The interpretation of the Holy Grail based on Teabing’s statement in the novel ‘The Da Vinci Code’ clarifies that The Priory of Sion always keeps the meaning of the Holy Grail to refer to a “Holy woman.” Physically a grail is a cup said to look like a chalice; the chalice symbolizes the form of “\/”, which looks like the womb of a woman. The woman of subject in the novel was Mary Magdalene, who was said to have been Jesus’ wife and the mother of his children. So, in essence, the Holy Grail in ‘The Da Vinci Code’ symbolizes the holy womb of Mary Magdalene, which carried Jesus’s bloodline.
The Subjectivity of Art
The interpretation of art is subjective, one sees what one wants to see and feels what one wants to feel from a work of art. ‘The Da Vinci Code’ is a novel that references many popular artworks, most done by Leonardo Da Vinci, such as ‘The Last Supper’,’ The Mona Lisa,’ ‘Madonna of the Rocks’ etc.
Dan Brown, through his main character Robert Langdon, made some very interesting interpretations of some works of Da Vinci, which are sure to expand the viewing horizon of readers and increase interest in art as a whole. According to an article by ‘Independent,’ since the publication of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ in 2003, applications for the history of art degree courses at British universities have risen by nearly a quarter.
An artwork with an interesting subjective view from the novel was the ‘Madonna of the Rocks’.The Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception commissioned Leonardo to paint the ‘Madonna of the Rocks’ as part of an altarpiece for its chapel in the church of San Francesco Grande, Milan. He was asked to create a painting that featured the Virgin Mary, the Angel Uriel, Saint John the Baptist as a child and the Baby Jesus as a child.
According to the book, this artwork contained some very disturbing details, such as Mary holding one hand like an eagle’s talon high above the head of infant John and making a threatening gesture. Or Uriel making a cutting gesture with his hand as if slicing the neck of the invisible head gripped by Mary’s claw-like hand.
These are all subjective interpretations Brown made for the purpose of his book and have been criticized by actual art historians as a poor way to go about art history, but it still proves that art speaks to all differently.
Sacrifice is a subtle theme that holds the plot of the book together. To sacrifice is to give something up for another greater good; it could be a life, freedom, choice etc.
The first scene of the novel’s prologue is marked by the sacrifice that sets the events of the book rolling, Sauniere’s death. A sacrifice to give his life in exchange for keeping safe the Priory’s secret and, in essence, the secret of his lineage.
Sophie’s grandmother and brother, whom she had long thought dead, sacrifice their freedom and time with their family to go into hiding in order to protect her grandfather’s identity and keep both grandchildren safe.
By being willing to do whatever it took just to get a hold of something that he thinks will make the Opus Dei relevant again, Bishop Aringarosa sacrifices his conscience and piety.
Even in real life, one makes sacrifices on a daily basis, so this theme is not only engrained in the book, but also in our real lives
The theme of fanaticism is one that is also prevalent in the book; it is the theme that sets the book’s plot in motion before sacrifice. Brown, through his book, showed the dangers of extreme and often unquestioned enthusiasm, devotion, or zeal for something.
In his book, we identify three fanatics, Opus Dei Albino monk Silas, leader of the Opus Dei Bishop Aringarosa, and British historian Sir Leigh Teabing. Silas and Bishop Aringarosa were so caught up in their devotion to their doctrine that they were willing to commit heinous crimes just to preserve their doctrine.
Similarly, Teabing believes so strongly in finding and revealing the San Greal documents that he is willing to murder for this cause without regard for what the repercussions would be on the Christian world, unlike Langdon, who thinks that the secrets of the Grail should be preserved in order to allow people to keep their faith.
Each of these men fanatically pursued opposing causes with the belief that the ends justify the means.
Analysis of Key events in The Da Vinci Code
- Silas kills Sauniere in the Louvre
- Robert Langdon is awakened in his Paris hotel room by a midnight phone call and summoned to help decipher the code at the scene of Saunière’s murder.
- Police cryptographer Sophie Neveu arrives on the scene agitated and acting strangely. She communicates to Langdon that he may be in danger by using a cell phone message
- Sophie meets with Langdon in the men’s restroom. She informs him that he is under surveillance and that he is the prime suspect in Saunière’s murder. She also shows Langdon that he was cited by name in Saunière’s cryptic message, a fact that had been kept from him by the other investigators.
- Silas digs further within the church’s sanctuary but realizes he has been thwarted by a false lead. The nun, recognizing by his self-inflicted wounds that Silas is likely a member of Opus Dei, begins to call four Paris phone numbers to report this turn of events.
- Sophie and Langdon escape from the Louvre in her car, discussing the implications of Saunière’s clues. Sophie reveals the key that she found to Langdon. She also recalls the secret ritual that she witnessed during a surprise visit to her grandfather’s home a decade ago, which prompted her estrangement from Saunière.
- Bishop Aringarosa arrives in Vatican City and is transported to a meeting, mentally preparing his defense for the continued existence of Opus Dei. He thinks back to a prior meeting held at the Church’s astronomy center, during which he was given six months to carry out an unnamed task.
- Langdon and Sophie use the golden key to open several gates and doors, finally entering the Swiss bank. They are immediately recognized as the two fugitives the guards have seen described on Paris television. The two are led to a private room and instructed on how to access their deposit box but are prompted for an account number that they cannot provide. Bank employees alert the police to Langdon and Sophie’s presence.
- Sophie and Langdon survey the object they took from the safety deposit box, which appears similar to a wooden jewelry box. They determine that it is actually a locked device called a cryptex, an object invented by Leonardo Da Vinci.
- Leigh Teabing begins to regale Langdon and Sophie with a history of the development and spread of Christianity. Teabing further explains that the Grail is not an object but rather, the physical body of Mary Magdalene.
- Teabing opens the box holding the cryptex. Meanwhile, Langdon examines the box, studying its construction carefully. He removes a carved rose and finds four lines of text in an unfamiliar language. Then, Silas suddenly appears, hitting Langdon, who falls unconscious.
- After the police arrive at the estate, Teabing, Langdon, Sophie, Remy, and a bound Silas escape on a plane to England.
- Silas is attacked in his room at the Opus Dei Center by police. In the confusion of the scuffle, Bishop Aringarosa is shot.
- After arriving at the tomb, Langdon and Sophie find out that Teabing is the Teacher.
- Langdon launches the cryptex into the air, and its landing initiates the self-destruct process built into the device. However, it is soon revealed that Langdon had already removed the innermost scroll, having figured out that the code word was “apple.” The police arrive, and Teabing is detained.
- The final clues in the search for the Grail lead Sophie and Langdon to Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. Sophie remembers visiting the church as a very young girl. There, the two find Sophie’s brother and grandmother, whom she had believed to be dead.
- Langdon has a revelation about the location of the Grail documents. Remembering that Paris was once the location of the prime meridian, or “Rose line,” he considers a new interpretation of the last clue from the cryptex. Although it is not fully confirmed, Langdon strongly suspects that the Grail is hidden beneath the two glass pyramids at the entrance of the Louvre.
Style, Tone, and Figurative Language of The Da Vinci Code
‘The Da Vinci Code’ is written with simple language, which makes it easy to follow the detailed description of events, places, people and objects. Dan Brown uses the points of view brilliantly in ‘The Da Vinci Code‘ to increase suspense and keep the reader guessing what will happen next. He increases suspense by using a third-person point of view which is for the most part, not omniscient. So, the reader sees and knows only what the characters in that particular scene are experiencing and thinking.
Brown makes use of fact in fiction in the way he references actual historical figures such as Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Constantine the Great, Leonardo da Vinci etc. and makes references to existing locations such as the Louvre and Rosslyn Chapel while weaving them into his intriguing fictional plot.
The tone of The Da Vinci Code is suspenseful and mysterious, the reader never knows what is going to happen next or who is going to die or get hurt. It is nearly impossible to guess the final outcome. For the most part of the book, Robert and Sophie are frantically running around searching for hidden puzzles, riddles and clues, leaving the reader unsuccessfully guessing which secret each new clue will unlock.
A large part of the story keeps you on the edge of your seat, wondering how our protagonists are going to find their way out of their challenges. An example of such tense moments is when Silas infiltrates the estate of Leigh Teabing, knocks out Langdon, and holds the rest of the group at gunpoint.
He makes use of figurative expressions such as similes, metaphors, personification, paradoxes etc.
Analysis of Key Symbols in The Da Vinci Code
In ‘The Da Vinci Code’, the rose is a symbol that meant various things and appeared in this book in various forms, engravings, decorations, and as a compass through the Roseline. According to Langdon, the rose is the Priory’s symbol for the Holy Grail, has strong ties to womanhood, and is related to the concept of true direction and navigating one’s way. So for the Priory, the rose symbolized “the feminine chalice and guiding star that led to the truth.”
For Sophie, however, the rose symbolized secrecy because she and her grandfather Sauniere always hung the rose on their doors when they needed privacy.
Chalice and Holy Grail
In ‘The Da Vinci Code’, the Grail did not mean the cup from which Christ drank during the last supper. Here the chalice is a symbol to represent womanhood, and the Holy Grail, which holds a spiritual truth for the Priory of Sion is Mary Magdalene, the disciple of Jesus who became his wife and bore his child.
Langdon’s Mickey Mouse watch
The watch was a gift from Langdon’s parents on his 10th birthday, and since then, Langdon has not owned any other watch. For Langdon, the watch was a link to the Disney animations, which was his first introduction to the magic of form and color and how his interest in symbology began. According to him, Mickey Mouse was a daily reminder for him to stay young at heart. The watch held a very special place in his heart and symbolized his respect for Walt Disney, who, like Da Vinci, infused hidden messages and symbolism in his art.
One of the very first symbols we see in this book is the Pentacle, one of the oldest symbols on earth, used over 4000 years before the birth of Christ. A symbol that ancient pagans used in their worship to refer to the feminine half, and most specifically symbolizes Venus, the goddess of female sexual love and beauty. According to Langdon, the pentacle is a pre-Christian symbol that relates to nature worship, and for the ancients, the pentacle represented the female half of all things, a concept that historians call “the sacred feminine.”
What genre is The Da Vinci Code?
‘The Da Vinci Code’ falls under various book genres, such as thriller, mystery, detective fiction, and conspiracy fiction.
What is the message of ‘The Da Vinci Code’?
The central plot of the novel revolves around the controversial idea that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene were married and had a child, and that the Catholic Church covered up the truth. But Brown’s true message is for readers to think independently for themselves and make research about their faith.
What are the themes in ‘The Da Vinci Code‘?
The themes focused on in ‘The Da Vinci Code‘ are sacrifice, the subjectivity of art, fanaticism, symbology, and the thin line between faith and ignorance.