The Da Vinci Code: Chapter 61

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Summary: In Teabing’s absence, Langdon tells Sophie that, contrary to her suspicions, she could not belong to the royal bloodline of Christ, for Saunière is not a Merovingian name. (Nor is Chauvel, Sophie’s mother’s maiden name; the family’s names today are Plantard and Saint-Clair.) Langdon explains how the Grail story surfaces in numerous other areas of art, culture, and even popular entertainment. Teabing returns, and sternly demands an honest accounting of the situation from Langdon.
 
Analysis: This chapter develops Sophie’s character by focusing on her feelings of isolation. When she learns from Langdon that she is (ostensibly) not of Jesus and the Magdalene’s bloodline, she feels both relieved and disappointed: “She realized she was no closer than she had been at the Louvre to understanding what truth her grandfather had wanted to reveal to her… I am alone” (p. 281). Sophie’s reaction is emotionally understandable; furthermore, it reinforces her nature as a “lover of truth.” Even when the truth is (apparently) not what she, momentarily, hoped it would be, she still wants to know it.
 
Langdon attempts to expound upon that truth by drawing on a wide range of popular culture references, mostly from the work of Walt Disney, that will no doubt amuse and intrigue readers. The word “SEX” in the sky during The Lion King, for instance, is still debated on Internet message boards (e.g., http:www.eeggs.com/items/1182.html); apparently, Simba’s dust cloud may also spell “SFX” to credit the movie’s sound effects crew; or—with apologies to Sigmund Freud—this may be an instance of a dust cloud simply being a dust cloud! It may be, of course, that Walt Disney “made it his quiet life’s work to pass on the Grail story to future generations” (p. 282). It may also be he simply wanted to entertain children and their families. As Langdon himself tells Sophie, “Once you open your eyes to the Holy Grail… you see her everywhere” (p. 282). The statement is a telling one. So far from supporting Langdon’s various cultural connections to Grail lore, the statement may detract from their validity; for one of the most common logical fallacies in human thought is to find patterns where none actually exist. We humans crave patterns, rationality, order in our world and in our environment—and so we sometimes impose order and meaning where, it could just as easily be argued, none exists. An October 2008 podcast for the magazine Scientific American states, “When we feel like we don’t have command of our own fate, our brains often invent patterns that offer a sense of self-control... Scientists call this illusory pattern perception” (http:www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/
episode.cfm?id=
BFA8FA30-D772-9069-0F9403D381659DB0
). Yet again, then, we are seeing Langdon’s tendency to dismiss everyone’s “pattern perception” as “illusory” but his own! Of course, the chapter thus becomes one further occasion to remind ourselves, as readers of the book, that while illusory pattern perception may be a problem in real life, in fiction patterns bring the story to life! Readers are well advised to simply accept Langdon and Teabing’s patterns and enjoy the way in which they drive the story forward. (Ironically, this chapter also includes an example of the reverse: Langdon is convinced no “pattern” of genealogical relationship exists between Sophie and the Magdalene’s royal bloodline because the names don’t collate. By the novel’s end, readers will be able to judge whether Langdon, in fact, failed to see a pattern where one did exist!)
 
 

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