Summary: Still quickly but methodically contemplating Saunière’s riddle, Langdon pretends he realizes its solution. He demands that Teabing release Sophie before he will share the password. Sophie, however, choosing to make her stand with Langdon, declares she will not leave unless Langdon hand the cryptex to her or smash it on the floor—she does not want it and the knowledge it bears to fall into Teabing’s hands. For his part, Teabing has seen through Langdon’s deception, and Langdon knows it. In a flash, however, the solution does occur to him. He tosses the cryptex into the air; as Teabing moves to catch it, he crashes to the ground, no longer supported by his crutches. The cryptex is broken—but Teabing is able to slide it open easily. Langdon has already dialed in the correct password: APPLE, referring to the “orb” that legend says struck Sir Isaac Newton on the head, inspiring his formulation of the law of gravity. The map to the Grail’s location is safely on Langdon’s person. Bezu Fache arrives and arrests Teabing.
Analysis: In this, the novel’s climactic chapter, we at last learn the solution to Saunière’s final puzzle. The five-letter password to the keystone cryptex is “apple”: “The orb that ought be on Newton’s tomb could be none other than the Rosy apple that fell from heaven, struck Newton on the head, and inspired his life’s work” (p. 457). Although the incident of Newton’s apple sounds more legendary than historical, “Newton apparently said that the idea of universal gravity occurred to him when he saw an apple fall from a tree. Even though the story might seem a bit unlikely, ‘If somebody made it up, it was Newton himself,’ says [Alex] Vilenkin [of Tufts University]. ‘From people who wrote about it, some heard the story from Newton’” (http:www.eurekalert.org/features/kids/2009-06/tu-ina061609.php). But as this chapter also makes clear, the apple has larger symbolic significance: it is, according to much Christian tradition and Western art, “[t]he orb from which Eve partook… incurring the Holy wrath of God. Original sin. The symbol of the fall of the sacred feminine” (p. 457). The text of Genesis 3 itself does not specify the exact variety of “forbidden fruit” that Eve—and Adam—ate; nevertheless, from John Milton on, it has usually been identified as the symbol of humanity’s disobedience—specifically, as Langdon points out, the disobedience instigated by women. In the context of The Da Vinci Code, then, the apple is symbolically “redeemed.” In stating that it is an orb that should be on Newton’s tomb, it becomes a symbol of knowledge that is beneficial rather than destructive. It remains a feminine symbol—“The Rosy flesh with a seeded womb” (apple seeds are, of course, located inside apples)—but it is no longer a negative one. The groundwork for this symbolic redemption of the apple is laid when Langdon notices “the branches of Britain’s oldest apple tree… with five-petaled blossoms” outside the Abbey window as he thinks of how to respond to Teabing (pp. 451-452). (The five petals, of course, recall the pentacle, established earlier in the novel as a symbol of the sacred feminine).
This chapter also reveals how Teabing arranged Saunière’s death. As he preyed on Aringarosa’s fear of losing power and prestige, Teabing preyed on the Louvre curator’s “deepest fears” (p. 452): the fear that something might happen to his beloved though estranged granddaughter, Sophie. Thus readers see how easily fears can be exploited. Not even the cleverest among us is immune. Ironically, however, Langdon exploits Teabing’s greatest fear—that the secret Sangreal knowledge will be lost—by tossing the cryptex into the air, after he has already managed to open it. Indeed, in that “slow-motion” moment, “Teabing’s entire world became the airborne keystone” (p. 456). Langdon, in contrast, is able to perform such a risky action because he is committed to the truth for its own sake—not for an agenda, as is Teabing. “The Teacher” has misjudged his student, who indeed has proven himself “worthy” of finding the Grail (p. 458).