Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects including education and creative writing.
Spoiler alert: If you haven't read the story or seen the movie, you may want to continue with caution. Although I made an attempt to make the article readable and devoid of anything revealing, there may be elements unexpectedly written into this character analysis.
If you want to stop here and read the book, don't let me stop you. However, once finished come on back to discuss the story's reluctant protagonist.
The Reluctant Hero
Robert Langdon had no idea what he was in for. In what was supposed to be a routine trip to promote his book in Europe -- and to discuss matters with the director of the Louvre in Paris (Jacques Sauniere) -- he found himself in the middle of a deadly quest to find the Holy Grail.
In Dan Brown’s fast-paced thriller, The Di Vinci Code, the art history professor evolved into an action hero. The process was not easy, and this transformation only came into fruition before the climax of the story. Still, his arc was dynamic, for he changed from a reluctant observer caught in the middle of a dilemma to a person who took the initiative to complete the quest given to him by fate.
The catalyst of his change started in the first chapters of the book. In it, he became the prime suspect in Sauniere’s murder. He was not aware of Inspector Fache’s intention to have him arrested. However, another main character, Inspector Sophie Neveu (Sauniere’s estranged granddaughter) realized that Langdon was innocent, and made the decision to help him escape.
In the beginning, Langdon was presented as a passive character. Fate, intentions of other characters, and the riddles left by Sauniere drove Langdon to go on the journey to find the grail. However, fate alone can’t drive a character. He was an academic with a specialty in art history, symbolism, and knowledge of secret societies.
it was Langdon who jumped into action. However, it was Langdon who would steal the armored truck and head toward an old colleague, Teabing
In literature, a passive character -- especially one who happens to be the protagonist (as Langdon was) -- were not in control of their fate in the beginning of the story. Many characters start a story this way before they begin to take their own initiatives to complete the adventures they were in.
Langdon was a prime example of this type of character. Also, he was the one character with the largest arc in the story. He started off as an academic and ended the story as a mild-mannered form of Indiana Jones.
While throughout much of the story, characters such as Sophie, Teabing, and Fache, steered Langdon toward his goal, there were moments in which he took the initiative to get out of a dilemma. When Andre Vernet, president of the Paris branch of the Depository Bank of Zurich turned on Langdon and Neveu, it was Langdon who jumped into action. However, it was Langdon who would steal the armored truck and head toward an old colleague, Teabing (of course, this relationship will lead to a dramatic twist in the story).
Another catalyst to Langdon’s transformation was the clues left behind by Sauniere. These codes forced to him to do what he did best: to use his vast knowledge. Neveu was the one who deciphered the words or codes. Often, it was Langdon who put the deciphered information together and crack its meaning.
Langdon’s strength would eventually save the day. Not only could he put the pieces of the Grail puzzle together, he used it to outwit the main villain in the climactic scene.
Another strength Langdon had was his ability to understand the importance of choosing the right moral paths to take. In another pivotal scene, Neveu asked him what he’d do if he found the grail (or the real identity of the grail). His response was simple: it was up to her. Eventually, he believed the secret should be guarded.
Langdon may not have been the flashiest of savviest character. However, his transformation was dramatic and made him a worthy, and possibly, a memorable character.
© 2014 Dean Traylor