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Free Study Guide for The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown: BookNotes

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Jacques Saunière, a renowned curator at the Louvre, is working late at the museum. He is being chased by a large albino man. The albino has discovered some information that Jacques has apparently guarded very carefully. The man tries to extract the remaining information from Jacques. Finally, Jacques tells the man he will share the secret. Jacques recites a carefully rehearsed lie. The albino is satisfied because “the others” have given him the same information. Jacques is shocked because this means that the albino has uncovered his true identity, as well as the true identities of his three sénéchaux.

The albino shoots Jacques in the stomach. As he lay dying in the Grand Gallery, Jacques thinks about how he must pass on the true secret or it will die with him. There is only one person he can share the secret with and the only tools he has are the paintings.


In a novel, the prologue is a section that offers introductory information before the exposition. Unlike the exposition, which offers background information on the main characters and critical aspects of the plot, this prologue works to grab the reader’s attention. These last minutes of Jacques’s life provide a mystery that will fuel the exposition: throughout the exposition, we learn about the main characters as they try to solve the mysterious final moments of Jacques’s life.



Robert Langdon, an American professor from Harvard, is awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call. Langdon is staying at the Ritz in Paris where he has just delivered a lecture on religious symbology. The phone call is from the concierge who tells Langdon there is a very important man who wants to see him. Langdon asks the concierge to take the man’s number so he can call him the following day. Minutes later, the concierge calls again to tell Langdon that the visitor is coming to his room.

Soon after, Lieutenant Jérôme Collet knocks at Langdon’s door. Collet works for the DCPJ, the French equivalent of the U.S. FBI. Collet says he has been sent to ask for Langdon’s help in investigating the death of Jacques Saunière. The DCPJ learned from Jacques Saunière’s date-book that he was scheduled to meet with Langdon that evening. Collet shows Langdon a strange picture of Jacques’s corpse. Collet tells Langdon that Jacques situated himself in the odd position before he died.

Meanwhile the albino, whose name is Silas, returns to his bare room. He calls the Teacher to tell him that the three sénéchaux and the Grand Master are dead. Moreover, all four gave the same information before they died. Silas has learned from them that the keystone is located in the Church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris. The Teacher says he will arrange for Silas to enter the church. Before Silas goes to the church, he beats himself with a heavy, knotted rope as punishment for his sins. Although Silas already wears a cilice, he believes he must further purify himself.

Langdon and Collet arrive at the Louvre. Inside Langdon meets Captain Bezu Fache, who informs Langdon that the photograph is only the beginning of what Saunière did. Fache questions Langdon about his arranged meeting with Saunière that evening. Langdon tells Fache that he has never met Saunière and it was Saunière who requested the meeting, which never occurred. Langdon tells Fache that he was looking forward to meeting Saunière because Saunière was knowledgeable in the subject of Langdon’s latest book. Langdon hesitates to explain that the book is about the iconography of goddess worship. As Langdon anticipates, Fache has difficulty understanding the controversial topic.

Langdon asks Fache if the security cameras throughout the Louvre are real. Fache says they are not. Instead, the Louvre has a security system which seeks to contain intruders by sealing off rooms and exits. As Fache and Langdon near the murder scene, Fache tells his officers not to bother them for any reason.

The same evening, Bishop Manuel Aringarosa, the president-general of Opus Dei (a notorious Catholic organization), boards a plane. Earlier, he received a call telling him the keystone has been located. The caller asks for his influence in gaining access to Saint-Sulpice that evening.


These chapters begin the novel’s exposition, which lasts through chapter 20. The exposition is the section of a novel in which the main characters and main conflict are introduced. Any relevant background information is also given in this section. This novel will have two protagonists, or main characters who work to overcome some obstacle. In these chapters we meet the male protagonist, Robert Langdon.

We also meet the formidable Bezu Fache. We learn that his subordinates refer to him as “the bull.” However, Brown leaves the meaning of his name, Fache, ambiguous. In French “fache” means angry. Often authors will use character’s names to develop their characterization. In this case we should be aware that Brown presents Fache as an angry bull. As we will see, Fache is hot-tempered and stubborn.

In these chapters we are also introduced to an organization associated with the Catholic Church called Opus Dei. The web-site Brown gives,, supports much of his description of the organization.

In the exposition chapters Brown introduces a style of writing that supports the novel’s mysterious, suspenseful tone. The chapters are short and filled with action; they constantly switch back and forth between various subplots which will converge. Brown frequently gives just enough information to keep the reader’s attention, without revealing the whole story. For example, we learn that Saunière was found in an odd position but we do not learn how he arranged himself until a few chapters later. These techniques build suspense.

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