October 11, 2004
Ok, so this is my second day of owning my very own…blog (that still sounds weird) and to be honest, I don't really know what the hell to do with it? What is it for? None of my friends have blogs so no-one I care about seeing any of this will actually see it! confused
Oh well, I will blog on!!
October 10, 2004
Review of ‘The Da Vinci Code’, written by Dan Brown.
This crime novel begins with the mysterious death of the elderly curator of The Louvre, Jacques Sauniere. At the time of his murder, Sauniere had managed to leave cryptic clues for the books’ heroes, Sophie Neveau and Robert Langdon.
Langdon and Neveau follow the clues and break the codes, which eventually leads them to one of society’s best kept secrets – the true nature of the Holy Grail. They eventually discover who murdered Sauniere. Simultaneously they uncover the fact that the Grail contains proof that Jesus was not the son of God but was actually mortal and not only had a son with Mary Magdalene but that there is a royal bloodline of descendents of Jesus living today. The Grail contains proof of how the Roman Catholic nobility created the immortality of Jesus to counter the rising heresy of Paganism. This secret had been kept for centuries by a secret society named as the Priory of Sion, of which Sauniere was grand master. In his dying moments, he had to leave cryptic codes to his grand-daughter, Neveau so the secret of the Grail would not die with him. The Grail is also hunted by a prelature of the Catholic Church, Opus Dei who wishes to destroy the Holy Grail so as to preserve their religious dogma.
There is no one clear ‘villain’ as such in this novel which distinguishes it from a typical crime novel. However, the man who murdered Sauniere, Silas, was a member of Opus Dei. Silas, before finding religious sanctuary, had a life of poverty and abuse. He lived on the streets most of his life, committing petty crime to survive. However, after killing someone in a street brawl, Silas is sentenced to a tough French prison. Here, he endures abuse and misery until a fortunate earthquake allows him to escape. Battered and bruised, he is taken in by a member of Opus Dei, Bishop Aringarosa. The vulnerability of Silas due to his abuse from the prison system is seized upon and Silas devotes his life to Opus Dei; leading to the murder of Sauniere in a bid to secure the Grail. He becomes a deeply devout monk who practices corporal mortification. It can be argued that Silas was confused about what is considered moral or immoral in society and suffered from anomie. It was this anomie that led to his vulnerability and his willingness to adopt an incredibly strict and zealous religious existence as it gave him the moral codes that he was so desperately seeking. This novel suggests that Silas’s lack of moral understanding lead to his criminal life, suggesting that, in society, there must be structure to prevent deviance. In this respect therefore, this crime novel reinforces a popular ideal in society.
A second villain, the butler, is the sidekick of the mastermind behind the crimes. The butler, named Remy is a stereotypical crime novel character. He aids his master, Teabing in their criminal activities so they can acquire the Grail themselves. The author shows Remy’s only motivation as money so he can free himself from a life of service. This suggests to the readers that crime is often used as a way to liberate oneself from a way of life. For Teabing, however, it is ultimately the power of owning the Holy Grail that he craves. Teabing uses the sect, Opus Dei, and especially Silas to carry out the murder of Jacques Sauniere so as to acquire the secret in the Holy Grail. Teabing is exceptionally affluent and uses bribes in all aspects of life. Similarly, when caught out by Langdon, Teabing exclaims how his money would be more than adequate to bribe any judges so he could escape conviction. In this sense, this crime novel is rather unique as the ultimate criminal, Teabing does not get what he deserves from the law. He has the ability to hire the most expensive lawyers who, as the book suggests, are able to plea insanity for the more than sane Teabing. Therefore, this crime novel is rather unique as it does not reinforce the righteousness of law enforcement in society.
The social context in which this novel is set is particularly pertinent to the fiction. It is set in modern day and therefore, an increasingly secular society. With current world events, more and more and becoming disillusioned with organised religion. ‘Freedom’ has become a buzzword and is the view of many that organised religion allows for no freedom meaning it is becoming increasingly unpopular. Similarly, science and new technologies have become a popular discourse in this era which can sometimes sharply contrast with teachings of faith and religion. This social setting appropriately sets a context where the Church, Catholicism in particular, feels progressively more threatened, within this novel. Furthermore, the social context of the characters is also that of the audience. Consequently, a novel which features conspiracy theories regarding the real history of Christianity and the possibility that there may be more to learn will be undoubtedly a best-seller.
This novel also tells us something of the various institutions of power. For example, the police use a controversial surveillance method where suspected criminals are tracked using GPS unbeknownst to them. That way, a suspect may give themselves away without knowing it. They are invited to help the police and are never even told they are a suspect. This shows how technology is being used to uncover criminal activities yet is controversial as it may be considered entrapment. Therefore, again, uniquely for a crime novel, the justice system is also questioned as the status of the criminals decide who will and will not receive punishment. For example, Silas, who has nothing, will undoubtedly go to prison for a long time in comparison to Teabing, a member of the British aristocracy, who took advantage of Silas’s social standing and convinced him to commit the murder of Sauniere. Brown, the author, demonstrates how status can be hide crime as Teabing is only uncovered as the mastermind behind the murder at the end of the novel as a twist. This can only be a twist as a British aristocrat would never be considered by the audience as a criminal in comparison to the impoverished Silas who was ultimately taken advantage of.
In conclusion, this crime novel is quite unique. In many areas, Brown questions society’s view of crime rather than reinforces it, especially the standing justice system. For example, he demonstrates how class and status are pertinent factors in who the reader may consider to be the real criminal.