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Themes

Themes

Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.

The False Conflict between Faith and Knowledge

Dan Brown refuses to accept the idea that faith in God is rooted in ignorance of the truth. The ignorance that the Church has sometimes advocated is embodied in the character of Bishop Aringarosa, who does not think the Church should be involved in scientific investigation. According to The Da Vinci Code, the Church has also enforced ignorance about the existence of the descendents of Jesus. Although at one point in the novel Langdon says that perhaps the secrets of the Grail should be preserved in order to allow people to keep their faith, he also thinks that people who truly believe in God will be able to accept the idea that the Bible is full of metaphors, not literal transcripts of the truth. People’s faith, in other words, can withstand the truth.

The Subjectivity of History

The Da Vinci Code raises the question of whether history books necessarily tell the only truth. The novel is full of reinterpretations of commonly told stories, such as those of Jesus’ life, the pentacle, and the Da Vinci fresco The Last Supper. Brown provides his own explanation of how the Bible was compiled and of the missing gospels. Langdon even interprets the Disney movie The Little Mermaid, recasting it as an attempt by Disney to show the divine femininity that has been lost. All of these retellings are presented as at least partly true.

The Intelligence of Women

Characters in The Da Vinci Code ignore the power of women at their peril. Throughout the novel, Sophie is underestimated. She is able to sneak into the Louvre and give Langdon a secret message, saving him from arrest, because Fache does not believe her to be capable of doing her job. Fache specifically calls Sophie a “female cryptologist” when he is expressing his doubts about Sophie and Langdon’s ability to evade Interpol. When interpreting one of the clues hidden in the rose box, Langdon and Teabing leave Sophie out, completely patronizing her. When she is finally allowed to see the clue, she immediately understands how to interpret it. Sophie saves Langdon from arrest countless times.

Other women are similarly underestimated. Sister Sandrine, in the Church of Saint-Sulpice, is a sentry for the Brotherhood, but Silas, indoctrinated in the hypermasculine ways of Opus Dei, does not consider her a threat. And Marie Chauvel, Sophie’s grandmother, manages to live without incident near Rosslyn Chapel for years, preserving her bloodline through Sophie’s brother.

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