Who is Jonny Rokeby? Five-Part Series Review and Round-Up:Three Take Aways

HogwartsProfessor has posted ChrisC’s thoughts about the literary and mythological roots of Jonny Rokeby and Charlotte Campbell the last five days. Here are my three take-away thoughts on the subject, and, after the jump, there is a one-stop round-up of links to the five parts of the series. Thank you, ChrisC, for your Guest Posts!

(1) The Duke Ellington-Doctor Faustus Link is an Over Reach. Fun, though!

I love a literary puzzle, right? And Rowling is a puzzle writer. Check out this brief passage about Robin from Career of Evil:

Quite suddenly, she experienced one of those jolts of excitement with which she had become familiar since starting work for Strike, and which were the immediate reward of looking for a tiny piece of information that might mean something, nothing, or, occasionally, everything. (p 90, cf., pp 249, 402)

 I think what Brian Boyd describes in Nabokov as the “magic of artistic discovery” which that author goes to great effort to bring to the reader is perhaps the single greatest link between Rowling and the “writer I really love.” Robin’s excitement about finding a clue, the secret entry to what really happened, is a parallel with what we are supposed to be doing and feeling as readers engaged in a contest with author and text to discover the greater reality not yet visible in the plot details and character musings.

Having said that, moving from a picture of Jonny Rokeby and Duke Ellington (and other men) and then making a link between the character Rokeby and Marlowe’s Faust because Ellington once wrote a score for Orson Welles’ Faust just won’t work.

For one thing, despite the reference provided via an embedded link, it’s doubtful Ellington wrote a musical score for Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. The 1950 Welles event in Frankfurt for which Ellington wrote music, ‘An Evening with Orson Welles,’ was not Marlowe per se but the actor’s “own version of ‘Faust’ (based on material by Marlowe, Milton and Dante).” It was a variety hour for servicemen including songs by Eartha Kitt — one with her playing ‘Helen of Troy perhaps a nod to Faust– rather than a production of the Marlowe drama per se— which play was not a musical, right?

As important, it was all but a non event in Ellington’s career, one not meriting even a mention in his discography, i.e., it’s doubtful anything was recorded from the production. No one sees a picture of Duke Ellington and thinks “Marlowe! Doctor Faustus!” without having stretched mightily through search engines for some link.

(2) You Can Get to the Right Place After Making a Wrong Turn

I disagree with ChrisC about the Ellington-Marlowe link that makes Strike’s supposed father, Jonny Rokeby, a second Doctor Faustus (or Mephistopheles or Icarus). I enjoyed the five part series, nonetheless, because it arrived at one conclusion and revealed one link apart from the supposed clue, both of which I found fascinating and worth exploring. Like the traveler who makes the wrong exit from the freeway according to the GPS nanny voice and finds himself exactly where he wanted and needed to be by some happy providence, ChrisC’s error in stretching the Ellington photo alongside Rokeby to a connection with Marlowe brings us to curious, rich turf for speculation.

The conclusion I like, not in ChrisC’s original draft but implicit to it and his later comment, is that the relationship between Rokeby and Whittaker vis a vis Leda Strike is critical for understanding her death, who really killed her, yet problematic for both characters if they conspired to murder her. Perhaps the big reveal of Lethal White will be Whittaker’s confession that “the devil made me do it,” Mephistopholes here being Rokeby.

(3) Euripides, Helen of Troy, and Charlotte Campbell-Ross

The big catch of the five-part series, though, is one that ChrisC develops out of the serendipity that there is a Helen of Troy moment in Marlowe’s Faustus. As he points out, Rowling has Strike refer to Charlotte Campbell in his memory of their first meeting as Helen of Troy and always as a kind of supernatural or divine beauty (if bonkers). This makes an important connection with the Leda and Zeus, Castor and Pollux mythological underpinnings of the series that Joanne Gray and I have written about. Helen is the sister of Clytemnestra, both are the daughters of Leda and Zeus, and, by this, also sisters to Castor and Pollux.

I have no idea how this mythology plays out. Helen is kidnapped by Theseus before the Judgment of Paris, for one thing — and we know Rowling knows about Theseus– because he wanted a demigoddess for a wife, someone sharing his own half-blood divinity. And then there is the Euripides and Herodotus spin on the story that Helen never made it to Troy but sat out the war in Memphis, Egypt.

Confusing as all that is, ChrisC’s idea that Jonny Rokeby and Charlotte Campbell-Ross hook-up (remember Strike’s concern that Ciara Porter may have slept with the “rocking prune”?) is grand speculation that gives me a Robin-esque thrill of discovery. Charlotte would be on board with anything to hurt Strike; the duo would each benefit from their tag-teamwork — she to exact the necesary revenge for Strike’s leaving her, Rokeby as insurance that Leda’s son never shares the secrets only she knew.

My take-aways?

  • No, Rokeby isn’t a Doctor Faustus character in hiding,
  • Yes, the Really Bad Dad may be the Mephistopheles pulling puppet Whittaker’s strings, and,
  • Yes, look for a Charlotte Ross – Jonny Rokeby attempted tandem takedown of our dear Doom Bar Detective.

After all that, here is your one-stop round-up of the five part ‘Who is Jonny Rokeby?’ series! 

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!

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