Angels and Demons is built around a number of paired/opposed forces that wind through the novel as they do human society and human history.
Science Versus Faith
The clash between science and faith is everywhere in Angels and Demons. It is symbolized through the opposing organizations of the Illuminati (who claim to speak for free thought and science) and the Catholic Church (which bulwarks two millennia of dedication to the Christian faith). That this clash can be a war is spelled out by both sides, though Leonardo Vetra and his daughter show readers that it is possible for these two methods of seeking the truth to find peaceful accord within a single heart. However, the camerlengo’s impassioned “surrender” to science in the war shows how uncommon and unlikely such a resolution is. The camerlengo articulates the case for pure faith, in large part because he can see the hand of God in his life. By contrast, Maximilian Kohler’s life was ruined by a misinformed faith, and so he burns with an anticlerical fire.
Passionate Dedication Versus Obsession
Leonardo Vetra, whose murder begins Langdon’s involvement with the novel’s complex mysteries, is a fine example of the ideal of passionate dedication, as is his counterpart, the assassinated pope. Each man pursued truth and supported his chosen organization with his whole heart. Both touched others with their evident devotion, which was intense, but not so single-minded that it excluded the human. Both of these busy men found time in their lives to embrace their children, children who joined their families voluntarily. By contrast, Maximilian Kohler, the camerlengo, and the assassin all embody the dark side of dedication, which is obsession. Each is willing to allow suffering, and even to create suffering and bloody death, in order to pursue his goals.
Public Versus Private
The control and...
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Many of the articles analyzing Angels and Demons discuss it in one of two related lights: as a mass-market phenomenon, or as a sequel to/continuation of The Da Vinci Code. Such articles tend to limit themselves to reporting the number of copies sold or to commenting on the upcoming film version (2009) again starring Tom Hanks. A few manage to discuss the influence of Angels and Demons without really commenting on the novel’s quality, instead focusing only on the content.
The more substantial discussions focus on the thorny issue present in all of Dan Brown’s novels: his claims to a factual basis for his works. In Secrets of Angels & Demons: The Unauthorized Guide to the Bestselling Novel, Dan Burstein, as summarized by Carol Memmott, pointed out how Brown had bent the facts in Angels and Demons to better serve his plot. (Brown’s indication that the camerlengo cannot be made pope is not accurate, nor is his description late in the novel of election through adoration.) In an article for New Scientist, James Gillies discusses Brown’s scientific inaccuracies, which extend to his descriptions of CERN (and the science involved in antimatter). Writing for Money magazine, David Futrelle uses Brown’s novel as an entry into discussing the symbolism on American money, implicitly granting Brown some legitimacy as a researcher. In his review of the novel for Currents in Theology and Mission, Bruce P. Rittenhouse slides from discussing primarily the factual or nonfactual basis of the novel to critiquing Brown’s understanding of Christianity and apparent failure to distinguish Catholicism from Christianity in general.