Ink Black Heart: Tell Tale Heart

Hearts are everywhere in Strike6. As mentioned yesterday, the epigraphs before each of the book’s seven parts is about the heart organ, passages from Gray’s Anatomy. The hero of the cartoon ‘Ink Black Heart’ is Harty, a black-hearted character that is not good, even evil, but working on his issues. The opening epigraph of the book and many if not most of the 107 chapter epigraphs from Victorian Era women poets mention the heart as spiritual faculty. Inside the story-line we learn that cartoon Harty is combatting the mind and the will, which is straight up psychomachia. If that weren’t enough, one character is hospitalized with a heart attack and Strike himself has all the symptoms of someone with an incipient ‘coronary event.’

I predicted this idea of the heart would be the essential Christian symbolism of the novel.

I will be astonished if Ink Black Heart does not in large part depend, then, at least with respect to its symbolism, on the Estecean and hesychast understanding of ‘heart’ as the spiritual organ and vessel within the human person. Harry Potter the character in that series was the ‘heart’ of the soul-triptych there and the literary alchemy was about the enlightenment or illumination of his leaden heart, the sacrificial love of his mother being key to the boy’s victory over the Dark Lord, the shadow who worked to achieve immortality by a psychopathic disregard of others.

This is the heart and soul of English High Fantasy and much of the other literature post Coleridge, a teaching that Lewis has from Barfield as well as the Bard of Ottery St Mary, that Tolkien had through Newman and the fathers at the Birmingham Oratory, and that Nabokov has from Dodgson-Carroll, the Cambridge Platonists, and his training in iconography. Nabokov like Rowling was no churchman but, as with her other influences, his work and hers delivers a powerful spiritual message that is simultaneously and more importantly an imaginative experience of transformation all but essential to overcoming the obstacles to spiritual life today.

Look for the enlightened heart as well as the ink black ones in the albedo of Strike 6, the alchemical stage in which the transformation revealed in the rubedo crisis actually takes place.

I look forward to reading your thoughts about the heart, literal and metaphorical, in Ink Black Heart.


  1. says

    ‘In the end, it mattered not that you could not close your mind. It was your heart that saved you.’ I think we are seeing strong echoes of this theme in the redemption of Strike – a man who has navigated life by relying heavily on his formidable intellect. Isn’t it critical that Charlotte’s inability/unwillingness to show basic love for her children (in powerful contrast to Robin’s willingness to risk all to protect children who are not her own) that has finally broken her hold over him?

  2. Evan Willis wrote on another thread:

    The fairy tale about the giant with the stone heart that served as the inspiration for Hearty, and the reasoning for how Hearty survived, directly parallel Horcruxes (introduced in HBP), while also seeming to reference “The Wizard with the Hairy Heart” from Beadle. Here, the Heart has survived and stayed pure as it was cut out of the rest of the soul which was evil. A paradoxical good Horcrux. (Again, given the Horcrux/B6 connection I figure this goes here, but might also have gone well in the Heart discussion page).

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