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Written by Timothy Sexton
The Subjectivity of Truth
As the thriller elements of the narrative unfold and find Langdon and Sophie being chased around the globe in pursuit of the elusive truth of the Holy Grail, they uncover a greater mystery that enhances the novel’s thematic concern with truth. In light of the controversy over the novel itself being accused of playing fast and loose with the facts, this is one theme that managed to leap off the pages and into the zeitgeist of the book’s ascension to the best seller heaven. The search for the Holy Grail ultimately hangs on an increasingly troubling series of revelations about the historical narrative of the spread of Christianity. These revelations have the effect of challenging the faith of those who have entrusted their very spiritual being upon commonly held convictions which the protagonist slowly reveal to be everything from simple misconceptions to sinister fictions engineered for the purpose of controlling the masses.
The Power of Metaphor
Langdon hints that the secret that is uncovered about the true form and existence of the Holy Grail might be better left unmentioned by the forward thrust of progress. The mystery and aura surrounding that mystery has for millennia allowed the Grail to be whatever believers make of it. The suggestion here is that faith is stronger the farther way from facts it remains situated. Coincident with this ideological view is an valid explanation for why so many of those who put their faith in the Holy Bible do so on the condition that every word is literal. When Langdon ponders over the wisdom of introducing facts into the equation by which faith arrives at truth, he is also calling into question whether such faith remains as strong and steadfast if stories and events presented as historical fact in the Bible are viewed merely as metaphor for the purpose of enlightening a larger truth. The question boils down to whether metaphor is invested with the same power to guide and condition faith as literal fact.
Feminism v. Patriarchy
Lying at the heart of the pursuit that is the centerpiece of The DaVinci Code is the historical oppression and persecution of women by the Catholic Church in particular and Christianity as a whole. What begins as the latest quest for the Holy Grail transforms into a pursuit of the Sacred Feminine as the secret history of the Catholic Church is revealed to be one with an overarching agenda to maintain the patriarchy and ensure continued dominion of men over women. Underlying this thematic consideration is assertion that the religion established in the name of Jesus Christ subverts the intention and the foundation of the beliefs of its very founder.
Art as Secret History
The protagonist of The DaVinci Code is a member of law enforcement or religion or an intelligence agency or even a traditional historian. Robert Langdon is a professor of symbology, meaning his day job is teaching the study of symbols as key to unlocking concealed knowledge. The thematic concern that drives the actual events of the narrative is the continual and consistent revelation of how art has been used throughout history by the oppressed as a means of transmitting knowledge in a way that attempts to escape detection and punishment. Langdon focuses especially on the iconoclastic art of the Renaissance which is dominated by extraordinary works that seem merely to depict figures and events form the Bible, it is eventually demonstrated that many of these works of art actually contain hidden symbols and messages, often messages that serve as ironic contradiction of the apparent intent. While Langdon is primarily guided by paintings and sculptures, the secret history of art can likewise be detected in everything from the works of Shakespeare to architectural and fashion design.
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