The Da Vinci Code: Those Worthy of Finding the Holy Grail
[This criticism discusses Dan Brown’s use of characterization and character development to determine which characters are worthy of discovering the Holy Grail in this contemporary archetype of a Grail Quest.]




The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, is a modern variation of a quest for the Holy Grail. On every Grail quest there are those who are pure-hearted and worthy enough to find the grail, and there are others who seek the grail for selfish or dangerously obsessive reasons. Robert Langdon, a Harvard religious symbologist, is one of the selfless individuals who unknowingly gets involved in the grail quest after being called by the French Police to help investigate the murder of Jacques Suanière, a curator at the Lourve Museum in Paris. Sophie Neveu, a cryptologist and Jacques Suanière’s granddaughter, also gets involved in the grail quest when she is called to decode one of her grandfather’s cryptic messages. Other characters, however, are not so worthy. Leah Teabing, for example, appears to be a friend to Langdon and Sophie, but is secretly “The Teacher”, who leads his manservant, Rèmy, and an Opus Dei monk, Silas, to kill and spy and manipulate in his own search for the Holy Grail. Through characterization and character development, Brown puts each of these characters through tests and trials while working under the archetype that only those who are worthy will ultimately uncover the Holy Grail.


The grail in The Da Vinci Code, however, is much different than the typical golden chalice that is searched for by medieval knights. Through the cryptic clues left by Suaniére in his last moments of life, Langdon discovers that he was a member of an ancient secret society called the Priory of Sion, whose purpose is to protect the secret of the Grail. Although mention of the Holy Grail incites thoughts of religion and Catholicism, the Priory of Sion is most definitely not tied to the church. Rather, they celebrate the sacred feminine and embrace goddess worship and the sacred balance between male and female. The Priory also celebrates the secret of the Grail, claiming, in fact, that the story of the Holy Grail is one metaphor to describe a woman. The ancient symbol of womanhood is a downward facing arrow, representing the shape of a woman’s womb. This shape is actually called a chalice. Langdon tells Sophie, “‘The Grail is literally the ancient symbol for womanhood, and the Holy Grail represents the sacred feminine and the goddess, which of course has now been lost, virtually eliminated by the Church” (Brown 246). The Holy Grail, according to Langdon, is actually a woman: Mary Magdalene. He also states that Mary Magdalene was in fact Jesus’ wife. Langdon explains to Sophie that Jewish social custom practically forbade men to be unmarried, and several historical documents, including gospels omitted from the Bible, mention Magdalene as Jesus’ spouse, and that they conceived children together. The early church, however, only included in the Bible the gospels that glorified Christ as divine and omitted the gospels that dealt more with his mortal nature. The Priory of Sion therefore was founded to keep the secret of the Grail alive and protect the royal bloodline of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Suaniére, through his cryptic clues and symbols, hoped that Sophie and Langdon would be able to decipher his clues that lead to the location of the Holy Grail, or Mary Magdalene’s remains. Langdon discovers that these sacred remains are buried at the Louvre beneath where the small pyramid, representing the feminine chalice, and the Inverse Pyramid, representing the opposite masculine symbol called the blade, nearly touch.


Dan Brown’s development of each character on the quest for the Holy Grail displays who is pure at heart and who has corrupt intentions during their search. Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu are those individuals who are searching for the Grail to follow the clues Suaniére left upon his death, one of them being a pentagram he drew on his stomach in his own blood. The pentagram symbolizes the goddess Venus and the sacred feminine, while the blood represents the royal bloodline of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Suaniére leaves complex clues, including an anagram leading to the Mona Lisa. Other clues lead to a key to his Swiss Bank account, in which two cryptexes, one inside of the other, must be deciphered from obscure clues and verses that lead Langdon and Sophie to London and Scotland before discovering the truth. All of Suaniére’s clues are designed so that only the cleverest and most intelligent, and therefore worthy, people will ever have a chance at deciphering them. The combination of Langdon, a scholar on the Priory of Sion, and Sophie, a cryptologist and someone familiar with her grandfather’s cleverness and aptitude for creating clues and secret paths, creates a pair capable of following the quest for the Grail to the end. And near that end, at Rosslyn Church in Scotland, Sophie discovers that she has family beyond her grandfather. She was told as a child that her grandmother, parents, and younger brother had been killed in a car accident. At Rosslyn, however, she finds her Grandmother and her brother. But most importantly, she discovers that she is part of the holy, royal bloodline of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. Even from Sophie’s initial characterization, there are some aspects about her that hint at this relation. She has red hair, symbolizing the royal blood that runs within her. Also, her last name, Neveu, translates in English to “nephew”, suggesting that a familial relationship exists between her and someone else, in this case, two people, being Jesus and Mary Magdalene.


Langdon and Sophie are searching for the Grail only for the sake of truth and the duty to fulfill Suaniére’s dying wish to keep the knowledge of the Grail alive. Landon, being a scholar, values knowledge more than most individuals. Therefore, this quest for the ultimate knowledge has personal meaning to him. Since Jacques Suaniére was Sophie’s grandfather, the Grail quest carries immense personal meaning to her. After refusing to speak to her grandfather for years after she saw him performing a sacred Priory sex rite, in which it is believed that the sole direct connection to God for a mortal man is at the climax of sexual activity, which also furthers the image of the sacred feminine being a link to God, Sophie feels as if she owes a duty to him. She feels remorse for her actions and continues the Grail quest to make amends and to discover the truth about herself and her family. In addition, both Sophie and Langdon need to find the grail first and protect it before it gets into the wrong hands.


The wrong hands are those of Leigh Teabing, who in the novel primarily seems to be a friend of Langdon, but is later discovered to be “The Teacher”. It is the Teacher who orchestrated the plot to kill Jacques Suaniére and the other four sénéchaux, all of whom knew the secret location of the Grail, Mary Magdalene’s tomb. Teabing is unnaturally obsessed with the Grail and the unveiling of its truth. The Priory of Sion was supposed to unveil the truth about the Grail and Jesus’s life at the “End of Days”, or the shifting of the zodiac sign from Pisces, a sign symbolizing submissiveness to a higher being, to Aquarius, symbolizing mankind’s shift to autonomy. As Grand Master of the Priory of Sion, Suaniére was supposed to reveal the sacred Grail documents, but did not. This infuriated the corrupt, obsessive Teabing. He believed that Suaniére sold out to the church to protect Sophie, and that he disregarded his greatest responsibility to the world. Teabing’s corrupt nature is most likely influenced by his wealth. His abundance of money created a god complex within him. His choice of the codename “The Teacher” parallels Jesus being called the Great Teacher. With this complex, he chooses people he knows he can manipulate in his plot to be involved.


One of the people he chooses is Bishop Aringarosa of Opus Dei, an old-world portion of the Catholic Church that participates in the practice of corporal mortification. Aringarosa discovers that the Vatican is eliminating its funding to Opus Dei, and that is will no longer be connected to the Church. Aringarosa has everything to lose. When he receives a call from the Teacher promising the Holy Grail, it seems that this is his only way to save Opus Dei. He even uses his precious Bishop’s Ring, symbolizing his own faith, as a bribe. Aringarosa virtually abandons the benevolence and morality of his faith in that moment.


Silas, a monk very close with Aringarosa, also becomes involved and does all of the killing involved in the novel. Silas had a troubled past, and is characterized in an ominous light. “He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils. The albino drew a pistol from his coat and aimed the barrel through the bars, directly at the curator” (Brown 3). These two characters are killing and being involved in utterly immoral actions to save their church. Although their intentions are benign, their reasons to find the Grail are misguided and for their own personal gain.

Rémy’s involvement was also for his personal gain. He is Teabing’s longtime manservant, and Teabing promised him freedom for his services. Rémy is characterized as an unpleasant individual with a hint of deviousness. Rémy does anything for his freedom. After he captures one of the cryptexes, “He could feel himself ascending to a higher station in life. I will never be a servant again” (Brown 387). His moral soundness is overshadowed by his personal desire to ascend the ranks of society.

Needless to say, neither Teabing, Aringarosa, Silas, nor Rémy end up acquiring the secret of the Grail. Each of these characters acts on selfishness, obsession, and moral disregard in their quest. These characters are clearly unworthy of coming near the secret location of the Grail, and do not deserve to find the tomb of Mary Magdalene without proper reverence. Langdon and Sophie, however, are the selfless individuals who are worthy enough to discover the secret location of the Grail. They always care about each other’s safety throughout their quest, and are determined to see it through to the end to protect the secret. Langdon and Sophie are the characters truly worthy of discovering the Grail in this contemporary novel following the archetype of the quest for the Holy Grail.
C.H. 2013
Angels & Demons: There are no “Right Beliefs” for a Good Person
[This criticism examines the different belief systems present in Angels & Demons and analyzes how all individuals of varying beliefs have the potential to act as brave and morally sound people.]


From the very beginning of Dan Brown’s novel Angels & Demons, the topic of science versus religion is introduced when Robert Langdon, a Religious Symbologist at Harvard, is called by the director of CERN to investigate the brutal torture and murder of one of their major scientists, Leonardo Vetra. Not only was Vetra a lead scientist at the most advanced research and development center in the entire world, but he was also a Catholic priest. Vetra is an oddity, seeing as science and the church have had a long and bitter past. Vetra’s goal, however, was to unite science and religion. He and his adopted daughter, Vittoria, were pioneering antimatter technology, in which particles were smashed together in a particle accelerator, and antimatter was created. Vetra’s opinion on this discovery was that it proved the possibility of Genesis, that something could be created out of nothing. Someone, however, strongly disagreed with Vetra’s work enough to torture and murder him, and brand him with the name “Illuminati”. The Illuminati, literally meaning “The Enlightened Ones”, is a secret society that was created by early scientists in the time of Galileo when science first began clashing with the church. Langdon, an Illuminati scholar, gets involved in this strange murder and then the search for the extremely volatile antimatter hidden beneath the Vatican City during conclave, and the search for the four preferiti, the Cardinals most likely to be elected Pope. Throughout the novel there is a struggle between the power of the Illuminati and the antimatter waiting to detonate at midnight, and the church during one of the most sacred events, conclave. In the novel as a whole, Brown does not favor science over religion or vice versa. At the end of the novel when it is revealed that the late Pope’s camerlengo is the mastermind behind the murders of Vetra and the preferiti, and the use of the Illuminati, Brown reveals through each of the characters that there exists no “right” belief for a genuinely benign person.

Through the many beliefs portrayed through the characters in this novel, including scientology, Catholicism, agnosticism, and the Vetras’ science-oriented Catholic beliefs, kind-hearted, brave and morally sound people exist in each belief system. As Vittoria tells Langdon, “Faith is universal. Our specific methods for understanding it are arbitrary. Some of us pray to Jesus, some of us go to Mecca, some of us study subatomic particles” (Brown 110). Despite what an individual’s belief system will be, each person is still human and has the potential to be a kind person or an evil person. Each of the characters in Angels & Demons goes through their own personal trials that test their individual person and the faith inside of them.

Robert Langdon, for example, is agnostic. “Although he studied religion for years, Langdon was not a religious man” (Brown 108). Even though Langdon is not religious, he does the most good deeds in the novel. He risks his life countless times trying to save the four cardinals that are murdered, as well as Vittoria. Langdon nearly dies multiple times in the novel, such as his being trapped in the Vatican library vault, almost suffocating underneath a crypt, nearly being drowned by the Hassassin, almost being pushed off a balcony and plummeting to his death, being shot at multiple times, as well as jumping out of a helicopter without a parachute and landing in the raging Tiber river. Langdon’s near-death experiences are staggering, and yet each time he recovers and pushes himself in clear determination to find the preferiti and try to save countless lives. So despite the fact that Langdon’s religious beliefs are unclear, Langdon is one of the characters most determined to save the cardinals from murder and the Vatican City from the antimatter detonation. Vittoria Vetra works along with Langdon in the search for the kidnapped preferiti, and experiences some of her own near death experiences. She is taken by the Hassassin as a prize, but when Langdon finds her, she is able to free herself from the bonds tying her hands and save Langdon from the Hassassin. With her science oriented Catholic beliefs, she also exerts all of her energy trying to find the antimatter and the preferiti.

There are two characters at the different extremes of science and religion that both are incredibly brave and try to help to save the Vatican. One is Maxamilian Kholer, the director of CERN and a strict scientologist, actually goes to the Vatican to try and help. Kholer was crippled as a child from an illness that was completely treatable by medicine, but his parents refused treatment for him, choosing prayer instead. This experience disillusioned Kholer from religion, and is devout to the study of sciences. Even though he is a cold personality, Kholer was one of Leonardo Vetra’s best friends, representing the fact that science and religion can coexist. When he travels to the Vatican, he is misunderstood as an evil man that tries to kill the camerlengo and ends up being killed. It is later discovered on video tapes that the camerlengo was the evil individual behind the murders, and it was Kholer who tried to stop the camerlengo and find the antimatter before it was too late. The scientologist was brave enough and gave his life trying to save the Vatican.

The other character at the separate extreme is Cardinal Mortati, acting as the Great Elector in conclave, and is one devout Catholic that is the voice of reason when the camerlengo appears on the balcony of the basilica when he was supposed to have died in the antimatter detonation. Mortati suspects foul play is involved, and lets his mind contemplate what his heart is telling him is not quite right. When all the other cardinals at conclave are proclaiming a miraculous experience, Mortati wisely reasons with them, especially when Langdon shows the College of Cardinals the videotape exposing the camerlengo. Mortati also makes the decision not to reveal the truth about the camerlengo to the public, because the public would then lose faith in the church completely. He makes this decision out of wisdom and not out of selfishness. Mortati is then elected as the new pope for his wisdom and discretion when none of the other cardinals were seeing reason.

Dan Brown makes it a point in this novel that one’s religious beliefs do not determine who is a “good” or “bad” person. There are several characters in this novel of varying spiritual beliefs that act bravely and morally for the same cause: to save lives and to save the Vatican. There is no single correct belief a person should have.
C.H. 2013


Angels and Demons: Science vs. Religion or Science in Union with Religion?
[(Essay date 31 May 2008)In the following essay E.C. explores the thematic presence of science and religion and the historical accuracy of Dan Brown’s novel Angels and Demons.E.C.claims that Brown did an excellent job of opening the floor for religious debate by leaving room for interpretation.]

The captivating and suspenseful page-turner Angels and Demons takes the reader on an adventurous journey through Rome following the trail of Robert Langdon, a Harvard symbologist, and Vittoria Vetra, the daughter of a murdered scientist and priest. As they desperately race the clock to discover the location of an antimatter canister, a deadly new substance prepared to destroy Vatican City after being stolen and hidden by an ancient antireligious brotherhood, the reader is taken through one shocking twist to another.Dan Brown skillfully incorporates the powers of science and religion into his novel while leaving room for debate and an open interpretation.He sticks to the historical facts on the most significant aspects of the novel, though he definitely provides false information on several of the more minor scientific, religious, and historical accuracies.

Science and religion are often times described as opposing forces, one working to disprove the other and both attempting to attract as many faithful followers as possible.Brown proposes that there is no decisive line between science and religion by presenting an interesting concept in which they are possibly one in the same.The introduction of antimatter, a substance opposite to matter created by the scientist and priest Leonardo Vetra and the most powerful energy source known to man, leads to a parallel between God and science.The highly unstable and explosive antimatter may just prove the existence of a God by crediting the creation of everything in opposing pairs and even asserting that Genesis may be a scientific accuracy.“He proved not only that matter can be created from nothing, but that the Big Bang and Genesis can be explained simply by accepting the presence of an enormous source of energy” (Brown 90).Brown does not state a clear-cut opinion on the implications of matter being created, something we are taught is simply impossible at a very young age, but rather leaves an open interpretation as to whether this implies science proves the existence of God or that science is God.

After cleverly leaving this question to the reader’s understanding of the novel, Brown embarks on an expedition to uncover the mystery of the secret Illuminati brotherhood, an ancient antireligious group renowned for their power of infiltration, and their involvement in a plot to destroy Vatican City and prove to the world that science is the real God.Part of Vittoria, the daughter of the murdered Vetra from whom the antimatter was stolen, and Langdon’s mission is to uncover the antimatter hiding place as well as save the lives of four cardinals.These four papal candidates were supposedly kidnapped by the Illuminati before the onset of conclave, the religious gathering of all cardinals to elect the next pope.Though Brown faces some criticism as being unfairly biased in favor of science, Brown provided a good deal of support for religion and especially faith in his novel.“In the end, though, we are all proclaiming the same thing.That life has meaning.That we are grateful for the power that created us…Faith is universal.Our specific methods for understanding it are arbitrary” (138).

Brown balances the positives and negatives of both science and religion and presents both good and bad characters on each side.The camerlengo’s sincere and persuasive address to the public in which he vindicates the church and the importance of religion would make even Kohler, the director of the scientific powerhouse CERN which Vetra was employed by, feel at least slightly moved.“Our sunsets have been reduced to wavelengths and frequencies…Even our self worth as human beings has been destroyed.Science proclaims that Planet Earth and its inhabitants are a meaningless speck in the grand scheme.A cosmic accident” (474).Even after Carlo Ventresca, the camerlengo, turns out not quite to be who all thought he was, his genuine belief in what he had done and his honest desire to put God in the hearts of the people were Brown’s way of providing a defense of faith.“The inspiration had been God’s own- appearing like a beacon in the camerlengo’s night of agony.Oh, this faithless world!Someone must deliver them.You.If not you, who?” (666).Brown incorporates plenty of arguments in favor ofreligion and faith and does not lean entirely one way or the other.

Many claim, unfairly, that Dan Brown pits science and religion against one another as completely opposing forces in this novel.Brown merely represents the feelings of the people advocating for one side or the other; he does not promote that science and religion are distinctly separate and contrasting entities.Brown even stated in an interview, “In many ways I see science and religion as the same thing…Religion savors the questions while science savors the quest for answers.Science and religion seem to be two different languages attempting to tell the same story”.In the novel, Brown recognizes the fact that science and religion have been at odds for centuries, due not to the fact that they are contradictory, but because people fail to accept that they may actually be related.Each side of the spectrum wants to see only their beliefs and nothing more; neither wants to reach out to new possibilities.Brown, however, offers up this kind of connection by making antimatter the possible missing link between science and religion.As stated before, the presence of God is left up to the reader’s interpretation of what antimatter’s creation implies.

The inclusion of science and religion throughout the novel was highly influential and contributory to the work as a whole.Brown carries the reader through the different aspects of each, evoking anger and sympathy for one or the other at various points, and leaving the reader questioning and imploring their own spirituality.Part of Brown’s power and leverage as a writer stems from his ability to raise important feelings and questions with no conclusive solution.

Another common criticism of Angels and Demons springs from the inclusion of several historical, religious, and scientific inaccuracies.Though Brown claims that his references to all works of art, tombs, tunnels, and architecture along with their exact locations in Rome are factual as is the brotherhood of the Illuminati, there are several mistakes woven throughout the novel.These mistakes, however, are fairly minor and are of no real consequence to the overall meaning and themes of the work.Many critics are overly harsh in assessing the accuracy of Brown’s claims, nit-picking the most obscure references and making issue of tid-bits of information that have no effect whatsoever on the outcome of the story.Those who are cynical are so mainly due to Brown’s insistent claim that he researches the facts of his novels thoroughly.Though historical, religious, and scientific inaccuracies are prevalent, Brown never does claim that every aspect of the novel is based on fact, he only mentions what is listed above.

Some of the falsities, however, are misleading because they are presented in a way that makes them seem as if they are fact.Many of the well-renowned scientists mentioned as being tied to the Illuminati brotherhood are far from factual.The Illuminati actually consisted primarily of lawyers, government officials, and even some very progressive-minded clergymen with few scientists.The brotherhood is portrayed in the novel as containing practically nothing but scientists fleeing from the persecution of the Catholic church which is definitely not the fact of the matter.“Word spread through the academic underground, and the Illuminati brotherhood grew to include academics from all over Europe.The scientists met regularly in Rome at an ultrasecret lair…”(40).There is no historical evidence that the Illuminati had any vendetta against the Roman Catholic church; they were a group founded by the Bavarian professor Weishaupt, who was against the reactionary ideals of the Jesuits and sought to promote Enlightenment philosophy.Although Brown claims only that the brotherhood of the Illuminati is factual, which it is, this can pretty much be interpreted to mean that the facts stated about the Illuminati are factual as well, which clearly is not the case.

The Great Seal of the United States, for example, is claimed to be an Illuminati symbol, something which is actually never found among the Illuminati in reality.“I became fascinated with the cult when I first learned that U.S. currency is covered with Illuminati symbology…They called it their ‘shining delta.’A call for enlightened change.The eye signifies the Illuminati’s ability to infiltrate and watch over all things” (140).In actuality, the Great Seal was derived from a book published in 1636 by John Greaves based on his trip to Egypt and the eye was accepted by Congress as a Christian “eye of the providence” presiding over the destiny of the U.S.

Some of the locations, which are specifically claimed to be entirely accurate, are also incorrect.“The Vatican Museum housed over 60,000 priceless pieces…Not to mention, the greatest treasures were architectural- the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, Michelangelo’s famed spiral staircase…”(135).Saint Peter’s is not actually considered a part of the Vatican Museum and the spiral staircase mentioned was actually designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932.“The Church of Santa Maria del Popolo…askew at the base of a hill on the southeast corner of the piazza.The eleventh-century stone aerie was made even more clumsy by the tower of scaffolding covering the façade” (324).Santa Maria del Popolo is actually located in the northeast corner of the piazza and was built in the fifteenth, not eleventh, century.Also the Chigi chapel of Santa Maria’s does not contain the tomb of Alexander Chigi either.Alexander Chigi’s tomb is actually located in Saint Peter’s Basilica.Though these inaccuracies in location go against Brown’s original claim for factuality, they have no real impact on the outcome or main points of the story and therefore should not be weighed as a factor in determining the worthiness or relative significance of the novel.

Several minor scientific references such as the claim that the proton is the antiparticle of the electron, when really that is the positron, and the claim that antimatter energy is 100% efficient are also minor inaccuracies.“A thousand times more powerful than nuclear energy.One hundred percent efficient…A few grams could power a major city for a week” (100).In reality, it takes at least as much energy, if not more in order to obtain antimatter so the claim that it is 100% efficient is false.Again, some critics seem to be overly cynical of these inaccuracies which amount to nothing in the overall importance of the story.

Overall, although Dan Brown cannot honestly claim the factuality that he credits his novel with, the divergences are not crucial and do not take away from the novel.Brown is able to construct a novel that captivates the reader and compels them to evaluate their beliefs.The reader is coerced to brainstorm with Langdon and Vittoria as they face one intellectual challenge after another.Regardless of one’s religious beliefs or affiliations, anyone can find meaning and significance in Angels and Demons.It’s various twists and turns really kept the reader engaged throughout and its ending was a remarkable display of Brown’s genius.

(E.C. 2008)



Da Vinci Message: Don't Judge a Book by its Cover
[(Essay date 8 June 2008)In the following essay E.C. examines the prejudice attitudes, particularly sexism, present in Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” and the paradox they create while noting Brown’s excellent use of character development to further the meaning of his work.E.C. recognizes the distinct parallels between various elements of this novel and Brown’s prior novel “Angels and Demons” including the theme of faith.]
Dan Brown, through superb character development and ingenious plot summary, interweaves a substantial paradox between the way women are regarded throughout his novel and the underlying theme of feminine power and worship.By incorporating characters such as Sophie Neveu and Leigh Teabing, Brown portrays the effects of underestimating a person based upon appearance.Brown provides a balance to the stereotypical biased attitudes in the character of Robert Langdon, however, who clearly respects and views others for their intellectual capacity, not their physical image.The intensity and power of devotion and faith are prevalent themes included throughout the novel, and themes that Brown apparently likes to work with as they are also major contributors to his previous novel Angels and Demons.While navigating the reader through a complex series of clues in the ultimate quest to locate the Holy Grail and uncover the guarded secret of an ancient brotherhood, the Priory of Sion, Brown effectively exposes a lost respect for women, a group once esteemed as sacred.

The revelations of The Da Vinci Code suggest that Christianity is largely built upon manmade assumptions and the church’s corruption of the truth in order to maintain power and a following early on.“Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea… establishing Christ’s divinity was critical to the further unification of the Roman empire and to the new Vatican power base” (Brown 253).It is implied that the church took the human form of Jesus and made him a divine being in order to establish a power source rooted in the fact that no person could question the might of Jesus and his message if he was beyond this world.Brown strikes a nerve with many religious readers of this novel when he employs these bits of fiction about the church’s beginnings because they feel that Brown is condemning traditional Christian beliefs.The information Brown presents, however, is simply fiction embellished upon from a historical conspiracy theory over the true decisions made at the Council of Nicaea.This information is critical to the plot of the novel, a fictitious novel, and Brown goes on to establish justification, to counter what may have been taken as one-sided, by recognizing that the Church’s desire to keep such controversial knowledge from the public is rooted in their faith. “Nobody is saying Christ was a fraud, or denying that He walked the earth and inspired millions to better lives” (254).Brown does not accuse the modern-day Church of corruption and secrecy but attests to the fact that they maintain sincere devotion to their beliefs.

Brown remains neutral on the origin and credence in the Christian religion and again, as he does in Angels and Demons, defends the concept of faith.“It’s important to remember that the modern church’s desire to suppress these documents comes from a sincere belief in their established view of Christ.The Vatican is made up of deeply pious men…” (255).Through his writing, Brown serves as an advocate in having, not necessarily religion, but faith.Brown indicates that the clergy, as a general rule, have genuine conviction in their beliefs, regardless of what they are told or what evidence suggests, which stems from faith in a higher power.The criticism Brown faces from religious readers of his novel primarily stems from misconceptions about the intentions of his writing.Clearly, a person entirely adverse to the concept of religion and a belief in a higher power would not defend the value of faith as distinctly as Brown does.

Silas provides yet another representation of faith mirrored in the way he trusts entirely in “the Teacher” giving him instructions on how to save his church, and thus the foundation of his beliefs, from destruction.Silas serves as somewhat of a tragic figure because, despite his evil deeds, he has an authentic belief in the ends to which he is attempting to justify.Brown effectively presents the personality of Silas by delving deeper into Silas’ thoughts and evoking some sympathy from the reader for his naive aspects.
An important element of The Da Vinci Code is the theory that the church demolished the original concept of feminine admiration.Brown exposes this concept by incorporating the way modern society looks upon women as portrayed in the novel.“The power of the female and her ability to produce life was once very sacred, but it posed a threat to the rise of the predominantly male Church, and so the sacred feminine was demonized and called unclean”(258).Sister Sandrine, for example, is dismissed by Silas as a pushover while he attempts to eradicate the Holy Grail from the church in which she serves as a caretaker.Sandrine, despite her older and more fragile appearance, is weary of Silas and watches him closely from the shadows.Although Sandrine is killed, Silas had never expected her to be as keen and sly as she proved to be.

The way women are treated as intellectually inferior throughout the novel is in direct opposition to the theme of the sacred feminine adoration that has been lost through the reform of Christianity.Sophie Neveu poses as the primary evidence against the fairly commonly held, sometimes on a subconscious level, misconception that women are harmless and incapable of higher thought. On many occasions Sophie supplies the brains to decode messages and avoid potentially dangerous situations, yet she is often overlooked as less than competent especially by Commander Fache.“The ministry’s ongoing foray into political correctness, Fache argued, was weakening the department.Women not only lacked the physicality necessary for police work, but their mere presence posed a dangerous distraction to the men in the field” (55).Fache feels far superior to Sophie despite the fact that she continually supplies the means for eluding him and his police force while they are on her and Langdon’s trail.Sophie is also underestimated by Teabing.“‘You’re saying you can read this text?’ Teabing exclaimed” (325).Sophie is the one to solve the written clue on the back of her grandfather’s rose box, something that puzzled both historian Teabing and symbologist Langdon.

The fact that Teabing is skeptical of Sophie’s intellect is another use of paradox because Teabing himself faces a prejudice due to his handicap.Bias arising from the assumption of weakness based upon physical appearance is a motif existent both in this novel and in Angels and Demons.“Although Teabing’s leg braces, crutches, and gun had set off the metal detector, the rent-a-cops never knew what to do.Do we ask him to remove his braces and crawl through?Do we frisk his deformed body?” (444).Brown suggests that society’s preconceived notions are often at the root of its failures.Clearly, Teabing’s appearance led others to presume weakness and harmlessness, as is the case with Sophie.Through these characters, including Sister Sandrine, Brown effectively utilizes common prejudices to counter the subconscious belief held by many that appearance and capability are somehow related.

Brown cleverly does this, however, without portraying males, as a whole, as chauvinistic and egotistic.The character of Robert Langdon is a testament to this.Langdon, despite the fact that he knows nothing about Sophie prior to meeting her that day, does not pre-derive opinions of her and, throughout the novel, he respects and credits her knowledge.He looks to her as a co-worker while unraveling the intricacies of Sauniere’s maze, not an assistant or side-kick.Langdon recognizes that Sophie and he are on-par and relies on their collaboration to continue their search.“Langdon decided not to say another word all evening.Sophie Neveu was clearly a hell of a lot smarter than he was” (93).Langdon, though definitely possessing the potential to be an egotist, is not at all.He recognizes and accepts his limitations and appreciates the knowledge and capabilities of others without feeling a need to prove himself.

The appearance of Silas functions as yet another stereotype and paradox.As a sinister character, Silas’ physical appearance is extremely unattractive and frightening.Although Silas is actually an evil character, he is not as treacherous as Teabing, the ‘Teacher’ giving him instructions and orchestrating his wretched deeds.Brown utilizes Silas’ appearance to further enhance the motif that what one looks like does not necessarily, and usually does not, reflect the inner person.Yes, Silas is an evil person and our own biased views toward his demeanor would predict this, but yet when Silas’ full personality and thought process is described, there is much more compassion and conviction to it. Teabing, however, is the mastermind, the ‘poor handicapped man’ that our hidden preconceptions would dismiss as harmless.Teabing has no morality to back up his actions; he is on a mission for some kind of notoriety or to fulfill some kind of vengeance toward the Church, but he lacks conviction or faith in his heart.

Brown impeccably develops characters that complement one another to clarify some of the more subtle meanings of the book.Probably the most influential motif appearing throughout the novel was the broken correlation between appearance and ability as Brown slowly exposes many of the deeper prejudices that are still commonly encountered today.

(E.C. 2008)





[This is a criticism of how Dan Brown used symbols of religious, artistic and medieval history, to effectively hide and find the Holy Grail.]

Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is a story about the quest for the Holy Grail. Robert Langdon, a symbologist, is called in to investigate the murder of the Louvre’s curator Sauniére. At the scene Langdon finds that the elderly curator had positioned himself in da Vinci’s famous sketch The Vitruvian Man along with a number sequence and a phrase in invisible ink. The curator’s granddaughter, Sophie, shows up and informs Langdon that the French police believe him to be the murderer as his name is written by his body. Sophie helps Langdon escape, believing him to be innocent and that he can help her discover who really killed her grandfather. Together they decipher the clues using the symbols that eventually leads them to the Holy Grail.

The Fibonacci sequence found to be initially useless, a way to gain Sophie’s attention, becomes extremely important. First Sophie and Langdon discover are a hint to decipher the rest of her grandfather’s hidden message. They soon use it to translate “O, Draconian devil! Oh, lame saint!” to “Leonardo da Vinci! The Mona Lisa!”. This soon takes them to the painting where they find more hidden writing and a key behind the Madonna of the Rocks. Later they discover that the number sequence is also the account number in the Depository Bank of Zurich. There they find cryptex, a model of one of da Vinci’s many inventions. The cryptex itself is the Priory keystone.

The Holy Grail springs from the famous scene depicted in da Vinci’s The Last Supper. The Holy Grail was the chalice that Jesus and his followers drink from. Sophie when asked by Teabing “how many cups were there?”, responds that there was one referring to the Grail. However in the painting, there are thirteen cups. Teabing states that the Holy Grail is not an actual cup, but a woman. Teabing explains that the Holy Grail is in fact Mary Magdalene, Jesus Christ’s companion and wife. The Holy Grail also refers to the royal bloodline and family tree continued by Sarah, the daughter of Mary and Jesus.

“Not what it is,” Teabing whispered. “But rather who it is. The Holy Grail is not a thing. It is in fact….a person.” (Brown 236).

The idea of Pagan Goddess worship is shown in many symbols. The Mona Lisa is a prominent one. The book plays on the idea that of Mona Lisa’s mysterious smile and some surrounding theories. Langdon in a flashback explains the Mona Lisa isn’t a female or a male but both. He explains that da Vinci was a follower of the Priory of Sion, and one of the beliefs is the union of man and woman as one person. He further explains that da Vinci conjured the name Mona Lisa from two egyptian gods, Amon and Isis. They were both gods of fertility, Amon of man and Isis of woman. Plus a common name for Isis’s pictogram was L’isa. Amon L’isa becomes Mona Lisa.

“And that, my friends, is da Vinci’s little secret, and the reason for Mona Lisa’s knowing smile” (Brown 121).

The Mona Lisa also refers to the fleur-de-lis, or flower of Lisa. This is also seen as the five petaled flower, a symbol of the holy Grail used by the Priory of Sion.

Another symbol the goddess appears is in the pentacle that Sauniére had painted on his stomach in his dying moments. Sauniére also takes place in another symbol, the ritual Sophie witnessed years ago. The ritual represents the union and harmony of men and women together, going along with said theme.

There are also many other little hidden symbols that contribute to the quest. Sophie’s name is also a symbol as her grandfather uses it in his hidden message “P.S. Find Robert Langdon”, P.S. refers to “Princess Sophie” an affectionate childhood nickname, but also a reference to Prieuré de Sion or Priory of Sion, an old secret society dedicated to keeping the secret of the Holy Grail hidden. Later on, however, it is discovered that the nickname Princess Sophie is an actual title of hers.

Throughout the book Dan Brown uses many symbols of religious history tied in with the Renaissance, da Vinci, goddesses, etc. The only way one could ever find the Holy Grail is if they knew the symbology of the Grail, the story behind it, the Priory, and of Mary Magdalene. It is for these reasons Sauniére invited Langdon to the museum, and desperately called Sophie that night. He knew that Langdon could find it and Sophie was a key to all of it.



(G.K. 2016)