Art and Literature Term Paper

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Humanities are Important:

An analysis of the Da Vinci Code, Beethoven's 9th, and 1984.

A novel by George Orwell (pseudonym), real name Eric Blair

Published in 1949

A reaction to the totalitarian state engulfing the global community

The Da Vinci Code

A (2006) film by Ron Howard

Based on the novel by Dan Brown

Robert Langdon follows a series of clues that link Leonardo's masterpieces, the mystery of Jesus Christ, and a totalitarian regime in the guise of the Catholic Church

Beethoven's 9th Symphony

Completed in 1824 after the composer (Ludwig van Beethoven) had gone completely deaf, this -- his final symphony -- is often considered to be one of the greatest musical masterpieces of all time. The fourth movement is based on Schiller's "Ode to Joy" and invokes a chorus of universal brotherhood. If you listen long enough, you will hear the music swell into a magnificent burst of joy based on and representative of the awesome powers of truth and love as described in Schiller's poem.

What the 3 works of art have in common:

Each represents a vision of humanity, whether in totalitarian chains (as depicted in 1984 and The Da Vinci Code) or gloriously free, alive, and aware of both beauty and truth (as depicted in Beethoven's 9th)

By analyzing each work, we can come to understand more deeply the human need for truth, beauty, and love -- as well as the need for authority that rules not by fear but by care and compassion.

How the 3 works relate to my profession

As an Investment Advisor, honesty and accountability is something that my clients can value in me

These 3 works are about honesty -- whether historical or philosophical

By studying the humanities -- and these 3 works in particular -- I will show how honesty in art can translate into honesty in my field of work as an investment advisor


A fictional narrative account of one Winston Smith -- citizen of Oceania, 1984 gave the 20th century such terms as "Newspeak," "thoughtcrime," "doublethink," and "Big Brother."

Orwell introduces the reader to the ultra-totalitarian world of 1984 through the character of Winston Smith, whose job it is to revise history as the Party wishes it to be told.

Winston gradually begins to desire to know the true history of the world -- as opposed to that which the Party wishes to convey in order to keep its citizens in subjection.

Winston attempts to seek solace outside the Party in another human being; ultimately, however, Winston and his love are brought back under control of the Party -- and both pronounce their devotion to Big Brother.

1984 cont'd

Through the use of the following artistic elements:

Ironic juxtaposition in slogans ("Ignorance is Strength"): signs such as these appear all over Oceania (the world Smith inhabits), reinforcing the outrageous notion that intellectual honesty is unnecessary.

The creation of new words ("Doublethink"): to get Smith and the rest of the citizens of Oceania to embrace the dishonest ideology, a new terminology is devised that will help coax the citizens into accepting the false doctrine. Smith's nemesis, O'Brien, constantly employs "Doublethink" when attempting to return Smith to the Party line: "Reality control," they called it; in Newspeak, "doublethink."

Satire ("History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.") (Orwell, p.155)

1984 cont'd:

Orwell creates a vision of a dystopian future that has come to be called "prophetic" by scholars like Ruth Ann Lief (1969).

The Elements of Artistic Composition are used throughout 1984 to reinforce the notion that nothing is what it seems.

For an investment analyst, the lesson can be taken to heart: clients want advice that will help them make good investments. Analyzing the data honestly and accurately -- like Winston Smith tries to do -- is what can help someone like me become a favorite among clients.

The Da Vinci Code

Film (2006)

Mystery/Thriller about the "lost bloodline" of Jesus Christ.

Director Ron Howard blends religious mythology with historical fiction to create a live action film in which two detectives uncover clues about the true past.

The Da Vinci Code cont'd

Through the use of:

Light and shadow to convey scenes of tension -- for example in the opening sequence when the evil monk murders the guardian of the Da Vinci code

Renaissance Art to convey a sense of awe and wonder and mystery: the famous Last Supper by Leonardo is important to the narrative of the film because it contains in it part of the secret concerning Mary Magdalene -- who, they say, is actually present in the portrait (in the person of John)

Musical score (by Hans Zimmer) to draw the audience to the narrative

And Flashback sequences to allow the audience to visualize plot details -- for instance when the secret of the Knights Templar is disclosed; flashback allows the plot to advance without slowing down the pace of the film by giving all the necessary details in chronological order; instead, we can jump back and forth in time thanks to the flashback convention

Ron Howard creates an original vision of what the past was like according to the parameters of the fictional cinematic narrative. Using the elements of artistic composition stated above, Howard crafts a fast-paced, high-energy, mystery/thriller that never gets bogged down under the weight of its story.

Beethoven's 9th Symphony

Classical music at the height of the Romantic Age

Unlike any other composer's symphony (except for Liszt's and Mahler's -- both of whom took their inspiration from Beethoven's), Beethoven's 9th employs a chorus to express what the orchestra alone could not (McLellan, 1988, p. 3).

The 9th includes the use of Instrumentation


Poetry ("Ode to Joy")

Romantic Idealism (the theme of universal brotherhood)

1984: Mood, Theme, and Interpretation

I find Orwell's 1984 to be a novel of immense darkness: for example, there is little humor to be found anywhere in it -- other than the humor one may take in the absurd juxtapositions used to create the Ministry's propaganda: "War is Peace," "Ignorance is Strength."

The plot of the novel also seems to lack imagination. Rather than journey with Winston through a process of beautiful discovery, the world of 1984 never really quite opens up beyond the walls of its cold, totalitarian system -- and inevitably Winston's intellectual search for the truth is foiled, and he is re-integrated into the Party fold following an intense session of brainwashing.

1984: Mood… cont'd

The mood of the novel is, therefore, pessimistic and cynical. Winston cannot escape the clutches of Big Brother because he possesses no transcendental truth -- although he longs for historical truth.

This, of course, is understandable since the theme of the novel concerns the total relentlessness of regime governance by fear and dishonesty rather than by care and compassion.

The Da Vinci Code: Mood, Theme, and Interpretation

This Ron Howard film suffers from an oversimplification of ideas and fantasy revisionism. While it aims at being a "who-dunnit" mystery/thriller that reduces the supernatural nature of the mysteries of Christ to the mere level of human nature, it fails to be convincing (even though it takes itself very seriously in its execution).

In the end, The Da Vinci Code must settle for being a silly fantasy adventure that (like 1984) fails to embrace any truly transcendental ideals.

The Da Vinci Code: Mood… cont'd

Like 1984, the mood of this film is dark -- yet it also manages to be playful (after all, it stars Tom Hanks, who cannot help but bring an element of personality to the role).

The theme of the film is that of exposure of the truth behind the totalitarian control of a centuries-long, universally established system of power (the Church) that has attempted to subvert humankind by replacing historical truth with falsehood.

Beethoven's 9th: Mood, Theme, and Interpretation

Beethoven's 9th is a jubilant expression of joy found in the Romantic ideal of universal love and brotherhood based on truth, friendship, and the overcoming of suffering

The mood is gloriously bright, uplifting, and transcendent -- especially in the final movement.

The theme is one of transcendence -- which is lacking in both The Da Vinci Code and 1984. Beethoven's 9th is thematically optimistic.

Similarities and Differences among the Works


Music: Although music does appear in 1984, it is incongruous with the overall atmosphere of the novel and never acts as a means of transcendence -- as Beethoven's 9th proposes to do.

Likewise, in The Da Vinci Code, music is used to help effect certain emotions during scenes of drama, violence, happiness, or panic -- but never in as truly joyful and transcendent a way as Beethoven uses it in his 9th symphony.

Similarities… cont'd

The theme of oppression: The idea that we are being manipulated and controlled by denial of the truth is common to the novel and the film -- yet in the 9th symphony this notion of totalitarianism is lacking -- although it may…[continue]

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