Guest Post: Who is Jonny Rokeby? Pt 2

Who is Jonny Rokeby? Part 2: The Icarus Theme (For Part 1, click here)

By ChrisC

I am operating under the assumption that J.K. Rowling means us to see Jonny Rokeby, rock star and father of Cormoran Strike, as an analogue of Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.  To understand my reasoning for this, please consult two previous essays, which can be found here and here.

There are at least three more facets to the character in relation to Marlowe’s text.  Exploring these facets could help gain an understanding both of how Rowling might portray Rokeby and how we are meant to see him when he first walks onstage.  Join me after the jump as we examine a trait that Papa Rock might share with a boy who couldn’t fly.

The Icarus Analogy

Marlowe compares Faustus to Icarus, from Greek Mythology.  Icarus was a boy whose curiosity and clumsiness got the better of him when he flew too close to the sun.  For the character of Rokeby, this analogy is dual-natured, with part being allegorical and the other mental.

The allegorical facet is a theme that dates all the way back to both ancient Greece as well as to the later Christian centuries.  In medieval times, the Myth of Icarus was seen as an allegory of fallible hubris in man.  This theme was later examined in depth by Harry Levin in his study, The Overreacher.  Troni Y. Grande provides a good summary of this theme as it applies to Faustus in her book Marlovian Tragedy: The Play of Dilation:

Four decades ago, Harry Levin established what has become virtually an interpretive paradigm for Marlowe studies.  Levin’s The Overreacher remains a classic of Marlowe criticism precisely because it traces a central recurring image throughout all of Marlowe’s works.  Levin argues that “Marlovian tragedy in stark outline” is represented by the figure of the overreacher, whose fall through pride is in turn mirrored in the recurring figures of Icarus and Phaeton (14).

It makes sense, then, to see Rokeby as a man whose self-image is constantly getting in the way of his better judgement.  He practically lives and dies by his own personal sense of pride.  This character flaw leads us into the mental aspect of the character.

The Icarus Complex

The psychological characteristics of the Icarus Complex are listed as follows:

It is seen in a personality type that contains many or all of the following attributes:[1]

  • cynosural narcissism (attention-seeking or admiration-seeking narcissistic behaviors)

  • ascensionism (the notion that the future is not dictated by the past or present, and no destination or goal is unreachable) combined with an anticipation of falling (a foreboding sense of a future “crash and burn”)

  • Cathexis of fire (an emotional drawing towards, or fascination with, fire) possible enuresis (bedwetting) or incontinence in childhood, linked to an abundance of water imagery.

  • Ancillary consequences of this personality complex are:

  • a craving for immortality (reascension)

  • a conception of woman as an object to be used for narcissistic gains (sex as narcissistic supply)[1]

  • Oedipal defiance.[3]

  • Perpetual adolescence [web].

Taken all together, it seems like we have the perfect recipe for a troubled and disturbed mind.


From what we’ve seen so far, it looks like Rowling might be ready to wheel out a genuine threat for the world’s next great Private Eye.  The irony is there is more than one way of reading these particular cards.  In the next post, I’ll be taking a look at one of the central figures from Faustus in order to see just who is in charge when it comes to the Big Bad of the Denmark Street series.

Does the idea of Rokeby as a hubris filled narcissist hold up or does it fall apart once exposed to sufficient light?  Let me know what you think in the comment boxes below!

One Stop Round Up Post with Links to Five Parts in the Series and John’s Three Take-Aways

  • John Granger’s summary of the best parts of ‘Who is Jonny Rokeby?’

Part 1: The Doctor Faustus Connection with Jonny Rokeby and the Strike Mysteries

  • That photograph of Rokeby and Duke Ellington we’re shown in The Silkworm is no small thing!

Part 2: The Icarus Theme in Faustus and Strike

  • Faust and Rokeby are Icarus figures, which is to say, Narcissists

Part 3: Is Rokeby the Devil’s Puppet or Whittaker’s Satanic Puppeteer?

  • Who is Mephistopheles in the Strike parallel to Faustus?

Part 4: Helen of Troy, Leda’s Suicide, Charlotte as Euripides’ ‘False Helen’

  • Rowling’s Mythological Artistry continued

Part 5: Charlotte Campbell and Jonny Rokeby as the Diabolical Couple of Lethal White

  • False Helen and the Devil conspire to destroy Strike for revenge and an end to vulnerability

Thank you again, ChrisC, for a fun series!




Speak Your Mind