Through the use of a preface, Umberto Eco presents The Name of the Rose as a book he came upon by chance. That book was a translation of a manuscript written by Adso of Melk, a monk in the fourteenth century. The fictional framing of the novel and distancing of the narrator from the story alert the reader to the theme of the way knowledge and understanding are gained and the novel’s questioning of the accuracy and relevance of what is learned.
Adso of Melk, a young novice monk, relates the story of how he accompanies the Franciscan monk William of Baskerville to an abbey in northern Italy, where a meeting between opposing factions in the Church will soon take place. The pope, who is very rich, wants to keep factions of monks who advocate poverty for the clergy from gaining power. The abbey is in a state of anxiety because a monk has recently died; the monks believe he was murdered and that supernatural, evil forces are loose in the abbey. As more deaths follow, William uses logic to discover how the monks died. William advocates observing carefully to understand the signs that will reveal truth. In contrast, others, such as the inquisitor Bernard Gui, rely on superstition and assumptions. William believes for a time that the murders follow a pattern laid out in the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation), and the elderly monk Jorge of Burgos encourages this line of thinking to distract William from the truth. There was not, in fact, a single murderer,...
(The entire section is 492 words.)