The Da Vinci Code: Essay Q&A
1) Briefly discuss The Da Vinci Code using the framework of a traditional “Grail quest” legend.
>In the October 2000 issue of the journal Folklore, author Juliette Wood acknowledges that while “no consistent ‘Grail story’ emerges from the several [medieval] romances in which [Holy Grail-related] material appears, “ “a basic story outline would be something like the following: A mysterious vessel or object which sustains life and/or provides sustenance is guarded in a castle which is difficult to find. The owner of the castle is either lame or sick and often (but not always) the surrounding land is barren. The owner can only be restored if a knight finds the castle and, after seeing a mysterious procession, asks a certain question. If he fails in this task, everything will remain as before and the search must begin again. After wanderings and adventures (many of which relate to events which the young hero fails to understand the first time), the knight returns to the castle and asks the question which cures the king and restores the land. The hero knight succeeds the wounded king (usually called the Fisher King) as guardian of the castle and its contents” (http:findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2386/is_2_111/
ai_69202444/?tag=content;col1). Langdon and Sophie are the true knights on this particular Grail quest (Sir Teabing’s knigthood notwithstanding!), and they must, time and again, ask the correct questions in order to restore the world that has been robbed of a holistic spirituality.
2) Assess The Da Vinci Code’s argument that traditional Christianity bears much of the blame for eradicating the “sacred feminine” from modern spiritual life. How much of these claims strike you as valid? How much of them, if any, strike you as unfair?
>The seeds of Christianity’s assignment of blame for humanity’s fallen, sinful state are present in Scripture itself: e.g., “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” (1 Timothy 2:12-14, KJV). Much subsequent Christian tradition, of course, rejects any misogynistic readings of the Eden narrative (Genesis 3, wherein Eve and Adam eat the forbidden fruit); however, it is still sometimes a basis for unequal and unfair treatment of women, both within and outside of ecclesiastical communities. Certainly, classical Christianity is not exempt from charges of being opposed to women’s best interests. Langdon’s reflections regarding such historical episodes as the Inquisition and the witch trials do speak to the mistrust and abuse to which the institutional church has often subjected women. Yet Langdon may be oversimplifying or overstating the case when he reflects, “The propaganda and bloodshed had worked. Today’s world was living proof… The days of the goddess were over… Mother Earth had become a man’s world, and the gods of destruction and war were taking their toll” (pp. 134-135). Although Langdon is correct about the leadership roles denied to women in some religious traditions, other religious traditions, including many within Christianity, encourage and actively seek female leadership. And among the “enormous good the modern Church [does] in today’s troubled world” that Langdon acknowledges (p. 134) are very often efforts on behalf of women, particularly women and children in poor communities and in the developing world. Other student responses will vary.
3) Select and analyze a specific instance in which Brown advances his novel’s extraordinary conspiracy theory by relating it to a mundane detail with which readers can readily identify.
>Multiple examples are available from the text; many are cited in this NovelGuide. One example occurs in Chapter 37. Brown lends his account the verisimilitude it needs to make his novel work by tying its elaborate, intricate structure to small details ordinary readers can verify on the basis of their own experience: in this case, most notably, the date of Pope Clement’s actions against the Templars: “Pope Clement issued secret sealed orders to be opened simultaneously by his soldiers all across Europe on Friday, October 13 of 1307… [and] to this day, Friday the thirteenth was considered unlucky” (p. 173).
4) Although she is omnipresent in advertising both the book and the film, the Mona Lisa herself occupies relatively little space in The Da Vinci Code. What is the famous painting’s thematic function within Dan Brown’s novel?
>The Mona Lisa, for Robert Langdon, is visual evidence of the fact that “Da Vinci was in tune with the balance between male and female. He believed that a human soul could not be enlightened unless it had both male and female elements” (p. 129). This statement aptly summarizes the novel’s overriding thematic concern that those two elements be reunited in a healthy fashion.
5) The Da Vinci Code occasionally makes skillful use of quotations from ancient sources such as the Bible. In Chapter 29, for instance, Silas encounters Job 38:11 when he is stymied in his search for the keystone. Why is this Bible verse an especially appropriate one for this juncture in the plot?
>The Brotherhood’s choice of Bible verse is appropriate as a message to those who would seek the keystone beyond the plain meaning of the words. In its original context, Job 38:11 is part of God’s lengthy response to Job after Job has spent most of the book questioning God’s wisdom and motives. God never directly addresses the charges that Job levels against him, but instead overpowers Job into silence by reminding Job that only God created the universe and controls all of its elements. Specifically, the words of 38:11 are words that God spoke at creation to establish divine mastery over the chaotic seas (see vv. 8-11). Thus, the verse, even in its original context, is a message intended to silence the proud and confound those who consider themselves wise—as anyone who thought they had managed to crack the Brotherhood’s secret codes would surely consider themselves to be. As used by the Brotherhood, the verse confronts their enemies with the fact that their “wisdom” has failed them, just as wisdom failed Job.