The Da Vinci Code: Chapter 52

Summary: Langdon and Sophie arrive at the sprawling Château Villette, estate of Sir Leigh Teabing. Over the intercom, Teabing asks an amusing series of questions to “test” his visitors’ “honor” before granting them entrance.

Analysis: Brown continues to slowly develop Teabing’s character, this time through the use of Teabing’s dialogue. We can now hear for ourselves, for instance, the recluse’s “predilection for dramatic antics” (p. 240)—the series of questions, a comedic variation on the tests of merit discussed earlier—as well as his strong British nationalism (in the question about tea or coffee—“Langdon knew Teabing’s feelings about the American phenomenon of coffee,” p. 241). Readers have no reason to think Teabing will be anything but an interesting and friendly ally to our protagonists—except, perhaps, the new information that Teabing “had suffered from polio as a child and now wore leg braces and walked with crutches” (p. 240). In other words, Teabing is crippled, lame, not whole. In real life, of course, one’s physical condition and disabilities bear no necessary correlation to one’s moral character. In literature, however, they often do. As Thomas C. Foster explains in his book How to Read Literature Like a Professor (New York: Quill Books, 1993), “Things have changed pretty dramatically in terms of equating scars or deformities with moral shortcomings or divine displeasure, but in literature we continue to understand physical imperfection in symbolic terms… [P]hysical markings by their very nature call attention to themselves and signify some psychological or thematic point the writer wants to make. After all, it’s easier to introduce characters without imperfections… So if a writer brings up a physical problem or handicap or deficiency, he probably means something by it” (pp. 194, 200). In other words, Sir Teabing’s handicap offers the first symbolic evidence that he may turn out to be a villain.