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The Da Vinci Code | Study Guide

Dan Brown

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The Da Vinci Code | Themes


Truth, Lies, and Power

The novel's action is propelled by the search for the truth revealed in the Holy Grail. However, most of the people in the novel who seek the Grail do so for less-than-honorable, rather than spiritual, reasons.

Some of the characters seek the Grail because it is the embodiment of the highest spiritual truth in Christianity. Langdon seeks the Grail to uncover this truth, but his quest is rather an outgrowth of his inadvertent involvement in the murder investigation. However, once he is involved he is committed to finding the truth only the Grail can provide. At first Sophie seeks the Grail because it meant so much to her grandfather. He has left clues telling her how to find the Grail, knowing it will lead to a vital truth. Other characters, such as Teabing, seem to seek the Grail more out of the desire to possess the most powerful truth in the world. Teabing's deep knowledge of the Grail seems more academic than spiritual, and he uses lies, betrayal, and violence to get what he wants.

Saunière and the Priory of Sion are a group dedicated to keeping the Grail and its truth hidden so that no one—especially the Catholic Church—can destroy it or use it to enhance their power. It is the sénéchaux, or keepers of the Grail, who alone know its hiding place. The Priory is the protector of the Grail's truth.

Bishop Aringarosa seeks the Grail to help cement Opus Dei's reputation—and build its power—as part of the Catholic Church. As a member of Opus Dei, Aringarosa desires to know the truth hidden within the Grail. However, he is willing to engage in or accept underhanded tactics and lies to get it. Aringarosa willingly follows the dictates of the Teacher to reach the Grail. Even when he learns of the murders committed during this mission, he rationalizes them as perhaps a necessary evil because the prize is so valuable.

The Catholic Church is described as seeking the Grail to either destroy it or to keep it forever hidden and secret. The Church has propagated countless lies about Christianity and its history to retain unquestioned power and authority over the world's Christians.

Sacred Feminine versus Sexism

Throughout the novel the Grail and the clues that lead to it express the ancient knowledge and belief in the sacred feminine or the feminine divine. Revelations about the sacred feminine and Nature worship appear in writings and symbols throughout the book. They are all crucial clues that the Grail-seeking characters in the book repeatedly come across and must follow because they are so central to the truth revealed within the Grail. The sacred feminine is so vital, its importance and history is explained at length in several parts of the novel. It is not only an ancient, sometimes "pagan" form of worship, but also a Christian truth that people today ignore at their peril.

In contrast to the strong focus on the divine feminine is the overt sexism, or misogyny, found in many parts of the novel. An overarching theme is the Catholic Church's denial of the sacred feminine. The Church deliberately slanders Mary Magdalene as a prostitute, denies the priesthood to women, and—most importantly—wishes to destroy the Grail and its message of the sacredness of the feminine to retain male dominance within the Church. The antifeminine foundation of the Church is revealed to have been a deliberate decision made by male bishops millennia ago. Therefore this sexist attitude does not reflect a truth but is a bias based on lies.

The novel explains that sexism persists today. In several instances Sophie Neveu is dismissed or treated with disdain because she is a woman. Captain Fache treats her badly when she tries to help in the murder investigation. He sneeringly refers to her as a "female cryptologist" although he doesn't speak of Langdon as a "male symbologist." He and others are repeatedly amazed at how cleverly Sophie, a woman, is able to avoid capture and arrest. Even Langdon sometimes treats her condescendingly and is amazed when she brilliantly unravels a particularly obscure clue. Sexism is the rule in Opus Dei where women are allowed to enter the premises only via a back door so no monks come into contact with them.

Historical Bias

The novel deals with the inevitable truth that, as Teabing says, "history is always written by the winners." In particular the history of Christianity as it is told by the Catholic Church appears as totally inaccurate. Still, the Church's version of Christian history has been the only version for millennia. Billions of people have taken this distorted view of Christianity as the "gospel" truth even though it was promulgated by the Church to prop up its male-dominated view of the world and to undermine the divine feminine. The "official" history of Christianity was concocted to maintain the power of the Church and the men who ran it.

Those who have known the truth, from scientists to artists, have had to reveal it in hidden, secret ways so as not to incur the wrath of the all-powerful Church.

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