A NORTAV Analysis of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code

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Narrative Mode: NCE 1

Narrator: Omniscient

Narrative Intrusion: Yes

Focal Character(s): Jacques Sauniere

Prose Type(s) and/or Beat Types(s): DCE with the occasional use of Consolidated NCE and incidental Narration.

Narrative Tense: Past

Additional Constraints: None

Narrative Pattern: NCE 1 throughout

Source: Prologue; Paragraphs 1-19


    [Na1] Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery. He lunged for the nearest painting he could see, a Carravagio. Grabbing the gilded frame, the seventy-three-year-old man heaved the masterpiece toward himself until it tore from the wall and Saunière collapsed backward in a heap beneath the canvas.

Brown opens with a compound Narrated Action beat, [Na1]. What we have here are several consecutive actions performed by the focal character Sauniere. The actions themselves are phrased in such a way as to be very DCE-like. That is, the reader feels like she is experiencing these events from within Sauniere, but there are several places where Brown adds incidental Narration to provide the reader with information about the story that does not come from Sauniere himself, but rather from the narrator. For example, the reader is told who Sauniere is (“Renowned curator”) through incidental Narration. We’re also told how old the curator is (“seventy-three-year-old”) through incidental Narration. There are a few other places that could be incidental Narration. For instance, “…the museum’s Grand Gallery” could be incidental Narration or incidental Observation/Thought. Same with “…he could see, a Carravago.”

Thus, the combination of DCE with incidental Narration produces an NCE-based narrative mode.

    [No2] As he anticipated, a thundering iron gate fell nearby, barricading the entrance to the suite. The parquet floor shook. Far off, an alarm began to ring.

Here [Na1] leads to compound Narrated Observation beat [No2]. This is Sauniere’s direct observation, but notice it also includes incidental Narration (“As he anticipated”), and thus the mode continues as NCE.

    [Na3] The curator lay a moment, gasping for breath, [Nc4] taking stock. [Nt5] I am still alive. [Na6] He crawled out from under the canvas and scanned the cavernous space for someplace to hide.

[No2] leads to Narrated Action beat [Na3] and Condensed NCE beat [Nc4], which is an abstraction or roll up of Sauniere’s mental activity. [Nc4] leads to Narrated Thought beat [Nt5], which is a continuation of the mental process rolled up in [Nc4]. This leads to Narrated Action beat [Na6].

    [No7] A voice spoke, chillingly close. “Do not move.”

Here [No7] is an initiating Narrated Observation beat. The beat interrupts into the prose chain.

    [Nr8] On his hands and knees, the curator froze, [Na9] turning his head slowly.

[No7] triggers Narrated Reaction beat [Nr8], which also includes a bit of incidental Narration (“On his hands and knees”). [No7] also triggers Narrated Action beat [Na9]. [Nr8] and [Na9] follow the natural response sequence.

    [No10] Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils. The albino drew a pistol from his coat and aimed the long silencer through the bars, directly at the curator. [No11] “You should not have run.” [Nt12] His accent was not easy to place. [No13] “Now tell me where it is.”

Here [Na9] leads to compound Narrated Observation beat [No10]. This leads to Narrated Observation beat [No11], which triggers Sauniere’s thought in Narrated Thought beat [Nt12]. Notice the observation in [No11] is not included in the previous compound beat because it acts alone in the prose chain to trigger [Nt12]. [No13] is an initiating Narrated Observation beat.

    [Nv14] “I told you already,” the curator stammered, kneeling defenseless on the floor of the gallery. “I have no idea what you are talking about!”

[No13] triggers Sauniere’s response in Narrated Vocalization beat [Nv14]. Notice [Nv14] includes incidental Narration (“ kneeling defenseless on the floor of the gallery”). This is the narrator describing the scene, not Sauniere’s direct perceptions and activities. This continued use of incidental Narration keeps the narrator’s presence noticable by the reader, and thus we consider this mode NCE-based, rather than DCE-based with an occasional ignored narrative interruption.

    [No15] “You are lying.” The man stared at him, perfectly immobile except for the glint in his ghostly eyes. “You and your brethren possess something that is not yours.”

Here [No15] is a compound Narrated Observation beat.

    [Nr16] The curator felt a surge of adrenalin. [Nt17] How could he possibly know this?

[No15] triggers Sauniere’s reaction in Narrated Reaction beat [Nr16] and his thought in Narrated Thought beat [Nt17], both of which follow the natural response sequence.

    [No18] “Tonight the rightful guardians will be restored. Tell me where it is hidden, and you will live.” The man leveled his gun at the curator’s head. “Is it a secret you will die for?”

[No18] is an initiating compound Narrated Observation beat .

    [Nr19] Saunière could not breathe.

Here [N018] triggers Narrated Reaction beat [Nr19].

    [No20] The man tilted his head and closed one eye, peering down the barrel of his gun.

[Nr19] leads to Narrated Observation beat [No20].

    [Nr21] Saunière held up his hands in defense. [Nv22] “Wait,” he said slowly. “I will tell you what you need to know.” [Nc23] The curator spoke his next words carefully. The lie he told was one he had rehearsed many times…each time praying he would never have to use it.

[No20] triggers Sauniere’s reaction in Narrated Reaction beat [Nr21] and his vocalization in Narrated Vocalization beat [Nv22]. This leads Condensed NCE beat [Nc23]. Pay close attention to this beat. This is an abstraction or rollup of what Sauniere is telling the albino, and what he is thinking while he tells it to him. Notice it’s condensed in a way that lets the reader experience the beat, but it does not reveal to the reader what was actually said. This is a trick often used in NCE when the writer wants to keep the reader somewhat “within” the focal character, and yet wants to hide some of what the focal character is experiencing from the reader.

    [No24] When the curator had finished speaking, his assailant smiled smugly. “Yes. This is exactly what the others told me.”

[Nc23] leads to Narrated Observation beat [No24]. There is a bit of incidental Narration (“When the curator had finished speaking…”) here that helps guide the reader from the previous beat to this beat.

    [Nr25] Saunière recoiled. [Nt26] The others?

[No24] triggers Narrated Reaction beat [Nr25] and Narrated Thought beat [Nt26], which follow the natural response sequence.

    [No27] “I found them, too,” the huge man taunted. “All three of them. They confirmed what you have just said.”

Here is an initiating Narrated Observation beat, [No27]. The albino’s speech interrupts into the prose chain.

    [Nt28] It cannot be! The curator’s true identity, along with the identities of his three sénéchaux, was almost as sacred as the ancient secret they protected.Saunière now realized his sénéchaux, following strict procedure, had told the same lie before their own deaths. It was part of the protocol.

[No27] triggers this compound Narrated Thought beat [Nt28].

    [No29] The attacker aimed his gun again. “When you are gone, I will be the only one who knows the truth.”

[No29] is a initiating Narrated Observation beat.

    [Nt30] The truth. In an instant, the curator grasped the true horror of the situation…

[No29] triggers Sauniere’s realization in Narrated Thought beat [Nt30]. Notice the beat is abstracted somewhat to hide what the realization actually is.

In short, Brown’s style here is to combine bits of incidental narration and an occasional beat of Consolidated NCE and/or Narration to what is basically tightly written DCE. This style of NCE is very intimate, and contrasts with some of the more distant forms of NCE we’ve seen, such as Tolkien’s. Where Tolkien’s narrator is always present and noticeable to the reader, Brown’s prose is more centered within the focal character, and the narrator only peeks his head in on occasion to provide the reader with a bit of story information or to guide the reader through some of the more tricky beat sections of the prose.

Source Copyright

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Copyright 2003 By Dan Brown

Excerpted for this analysis under the Fair Use doctrine codified in Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law.


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