Rowling Writes a Medieval Morality Play: Reading Troubled Blood as an Allegory 1

Troubled Blood‘s epigraphs are with one exception all from Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queen. He was a late 16th Century poet writing intentionally Medieval (and even in his time what seemed anachronistic) drama about the importance of acquiring virtue for a successful end in the human spiritual journey. Spenser, as he writes to Raleigh and in Faerie Queen, is “delighting” readers with his story and poem but “instructing” them in virtue as well. His principal means to that end is writing an engaging allegory or Morality Play of the soul’s path to salvation — or to perdition.

My working thesis in writing three posts on this subject is that Rowling is pursuing the same “instructing while delighting” ends in Strike5 as the author of Faerie Queen and writing an intentionally Spenserian spiritual allegory to get there.  Troubled Blood‘s embedded story, in brief, is the three-fold allegory of the life and after-life of Margot Bamborough, which Rowling uses to illustrate “changes in the history of feminism” as well as to instruct about “morality” and “mortality,” her “obsession.”

  • The 1974 story is an allegorical drama after Spenser about the evils and failings of the Institutional Church, here Roman Catholicism, in which Margot, ‘the Pearl,’ or Christ-seeking soul, falls to the delusions of Art, Science, and Power, i.e., ‘the World,’ on her pilgrimage through life, and is judged by God and sentenced to death for her misdeeds and poor choices.
  • The meanings of Margot’s last name, of the names of the three Bayliss sisters, and of ‘Dennis Creed’ extend the Buntan-esque allegory of a soul’s journey to a critique of Steinem era and contemporary feminism, an extension I will explore in a second post on reading Strike5 as allegory.
  • The post 1974 story, especially the 2014 investigation of her disappearance by Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott, is the Morality Play of the Repentant Sinner spirit, Margot’s ghost, who, after her death, labors – by dreams, via occult openings to the psychic realm, and by inspiring thoughts in those sensitive to her influence — to reveal her fate and her murderer and to draw attention to the sins she committed and to help and protect those she misled or left behind.

The Margot Bamborough case starts in Cornwall and Falmouth with pointers to the Medieval Morality Play to come. Check out the first description of Anna Phipps:

The dark woman was slighter in build. Her large gray eyes shone palely in her long face. She had an air of intensity, even of fanaticism, about her in the half-light, like a medieval martyr. (15)

Note, too, her disappointment that Strike at their Falmouth meeting was not going to swear a knightly oath to find her mother or die in the attempt:

Strike’s stump protested at being asked to support his weight again so soon after sitting down, but there seemed little more to discuss, especially as Anna had regressed into a tearful silence. Slightly regretting the untouched plate of biscuits, the detective shook Anna’s cool hand.

“Thanks, anyway,” she said, and he had the feeling that he had disappointed her, that she’d hoped he would make her a promise of the truth, that he would swear upon his honor to do what everyone else had failed to do. (52) 

A Medieval martyr charges her anointed knight to go into the perilous quest…

As we’ll see in this first Spenser-inspired reading, though, it is not hints like these but the names and behaviors of the characters playing allegorical roles in Rowling-Galbraith’s interior spiritual drama of a soul’s fall from grace and redemption in the next world that are the give-aways to their second meaning, characters named King, Queen, Sin, Moon, Prudence, Peace, Janus, Glory, Pearl, Una, Cross, Creed, Law, and, of course, God. I won’t decipher all that in today and the next two allegory posts but I am hopeful about making a compelling case that (1) a Spenserian allegory, simultaneously spiritual and political, is the story-within-the-story of Troubled Blood and (2) that Rowling once again is making the case for leading a virtuous life in remembrance of death and the life to come.

We’ll start with the star of the show, Margot Bamborough, review her life on earth for its allegorical qualities and meaning, and then discuss the evidence that her ghost haunts and directs much of the action in Troubled Blood. Join me after the jump for the first part of three allegorical readings of Strike5.

The 1974 Spenserian Allegorical Drama: The Characters and Their Spiritual Meaning

Margot’s name is from the Greek word for ‘Pearl,’ which means symbolically like gold ‘material light’ and is representative of the ‘light within’ or the human spiritual faculty or logos continuous with the Logos Christ, the ‘Pearl of Great Price.’ As the Pure Soul and Spiritual Seeker of the story, alas, she abandons faith in God and Christ as a child because of the seeming injustice of her father’s literal fall from a ladder and her family’s subsequent poverty.

Still of a loving nature, though, and in dutiful, sacrificial service to her near-destitute parents, the Pearl dedicates her life to achieving sufficient status and power in the World to provide for her adoring mother and father. She is chaste, determined, and focused on her duty to honor her dependent parents.

She befriends Oonaugh, hereafter ‘Una’ per Spenser, who has also abandoned faith in God and Christ on her spiritual pilgrimage. She has come from Ireland as did St Mawes, but not as a missionary of the Catholic Church to England; she has crossed the water to escape what Rowling would certainly describe as the “fundamentalist” Catholic beliefs of her mother and the physical and psychological abuse she suffered at the hands of nuns. As Beatrice Groves has explained, Rowling’s Una is by story’s end a parallel with Spenser’s use of Una as an allegorical figure of the English ‘One True Church,’ Anglicanism rather than Catholicism. At story’s start, though, she is just the Pearl’s best mate and not Catholic.

The Reverend Una explains to Strike and Robin:

“[Margot] wasn’t a churchgoer?” Robin asked.

“At’eist t’rough and t’rough,” said Oonagh. “She t’ought it was all superstition. Her mammy was chapel, and Margot reacted against it. The church kept women down, was the way Margot looked at it, and she said to me, ‘If there’s a God, why’d my daddy, who’s a good man, have to fall off that step-ladder? Why’s my family have to live the life we’ve had?’ Well, Margot couldn’t tell me anything about hypocrisy and religion I didn’t already know. I’d left the Catholics by then. Doctrine of papal infallibility. No contraception, no matter if women died having their eleventh.

“My own mammy t’ought she was God’s deputy on this earth, so she did, and some of the nuns at my school were pure bitches. Sister Mary Theresa—see there?” said Oonagh, pushing her fringe out of her eyes to reveal a scar the size of a five-pence piece. “She hit me round the head wit’ a metal set square. Blood everywhere. ‘I expect you deserved it,’ Mammy said. (275)

Together, the twined spirits of Una and the Pearl enter the World, here represented wonderfully by the Playboy Club, in which they are ‘Bunny Girls,’ well-compensated eye-candy who tease and tempt wealthy men with their physical beauty; they do this in their misguided belief that they can achieve Salvation or victory over the World and Death via the World’s devices, namely financial independence, rather than through faith and the sacraments of the Church.

The Pearl, however, being a serious seeker, succeeds in keeping the World as represented by the lustful, powerful, moneyed men at the Club, at arm’s length. She falls in the end, though, to the false god or idol of Art in the person of Paul Satchwell. His name derives from the Greek word for “shorty” and the Latin sicca villa (cf., the entries for ‘Satchwell’ and ‘Setchfield’ in Rowling’s name reference book, A Dictionary of English Surnames), “dry home” or, I think here because of the spiritual symbolism of water, “dry well.” Una, who is if anything too experienced in the ways of men like Satchwell, rescues her friend, but is unable to extinguish Margot’s bond with the spiritually vacant, corruptive force represented in Satchwell’s paintings as mythic or otherworldly sex and bondage to pleasure.

Margot, liberated at least temporarily from the dead end or dry well of Art, returns to her vain pursuit of status in the World to overcome the World and Death. She pursues a new idol, Science, Art’s worldly twin in terms of their shared opposition to and distraction from a focus on the spiritual dimension and our end in death. She studies in fact to become a medical doctor, which in the allegory represents Man’s mistaken efforts to conquer Death by forestalling physical death with his own ingenuity, which delusion more often than not leads to self-preoccupation with bodily health and to spiritual death.

Belief in Science’s salvific power today, of course, is the great faith of the worldly-minded and the Pearl naturally finds in her pursuit of status here the power she believes will enable her to ‘save’ her parents, which is to say, provide all their material needs. She marries Power, in fact; Roy Phipps. This Born to the Manor gentleman’s first name derives from the French word for ‘King’ and his surname is defined in Rowling’s Dictionary as “a pet form of Phillip” (349). This could simply be a reference to the present day Prince Phillip, the reigning queen’s royal consort since 1947. I think there are two better readings, namely (sic), King Phillip II of Spain who, as self-anointed defender of the Catholic faith against the Reformation and consort to Mary Tudor, assembled and dispatched the Spanish Armada to conquer England during Spenser’s time, and ‘Phipps’ read as ‘Pips,’ which means both the “spots on dice, playing cards, or dominoes” and “metal insigne of rank on the shoulders of commissioned officers.”

King Rank-Marker’ or ‘King by Chance not Divine Right or Election’ with the Prince Phillip shadowing is not flattery, but a pointer to his allegorical meaning in the story, namely, worldly Status and Power. The connection with Queen Elizabeth I’s great Catholic rival is a direct pointer to Spenser. The Spanish Armada sailed and sank in 1588; the first books of the Faerie Queen are published in 1590. Spenser’s allegory is open in its despising of all things Roman Catholic and Rowling, as we’ll see, follows suit in Troubled Blood.

The King or Power Holder in Troubled Blood has a blood-disease, which in the allegorical reading, means he only has his authority by blood descent from other power holders, not by any spiritual accomplishment or merit with respect to virtue. He seeks to overcome this disease, just as Margot does her situation with her poor parents, by adulation of Science – in his case, by the study of blood or hematology – rather than faith. Being King, though, and necessarily of the World, not to mention the story stand-in for crusading King Phillip II, he maintains nominal religious belief in the Institutional Church, Catholicism.

The irony, of course, is that the Church offers the Blood of Christ as the sacramental means to overcome the World and Death. This King isn’t having any of that superstitious nonsense, which leads to his literal impotence, life as he puts it as a “helpless bloody bleeder,” and separation from Margot, the Pearl of Great Price. Note that the English expletive “bloody,” rightly or (probably) wrongly, has for centuries been assumed to be a contraction-as-intensifier of “by Our Lady,” an oath of sorts in reference to the Virgin Mary and, as such, peculiar to Catholics.

Margot the Pure Soul, however, finds marriage to Power and having the King’s child, unfulfilling. She has a single daughter, of course; her husband Roy the King is, in addition to being an allegorical cipher for King Phillip II, also the English king Henry VIII per Cynthia, his second wife, who appears in costume as the usurping Anne Boleyn at Hampton Court. In this historical allegory, Margot represents Catherine of Aragorn, Henry’s first of six wives and in many ways the most important, who only bore him a daughter, no sons, setting off the English Reformation.

Atheist Margot still seeking something to have faith in and unhappy in marriage to the King becomes, according to Una Kennedy (surname meaning, per Rowling’s Dictionary again, “ugly head”), a religious devotee of the Siren of Song, Joni Mitchell, or, in allegory, just Music or Beauty. In this condition, sadly, she is vulnerable to her old worldly tempter, Art, and meets with the Dry Well twice, telling her husband about their chance meeting and neglecting to mention her trip to see his band later “out of curiosity.”

Margot has fallen in her pursuit of salvation from the World in the World, to the World’s traps of Art, Science, and Power (status). She is bereft, except for the love she feels for her daughter, of any consolation or hope. She arranges a meeting with Una to talk about this and her suspicions about the deadly Janice, whom Elizabeth Baird-Hardy first and then Beatrice Groves have both discussed as ‘Janus,’ the goddess of duality and two-faces, and the story stand-in for Spenser’s Duessa.

Professor Groves explains succinctly the Spenserian allegory in play here:

The Faerie Queene epigraphs nudge the reader to search for Duessa – the most famous malevolent figure in Spenser’s poem. As Nick Jeffery noticed prior to publication, the title of Troubled Blood is drawn from a passage about Una and Redcrosse in The Faerie Queene (a passage which also turns up as the epigraph to Chapter 64). Una (whose name tells us she personifies unity and truth) is the heroine of the opening book of The Faerie Queene, while Duessa (whose name points to her duplicity and doubleness) is her shadow twin. Duessa is created by the enchanter Archimago in order to trick the Redcrosse knight (whose name tells us he is England – alluding to the red cross of the English flag). Book 1 of The Faerie Queene is the Book of Holiness, but while the Redcrosse knight should be pursuing holiness by questing with Una (whose name figures the One True Church – which, for Spenser, means Protestantism), he dallies instead with Duessa (who is a personification of the Catholic Church, the Whore of Babylon, and – in Book 5 – Mary Queen of Scots). In Book 1, Spenser’s views about England’s insufficient reformation are played out in a heavy-handed allegory as Redcrosse strays from Una’s side (the True Church), tempted thence by Duessa (Catholicism).

The King’s younger cousin, Cynthia, is something of a snake in the grass, though the Pearl seems unaware of this. We know from Wilma Bayliss’ sister’s observations as well as Oonaugh Kennedy’s, though, that Cynthia Phipps is a perfect Anne Boyleyn, a woman who plays the long game to replace Margot as the Queen and mother of the King’s children. Cynthia, per her name’s meaning beyond the first syllable of ‘Sin,’ in the allegory plays the part ofThe Moon,’ a body that has no light of its own but reflects the much greater light of the Sun. The Sun here is Margot, the Pearl, an object of great value like gold, as noted above, because of its spiritual luminescence or inner, materialized light. The Moon gives the King a male heir in time but she suffers in comparison with the Pearl, the first and true wife whom the King in his self-importance and jealousy punished and lost forever.

When the King learns that his Queen, the Pearl, has been unfaithful to him with Art, her old lover, he banishes her from his company and speech. This is an allegorical ‘excommunication’ from the King, a gesture worthy of a Henry VIII who imagines himself to be Pope and Christ, which, is to say, Head of the True Church, whose word is salvific. He effectively divorces himself from her and wishes for her death. Roy Phipps in this becomes the union of institutional Church and State as King-Pope and an allegorical figure of the World, perhaps even the Anti-Christ. He is fit, hereafter, only for the light-less and “Yes, no, exactly” spiritually vacant woman who is blood of his own blood.

Margot despairs. Who will win her soul, Una or Duessa, that is, Oonaugh or Janice? The woman of Love or the fiend of Death? Una sees her friend as headed for divorce and offers her home as sanctuary for her friend and baby. Which brings us to the night of the Pearl’s disappearance.

First, though, we must remember the cause of the Pearl’s great fall, Gloria Conti, which creates her meeting with God and death at Duessa’s hands.

Gloria Conti, whose name means ‘Earl of Glory,’ is another pure-hearted seeking soul. The title in her name is in contrast with the King’s in being a surname; hers is a native and true nobility of blood, one destined to experience God’s Glory. She is, however, a prisoner in the Institutional Church, infested by the Spirit of the World, rather than a member of the True Church with access to God’s graces.

Gloria, in her spiritual emptiness and delusion, tries to find God the Father, the Absolute Reality, in Story. She finds a pathetic shadow of Him in the film, The Godfather. She begins to pursue whatever course she can to live the life portrayed in the movie; she changes her Catholic parish to be around Italians, and mirabile dictu, she finds the Devil in a pew at the Institutional Church.

It needs to be noted that Rowling-Galbraith is not especially subtle in her digs a la Spenser at Catholicism in Troubled Blood. The two places, for example, reserved for the very, very wealthy who are either infirm or mentally ill, St Peter’s Roman Catholic Nursing Home and Simmonds, are both named for St Peter, the Apostle Catholics claim founded their church and in whose authority, a power they believe comes from Christ’s blessing of Peter, they assert that theirs is the true Christian church. The message is that, to the Catholic hierarchy, all male, “You’re welcome here if you have the cash.” Strike’s aside, too, that “No one’s infallible” doesn’t allow for many interpretations except for a shot at the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility. Add your favorite finds along these lines in the comment boxes below.

The Ricci’s name in Italian means ‘Curly,’ but I think Rowling wants the Cratylic Club to think, “Rickys,” then “Richards,” then “Dicks.” This family, Catholics in good standing, probably generous contributors to what progressive feminists consider the “patriarchal” and “women suppressing” Church, make their living by the de facto slavery of women and the sale of their bodies to men for sexual use. Shanker tells Strike that Mucky Ricci made the family fortune via “’Ookers. Porn. Drugs, but girls was ’is main thing.”

Those that rise up? The only woman we know of who dared, Kara Wolfson, was rape-murdered by four men and her death was filmed to be shown to others as a warning of what future awaits them if they do not do what they’re told. In Rowling’s world, there is no greater crime than violence against women; the Riccis traffic in it and the Catholic Church turns a blind eye to their sins. The Dicks and their complicit Catholic Church are, allegorically at least, Evil, capital ‘E.’ That we meet the Riccis at St Peter’s is a strong Spenser-esque anti-Papist touch. 

Luca Ricci, whose first name means “Bringer of Light” and I think we can read as “Lucifer,” is the Prince of Dicks. Gloria Conti, in her naivete and spiritual ignorance, pursues him — and quickly finds herself in hell. He abuses her physically, to include strangling and sexual assault, and she submits to his demands for sex outside of marriage. Gloria, afraid that she will become pregnant, goes to the Pearl for help. Margot writes the prescription for birth control pills, which simultaneously facilitate the continued sexual abuse and fail to prevent her pregnancy. 

Now Gloria is really up against it. She has no parents; they died to save her and a brother in a fire when she was a child. She survives via defenestration, a literal and figurative Fall from paradise into the World as orphan. Her grandparents are faithful Catholics and believe the only response to an unwanted pregnancy between single people is marriage. Luca, of course, knows this and hopes to make Gloria pregnant because she is resistant to his marriage proposals. The Devil seems to have won his game to have Gloria’s soul.

The Pearl, however, intervenes again. Margot believes she knows a better way. Murdering the child, pre-natal infanticide (PNI), “abortion,” “termination,” whatever you choose to call it, is the good doctor’s recommendation. She not only schedules the appointment at the Bride Street Clinic, Margot takes Gloria there in a disguise, something like the nurse Janice does on her way to a murder. The child dies — and the shared hope of Gloria and the Pearl is that it died in order to free Gloria from the Devil.

The Devil, of course, has won a great victory here. The Pearl and the Glory, the world-transcending light within us that allegorically conquers spiritual darkness, have been the agents of the greatest darkness: murdering the innocent and helpless for their own advantage. Both their souls are in the greatest peril.

Especially as the Devil will not let go of Gloria. At the time of Margot’s disappearance, she is fornicating with Lucifer again and she remains a de facto prisoner of the Catholic Dicks.

We need to note, too, that the Pearl does this despite having told both the King and Una that, after the birth of her own child, she has seen the light about pre-natal infanticide. 

“I want to ask you about something sensitive,” said Robin tentatively. “There was a book about Margot, written in 1985, and you—”

“Joined with Roy to stop it,” said Oonagh at once. “I did. It was a pack o’ lies from start to finish. You know what he wrote, obviously. About—” Oonagh might have left the Catholic Church, but she balked at the word.

“—the termination. It was a filthy lie. I never had an abortion and nor did Margot. She’d have told me, if she was thinking about it. We were best friends. Somebody used her name to make dat appointment. I don’t know who. The clinic didn’t recognize her picture. She’d never been there. The very best t’ing in her life was Anna and she’d never have got rid of another baby. Never. She wasn’t religious, but she’d have t’ought that was a sin, all right.” (275)

“There was never—never —never an abortion!” said Roy, gulping and sobbing. “That was the one—one thing Oonagh Kennedy and I— we both knew—she’d nevernever—not after you! She told me— Margot told me—after she had you—changed her views completely. Completely!” (430)

The Pearl has fallen so much into the captivity of “how men think” rather than as “God thinks” that she makes the murder of Gloria’s baby happen despite having testified to her best friend and husband that this was something no longer possible for her.

Which brings us to the fateful night. Who arrives at the Clerkenwell Clinic doors at the critical juncture? God.

We learn her full name only in the penultimate chapter of the novel. Until then, the last patient at the Clerkenwell Clinic is known as ‘Theo,’ Latin for ‘By God’ or just ‘God.’ Her full name is Theodosia Loveridge, which translates as “God’s gift” and, per the name Dictionary again, “beloved ruler” (277). Not much wiggle room there for the allegory in play; God Himself, the Beloved Ruler, has come to the Clinic in this key moment of the allegorical Morality Play about the soul’s journey in order to present a last chance opportunity for the Pearl to redeem herself.

God appears, as you might expect, in a disguise that point to His reality without revealing it. He is a woman, for example, with characteristics of a man just as there is “neither male nor female” in Christ (Galatians 3:28-29; Louise Freeman explains this seeming hermaphrodite resolution of gender contraries as polycystic ovary syndrome). God presents himself as a gypsy or Romani, part of a “traveler family,” a person with no country or home in the World, a fitting quality of a God whose followers striving to grow in His likeness are told to “live in the world but not be of it” (John 17:14-18). And He shows himself as a suffering fellow person who is desperately in need of help and compassion. 

I asked Dr Louise Freeman, a behavioral neuroendocrinologist not an MD, about Theodosia’s ectopic pregnancy because she has forgotten more this week than I will ever know about such things. She responded:

My hypothesis for Theo is she had polycystic ovarian syndrome.  In addition to increasing the chances for an ectopic pregnancy, it can cause abnormally high levels of testosterone from the ovaries, which could cause symptoms like facial hair and enlarged Adam’s apple, which could have explained why the misogynistic Dr. Brenner questioned her sex.  But, if you are asking, no, an embryo that has implanted outside the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube, cannot survive.  Without an ultrasound (which would have not been available at a neighborhood medical clinic in 1974), Margo had no way of knowing how close Theo was to having her tube rupture, which could have meant death from internal bleeding.  Hence Margo’s wish to call an ambulance.  Even medical professionals committed to the pro-life position agree there is no choice but to terminate immediately.

God presents Himself to the Pearl as a patient for whom the only prescription, be the doctor a Christian believer or atheist, is pre-natal infanticide, which is to say, to kill the baby in order to save the mother’s life because her death may be imminent from internal hemorrhaging. We are told by Dr. Kim Sullivan that the Pearl’s notes she carried to her death revealed “Margot suspected an ectopic pregnancy and wanted to ring an ambulance, but Theo said her boyfriend would take her. Margot’s notes suggest Theo was scared of her family knowing she was pregnant. They don’t seem to have approved of the boyfriend…. Poor girl. I hope she was OK” (917).

I hope you believe me when I say I have struggled with this, because the obvious, even reflex allegorical interpretation is that the Pearl fails this final gift-opportunity of God; she prescribes infanticide, He judges her as a heartless killer, and Duessa puts the Pearl into a concrete oyster that will hold her physical remains for four decades. Given that there is no alternative prescription for ectopic pregnancy other than to kill the child before it kills the mother, this certainly puts God in an Old Testament light, a Mad Man of arbitrary violence, rather than the incarnational view of His visitation to Clerkenwell.

The reflex view, as usual, is wrong. The test isn’t a “Kill the child or save the child” choice but one of convenience. The judgment against the Pearl for Gloria’s pre-natal infanticide, by this reading, is that it was done because it was the most convenient option for the doctor rather than a necessary prescription. The Pure Soul with its good intentions but worldly mind is confronted by God with a choice of how to behave when the necessary and right course is actually to kill the child, but doing this in love will mean a considerable inconvenience to the Pearl.

The Pearl fails the God test, in other words, by not skipping her meeting with Oonaugh in the bar in order to walk Theodosia to her meeting place with the boyfriend and explain to him what must be done immediately. At the end of Troubled Blood, Robin asks if the family’s hostility to the boyfriend was “why she never came forward, afterwards.” A much more obvious explanation is that Theodosia, God incarnate as He is in us all, doesn’t come forward because she died of internal bleeding consequent to her fallopian tube rupturing. Margot was given the opportunity to sacrifice her concerns, to love sacrificially, and to do much more for this woman in agony than offering to “ring an ambulance,” write a few notes about the wicked Loveridge family with their pre-historic beliefs, and hurrying down the street to her meeting with her friend.

The crime of Margot’s facilitation of Gloria’s PNI from this view is that it was unnecessary. As Gloria demonstrates in her escape from Luca to France after Margot’s disappearance, an escape I will argue is due at least in part to the otherworldly influence of the dead Margot, the killing of Gloria’s innocent and helpless child was not necessary but only the most convenient option.

Reading the Margot-Theo encounter allegorically, then, if the Pearl, the seeking soul, had walked with God, literally and figuratively, in her moment of greatest peril and impending judgment for her sins, she would have been protected from Duessa’s demonic machinations and have survived. Margot’s decision to walk alone in Clerkenwell was a death sentence she gave to God, alas, and to herself, a death in tandem as we may assume the Lord suffers at the spiritual death of every person. 

For the Biblical illustration of this allegorical interpretation, see Matthew 25:41-46:

41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Please note, in God’s defense, that Theo does stand outside the telephone box where Janice-Duessa is hiding — and it is God’s presence there that finally makes Strike realize who killed Margot Bamborough as it should have done the first investigators. Strike’s asking Robin “Why was Theo standing outside the phone box?” three times in the Agency office begins the cascade of discoveries that lead to Strike’s epiphany (836).

But we’re still left with an allegory of the soul’s journey that is entirely negative. The Pearl or Pure Heart falls to the temptations of the World, namely, Art, Science, Power, and Status. When tested by God, she fails to help Him as should have because of her own concerns and dies a physical death and entombment as alarming as her spiritual death is meant to be understood.

Not very uplifting, frankly, and, if the standard is “instructing while delighting” and the story ends here, I don’t think anyone walks away “delighted.”

The good news? It’s not the end of the Morality Play. The allegory has a great second act.

Before we get there, though, we need to unpack Margot Bamborough’s last name and the allegorical dimension of Dennis Creed and the Bayliss sisters to explain Rowling’s claim that Troubled Blood is a history of feminism in miniature. Then we’ll proceede in a third reading to the story of The Pearl’s Repentant, Avenging, Protective Ghost.

Until then, let me know below what you think of the Spenserian allegory embedded in Troubled Blood, Act 1!



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