As someone who had spent his life exploring the hidden interconnectivity of disparate emblems and ideologies, Langdon viewed the world as a web of profoundly intertwined histories and events. The connections may be invisible, he often preached to his symbology classes at Harvard, but they are always there, buried just beneath the surface.
With this statement, Langdon describes a major theme of the novel—the idea that secrets lie all around us awaiting interpretation. From the beginning of the novel, when Saunière leaves a mass of secrets and puzzles around his body, explicit examples of puzzles and codes abound. Some of the puzzles and codes are known to Langdon already, through his studies, and some are not.
Other connections that are buried just beneath the surface are the pieces of knowledge that the characters need in order to solve the mysteries. These pieces of knowledge are already known to the characters, but they must remember them and fit them together in the right way. Langdon is continually experiencing revelations. For example, he suddenly remembers that the Knights Templar worshipped a “head stone” of a god named Baphomet. Another time, he realizes that Saunière was referring to the apple when he named the orb that should have been on Newton’s tomb. Sophie is also in the habit of suddenly remembering important information. At the end of the novel, she recalls that she saw her grandfather talking to her grandmother when she was younger and they were visiting Rosslyn Chapel. According to Brown, Sophie remembered this all along and just needed the right impetus to uncover it.
God whispers in his ear, one agent had insisted after a particularly impressive display of Fache’s sixth sense. Collet had to admit, if there was a God, Bezu Fache would be on his A-list. The captain attended mass and confession with zealous regularity—far more than the requisite holiday attendance fulfilled by other officials in the name of good public relations.
This description of the French Judicial Police Chief’s supernatural sixth sense is an example of the false clues and mysteries that Dan Brown sprinkles throughout the text. This paragraph comes early in the novel, and it plants the idea that Fache, who has at this point made a dramatic effort to arrest Langdon for the murder of Saunière, might be involved with an evil force such as Opus Dei or the Church itself. The cross that Fache wears is mentioned, as is the fact that he lost a lot of money recently in speculating on technology. The reader is meant to think that Fache might be involved with the Church and the killings for reasons of money and faith. Later, Brown reveals that Fache had nothing to do with Saunière’s killings, and that the insinuations of Fache’s guilt were a red herring meant to throw us off of Teabing’s trail.
This passage also highlights a fundamental problem of the typical thriller novel. In literary novels, characters develop slowly. In thrillers, character development is sometimes sacrificed for the sake of suspense. Bezu Fache, who functions largely as a false clue, does not have depth of personality. After Brown strips away the reader’s bad impression of him, almost no impression is left at all.
“History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books—books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?’”
Although this theory is advanced by Leigh Teabing, who is later found to be unreliable and mentally unbalanced, Langdon agrees with it. The idea of history as a story written by winners is the fundamental underpinning of The Da Vinci Code. Throughout the narrative, Brown expounds on the ideas that Langdon and Teabing work with professionally: certain gospels were left out of the Bible because of the political desires of leaders; Mary Magdalene was of the royal blood of Benjamin and more likely was Jesus’ wife rather than a prostitute; pagans were killed in order to further the political goals of the Church; and the meanings of certain words and symbols were changed in order to force people to change their beliefs.
In this case Brown is essentially the rewriter of history. It is tempting to believe every theory he advances simply because each theory opposes conventional wisdom, which suggests that Brown is uncovering hidden truths. But some of the ideas presented as fact by Langdon and Teabing are enormously complex, and so little proof backs them up that it would be hard to believe them.
Silas could feel his homeland testing him, drawing violent memories from his redeemed soul. You have been reborn, he reminded himself. His service to God today had required the sin of murder, and it was a sacrifice Silas knew he would have to hold silently in his heart for all eternity.
Silas stands for the capacity of the Church to change people completely, an important idea in the novel. The Church made a concerted effort to erase people’s belief in the divinity of women and nature, stressed the idea of female original sin, and promoted the ultimate authority of the Church. The Church is so successful at changing entire societies that it can take commonly held ideas—such as the idea that sex is something to enjoy—and turn them into taboos. Brown suggests that Sophie’s horror and disgust at seeing her grandfather in the act of sex is a product of the culture she grew up in, not a fundamental human instinct.
In order to prove that the Church, and faith itself, can change the way men operate, Brown demonstrates how faith and Bishop Aringarosa’s attention give purpose to the murderous Silas. All the Church does, however, is give Silas an excuse for killing. Silas justifies murder by telling himself he is killing in the name of God. He does not hesitate when the Teacher asks him to kill people in the name of finding the Grail and (he thinks) saving Opus Dei. Silas has come to believe that the Church and God are so important that any action taken on their behalf is acceptable.
“The Bible represents a fundamental guidepost for millions of people on the planet, in much the same way the Koran, Torah, and Pali Canon offer guidance to people of other religions. If you and I could dig up documentation that contradicted the holy stories of Islamic belief, Judaic belief, Buddhist belief, pagan belief, should we do that? Should we wave a flag and tell the Buddhists that the Buddha did not come from a lotus blossom? Or that Jesus was not born of a literal virgin birth? Those who truly understand their faiths understand the stories are metaphorical.”
Langdon, who speaks these words, thinks that ignorance is sometimes preferable to harsh truths. Langdon is an academic and a religious scholar, not a man of the Church, so to some degree he can hold himself apart from controversy over religious doctrine. Unlike Teabing, he has refused to judge Christians who believe that Jesus was the son of God and therefore could never have been married, and that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. He sees the secret of Jesus’ life as one that could probably lie undiscovered for years without any particular poor effect on the world.
In this quotation, Langdon refuses to politicize religion. He believes that people who have faith should be allowed to have it, because they’re not hurting anybody. Langdon’s statement seems at odds with other stories he tells in the course of the novel. It is he who mentions women being burned at the stake for helping other women give birth without pain, and tells of the paintings of Da Vinci that were painted over because they were inconsistent with the teachings of the Church. Perhaps this quotation is an attempt, however inconsistent with Langdon’s character, to provide a counterpoint to Teabing’s fanaticism.
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