Syntactic and Style Analysis of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Dan Brown required 88 sentences in his prologue of The Da Vinci Code to lure more than a hundred-million readers and hook them up to his mystery novel about the Holy Grail, the sacred femenine and the supposed marriage between Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ. Obviously, all grammar and style features, however simple might seem at first, have successfully arisen everybody's interest:
- quite a few verbless noun phrases, (1)
- mostly copulative and intransitive verbs in simple or coordinate sentences,
- subordinate sentences linked with colloquial that, what, who, with very few other connectors like as, until, despite and one conventional conditional sentence, (2)
- one prepositional verb, (3)
- short and few direct speach occurrences,
- fifteen gerund clauses, (4)
- dislocation of complements, (5)
- frequent use of adjunts, (6)
- quite a few apparently naive repetitions, (7)
- only two passive sentences, (8)
- one comparative and one superlative expression,(9)
- numerous omissions of relative pronouns, even connectors and auxiliary verbs,(10)
- figures of speach reduced to little more than a personification.(11)
Most of these features are more common in spoken language and, therefore, confere the prologue a very colloquial -almost informal- style which eases up the reader's understanding of the action at the same time that it increases our curiosity about the reasons for the murder and the secret kept worthy of one's life. Likely, the most striking literary figure is the atmosphere of uncertainty about the murder, besides the reasons for it, accomplished by repetitve threats (12) and when his death looks innevitable, new questions strike us like the identity of the only person “to whom he could pass the torch” or what an agonizing fellow will intend to do in the last remaining minutes of his life.
Moreover, this colloquial style favors the readers' identification with the main character and victim in what stands for a general trait of the novel: the narrator will adopt the point of view of one different character in each chapter, that is, author and reader will be sharing all the characters's shoes by turns, thus, increasing their psychological depth.
The Da Vinci Code's prologue feels like a four-lane autoban where readers can't stop thumbing through pages, can't stop the raise of adrenaline one more mile, one more chapter. Or in other words, as if the main character, Robert Langdon, as the college professor he is, had left aside the usual academic jargon and, instead, used plain language to tease students one more class, confident in showing off his expertise by coordinating students's learning processes and passionate debates.
While style resources might seem simple, we will have to agree that the plot is extremely complex which together with the vast variety of topics researched or mentioned account for the tremendous success of the novel. Dan Brown has striken a cultural nerve, someone said; personally, I modestly think he has drawn from Jung's collective unconscious, that is, everybody's secret knowledge, convictions and dreams.
Now, a more extensive analysis of the rest of chapters should confirm -or not- these and other features of the novel.
Terrassa, June 2011
1. Often related to inner thoughts and emotions caused by events: The truth, My stomach, An unbroken chain of knowledge.
2. ...man heaved the master piece toward himself until it tored from the wall...
now despite all the precautions.. despite all... Jacques Saunier was the only remaining link. There is also a second conditional sentence hidden behind a coordinate structure: Tell me where it is hidden and you will live.
3. Is is a secret you will die for?
4. Exluding their use as part of the conjugation, noun, adjective or adverb, ie. lying, painting, thinning and chillingly repectively.
5. Of course, to lead the reader and focus in on the main point of interest, Far off, the alarm began to ring.
6. Instinctively, Slowly, Almost cruelly,
7 and 12. “The albino drew a pistol from his coat and aimed the barrel through the bars, directly at the curator.” -sentence 15-, “The man leveled his gun at the curator's head” - s 28-, the man tilted his head, peering down the barrel of his gun. -s 31-, The attacker aimed his gun again, s 49-, then the gun roared... -s 55- and not being enough: The man now taking dead aim at Saunier's head. -s 58.
8. My work here is done. And this last one -it was framed in a circle of blood...- which however illogical might seem with the previous arguments, is intended to set Saunier -and the reader- at a distance from the seriousness of his lethal wound, which is also the purpose of the personification and comparison that follow, and then trigger our curiousity and credibility for the action in next chapter.
9. He lunged for the nearest painting... The curator's true identity (…) was almos as secret as...
10. Saunier closed his eyes, his thoughts (were) a swirling tempest of fear and regret.
11. A collection of the world's most famous paintings seemed to smile down on him like old friends.