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Running Grave, Part Nine: A Ring Reading (B)
How the Final Part Fits In With the Novel-Ring; First Thoughts on the Ring Reading of Strike7, and the Hilarious Brackets found in the Book's Opening and Closing Pages
Until Running Grave, my efforts at charting ring structures in Rowling’s writing had been with few exceptions restricted to her books and her series of books taken as a whole. I gave a talk at NYC’s Samsung Center in 2010 about the individual Harry Potter novels and the seven-book set, a lecture that was published soon after as Harry Potter as Ring Composition and Ring Cycle: The Magical Structure and Transcendent Meaning of the Hogwarts Saga. I have written since about the ring elements of Casual Vacancy, The Ickabog, Christmas Pig, and each of the Cormoran Strike novels (see the Ring Composition Pillar Post for a collection of those charts and others). Outside of charting the Parts of Troubled Blood on my first read in 2020 and a fun look at Rowling’s longest and most involved twitter thread in 2018, then, my focus in analysis of Rowling’s structural artistry has been on her larger work, the macro-scopic perspective of books and books-within-a-series, rather than the parts of those books, the chapter sets that the author marks as units within her work, a relatively micro-scopic look.
I hadn’t given much thought to how exactly I was going to read Running Grave the week of its publication but my working model has been with new Rowling books to read them quickly, usually on the day of release, post my first impressions, and then to chart the book as a ring, using the designated Parts as the pieces of its latch, turn, and turtle-back lines. That is the procedure I followed with every Rowling book since 2010, with the exception of Ink Black Heart, which charting effort my thesis correction obligations precluded. [I’ll note here that my failure to do this work for Strike6 was an opportunity for other Serious Strikers to do that structural analysis, but none to my knowledge have attempted it. FWIW.]
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What changed my methodology in charting a Rowling book was the release of the first eleven chapters of Running Grave as a teaser pre-publication. As I discussed in the first post in this series — so count this as a closed latch — there was an obvious story turn in chapter 10 which linked to the first two chapters and the chapters before and after that turn were clearly in parallel (Strike’s meetings with his half-sisters Prudence in 9 and Lucy in 11). It seemed likely that Part One, then, would be a ring composition unto itself, and, if that were true, then the other eight Parts might also be rings-within-the-novel-ring. When Running Grave was published, this suspicion about Part One proved to be true in obvious fashion — and I resolved to read and chart each subsequent Part before beginning the next and, once I reached Part Five, the novel pivot or turn in a nine Part novel, to begin exploring the macroscopic novel ring simultaneously.
Having at last charted all of the Running Grave’s Parts in this effort, all that remains to be done in the first attempt at a structural analysis of Strike7 is what my previous methodology had as its fourth part, namely, charting the book as a whole, the novel’s latch, turn, and turtle-back lines in light of the relationships between its nine Parts.
As noted, a lot of that work has already been done because I did preliminary looks at the relationship of Parts One and Five, Two and Eight, Three and Seven, and Four and Six, as I charted Parts Five through Eight. Those will have to be revisited in light of the story’s finish, of which I was unaware of course on my first reading; I was having too much fun speculating about whodunnit along the way and missed, I’m sure, many of the turtle-back ties in the ‘back half.’ Before revisiting and revising all that, though, the remaining important piece I have not yet attempted to explain is Part Nine’s relationship to the first and fifth Parts, that is, the latch and axis of the Strike7 ring, and how the Prologue and Epilogue fit into this structure.
The good news is, something not especially surprising I hope by this point, that Running Grave is indeed a nine Part Ring and, including the first epigraphs, acknowledgements, and the Credits page(!), every single part of the book, to include the Prologue and Epilogue, works in Rowling’s hilariously OCD chiasmus, start to finish.
The Ring of Running Grave: The Nine Part Ring with Epilogue and Extras
My first sketch of Strike7 as a whole, one I made after the first chapters and Table of Contents were released pre-publication, looked like this:
Having charted the nine Parts of the book, the only significant change to that sketch would be at its start and finish, making Parts One and Nine the latch of the novel-ring and the Prologue and Epilogue elements of that connection.
I will look at the links joining the beginning and end of Running Grave first in terms of the first and last Parts and then between Part One and the Epilogue.
Parts One and Nine
Robin/Strike split perspective: Chapters 1-2 and 126-133 The seventh Strike novel begins with two chapters at the same event, chapters that were short enough that they could have been combined (three and six pages, respectively). Instead, we are given a chapter told largely from Strike’s perspective and then from Robin’s point of view with them coming together in the end in ther presence of Ryan Murphy. The last eight chapters of Part Nine are the stories of Robin’s confrontation with Mazu and Becca at the Temple and of Strike’s meeting with Abigail, stories told in alternation, that end with the appearance of Murphy. Strike and Robin talk in the Agency Office’s inner room in the last chapter of the Epilogue until Murphy arrives to take her away on vacation. The very beginning and the two ends of the novel are in tight parallel.
Robin with Baby: Chapters 2 and 132 Robin at the end of the second chapter is holding Ilsa’s son, her god-child, in the photograph taken at the reception after the baby’s baptism. In the penultimate chapter, Robin has acted as god-mother, protecting Wan’s baby from the satanic anti-Mama, Mazu, in the upstairs Temple offices. Midge’s invocation of the Lord (“Jesus Christ!”) and her arrival ex machina akin to the Holy Spirit (it is never explained how she enters the locked church building) make the infant baptism parallel all but complete. Both scenes are in the rooms apart from the sanctuary of a church.
Strike and Mystery of Child and Water: Chapters 1 and 133 The only thing missing from the baptism parallel in the Robin finale is water, though the first part takes place at the baptism reception not actually at the font. Strike’s interview with Abigail Glover at the fire station in Part Nine, too, is without water. It should be noted, though, that the scene is very much associated with water’s salutary effects — what do firemen use to put out destructive, life-threatening fires? — and the story of a child’s supposed death and resurrection in water, Daiyu’s drowning at the Comer beach and her rebirth as the Drowned Prophet. Abigail is revealed in this rubedo crucible as the murderess, the neglected child of a minister, and the satan who Strike vowed at his god-son’s to renounce and to guard his charge from, vows he keeps with Glover’s arrest in the last chapter of Part Nine.
Kevin Pirbright Letters: Chapters 7,9 and 133 Strike reviews the letters and emails from Kevin Pirbright to Sir Colin Edensor and looks closely at a picture of the the scene of his death in Part One’s chapters 7 and 9. He reveals the answers to all the questions this correspondence and picture raised in the last chapter of Part Nine.
Flora Brewster Testimony: Chapters 14 and 123 Fergus Robertson tells Strike about Flora Brewster, the only Chapman Farm survivor he had been able to interview in his efforts to expose the crimes of the UHC years ago, in Part One’s chapter 14. The reporter had been unable to confirm the woman’s revelations or get her to go to the police. In Part Nine’s chapter 123, Flora relates her accusations to four Metropolitan Police officers and Robin backs up this testimony convincingly enough that two of the policemen pursue the case.
Fergus Robertson Chained and Unleashed: Chapters 14 and 125 Fergus Robertson concludes his interview with Strike in Part One by extracting the detective’s pledge that, if he breaks the case, the story will be the reporter’s to tell first. Strike makes that deal on the condition that his work on the case go unreported until it has been solved. Robertson is chained in chapter 14 and unleashed to report the story in chapter 125.
Mystery Cast and Resolution: Chapters 15 and 132-133 Robertson gives Strike the list of contacts he had made in reporting his first story on the UHC and Wace years ago. This Dramatis Personae list are in large part a list of the characters Strike and Ellacott find and interview throughout Running Grave, and it is their story that is revealed at last in the novel’s last two chapters.
Part One and the Epilogue
Parts One and Nine are rings unto themselves (see here and here for those analyses and charts). One is introduced by an ancillary single chapter with six parts, the Prologue, which does not figure into the structure of Part One but which is necessary backdrop and includes substantial information discussed in its nineteen chapters. Nine is followed by a three chapter Epilogue that likewise does not figure into the structure of the last Part’s chapter bundle but which wraps up much of the story that climaxed with the revelations of Nine’s last chapters. The latch and story axis of Running Grave is in the echoes and parallels between Parts One and Five with this Epilogue as much as it is with Part Nine.
We’ll start with the latch connections evident between Parts One and the Epilogue.
Strike’s Prudence and Daring: Chapters 1-2 and 136 In the opening chapters, Strike is a man of restraint and asceticism. As much as Robin’s relationship with Ryan Murphy angers and frustrates him, he holds his feelings in check (for the most part; Ilsa sees his discomfort and bottled rage) lest he hurt his case with Robin by putting her in a position of having to defend her beau and reject Strike. At book’s end, however, Cormoran has realized he must say out loud the never spoken thing, his love for his partner, lest she accept Murphy’s marriage proposal without knowing Strike’s feelings. The opening prudence or practical wisdom is echoed in his daring in the Epilogue’s last chapters, when silence would have been as much self-destructive folly as telling-all at the start would have been.
Charlotte Cancer: Chapters 3, 18 and 135-136 In the ring of Part One, the opening half has Shanker tell Strike about his step-daughter’s cancer, with which Strike volunteers to help as generously and uncharacteristically as he can; the back half in parallel has as turtle-back line to this Charlotte’s revelation that she has cancer, news which Strike refuses to help ort sympathize with, as uncharacteristically mean and uncharitable as he had been kind to Shanker in the first half chapter. In the novel-ring’s final two chapters, Strike closes the circle on the Charlotte drama in conversations with Amelia, Campbell’s sister, and with Robin, for whom Strike’s ex has always loomed as a great rival. Strike believes, because Amelia does not mention it, that Charlotte was lying in their Grenadier meeting about her breast cancer and tells Robin that, in essence, he let Charlotte kill herself because he felt no love for her at all, not even sympathy or what he might feel for a stranger. This is a latch not only in the novel ring but with the series of seven novels ring that began in Cuckoo’s Calling with the break-up of Strike with his venereal, half-mad fiancée. [More soon on the possibility that Charlotte did not commit suicide but was murdered a la Lula Landry and Minister Chiswell, a possibility that Strike, incredibly, never considers.]
Edensor Family Meeting: Chapters 4 and 134 Strike and Robin meet with Sir Colin Edensor and his two sons in Part One, chapter 4, to learn about and take on the case of rescuing his third son Will from the UHC’s Chapman Farm. They meet with him again and learn about Will’s reconciliation with his brothers after his escape from the Farm.
Deirdre Doherty: Chapters 7, 14, 17 and 134 Part One has repeated revelations about Deidre Doherty; in chapter 7, Kevin Pirbright discusses his overhearing that Wace had raped her, Fergus Robertson repeats this account indirectly in 14, and Henry Worthington-Field tells Strike what could be the story of Deirdre’s going into labor with Lin in the Farm’s field. This is the story of Lin’s genesis, a story which comes to its (relatively) happy ending in the Edensor meeting with Strike, Robin, and the Chaunceys, at which Pat advises Sir Colin to let her family take care of Lin as she had Will and Qing/Sally after their escape.
Ryan Murphy: Chapters 8, 12, 16 and 136 Strike’s decision to upend Robin’s relationship by confessing his love to his partner in chapter 136 (and her receptivity to that), the Epilogue finale, is foreshadowed in Part One. Strike learns that Murphy is no saint from Wardle in chapter 8, grinds his teeth (and responds to a Bijou invitation) after speaking to Robin on the phone when she is with her boyfriend in chapter 12, and Robin has her first fight with Murphy about her taking the UHC assignment in 16.
Lucy Meetings: Chapters 11 and 134 Strike has a pointed and loving conversation with his half-sister Lucy in Part One, chapter 11, in which he learns about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child at the Norfolk commune and he relates to her that, despite what she thinks, their mother Leda loved her children as well as she could. He pledged to her to get Mazu if at all possible because of her part in Lucy’s being violated on the farm. Strike recounts at the end of the Epilogue’s first chapter his meeting with Lucy over coffee in London during which he tells the story of Mazu’s arrest; “We got her, Luce”(p 932); she expresses her gratitude, though, not only for this arrest, but for what he shared with her about Leda in their Part One meeting: “You help people. You’ve helped me, taking this case, putting that woman behind bars. And what you said about Leda… you’ve really helped me, Stick.”
Case Introduction and Conclusion: Chapters 14-17 and 134 As noted above, the business of discovering the real story of Chapman Farm begins with the list of characters that Fergus Robertson supplies and the Agency’s first interviews with Sheila Kennet and Henry Worthington-Field, all of which is explained and wrapped up in the first chapter of the Epilogue.
Chapman Farm Cast ‘Capture:’ Chapters 19 and 134 Part One ends in the Rupert Court Temple with Robin being invited to a seven day retreat. We meet Taio Wace and Dr Zhou, and see Giles Harmon And Amandeep, all of whose fates after the fall of the UHC are relayed in the Edensor meeting that opens the Epilogue.
Eros/Anteros (Robin Strike Relationship): Chapters 5-6, 13, and 16 and 136 (“Jesus Christ!”)
These are mostly plot point, character, and dialogue parallels between the beginning Part and Epilogue of Strike7. There is a profound latch, though, as well.
The great conflict in the allegory of the Cormoran Strike novels is between physical or romantic love and spiritual love, between the love of Eros, psychological and physical, and the love of Anteros, that transcends the individual egos of the lovers for what is self-less, sacrificial, and Christ-like. It is the Shakespearean psychomachia of soul-and-spirit in great contrast with the Harlequin bodice-breaker fiction that so much of Strike fandom longs for. This conflict between the erotic and the spiritual was introduced in the series first chapter in which Robin recalls Matt Cunliffe’s proposal beneath what she thinks is the statue of Eros in Picadilly Circus. That statue on a high pedestal, however, is actually of Anteros, spiritual love, and she meets Strike in that same chapter whose first words to her, to make this point emphatically, I think, are “Jesus Christ!” as he saves her from a great fall. This conflict is difficult for postmoderns to see because they do not grasp the traditional distinction made between the realms of soul and spirit, the defining blind spot of our historical period and equally definitive characteristic of every theocentric culture and civilization.
Not too surprising, then, that this conflict and psychomachian drama is played out in Strike7 as it has been in each of the series’ other installments. Strike and Robin love one another truly and are the figures of soul and spirit to each other, the necessary complements for their perfection and fulfillment; each, however, has psychological baggage and erotic, physical longings that block their ability to acknowledge this world-transcending love. Each has their “displacement fucks,” surrogate lovers that mean relatively nothing to them but which act as place-holders and physical-fillers until they can unite with their greater love. Strike has his women he does not love, hitting the peak of sex without affection with Belinda ‘Bijou’ Watkins, Esq., in Running Grave; Robin has her first husband Matt Cunliffe and Ryan Murphy, more conventional stable relationships if also like Strike in large part predicated on fornication, which is to say sexual congress outside of spiritual sanction or concern.
Contrast the hotel bedroom scene in Part Six’s chapter 89, in which the partners share a bed in chastity, her believing that their respective lovers preclude the possibility of love-making. Her repeated exclamations after her rescue and in bed, however, of “I knew you were there!” proclaim their spiritual unity across physical separation as one person in two hearts.
This conflict between the erotic and spiritual is re-introduced at the baptism reception, as noted, in Strike’s agony about Robin and Ryan’s couple-status and his acting out this frustration by succumbing to Bijou’s allures twice in Part One. Robin’s reflections on this subject in chapters 5, 6, 13, and 16 are characteristically more conscious and less reactive (and less potentially self-destructive) than Strike’s due to her greater self-awareness and native prudence; they are, however, equally about protecting herself from the risk of being rejected by her true lover, for whom her heart, her spiritual organ and capacity, longs. In the last chapter of the Epilogue, the latch of the book, at long last, Strike shares his greater love with Robin and leaves her to make her choice between Eros and Anteros, again, at the top of the stairs to the Agency Office. The latch of the novel-ring and of the first series-ring of seven books is closed.
Latch conclusion and segue: Part Nine is a ring unto itself but, as such, it didn’t allow for a full closing of the novel and the first seven book set; the Epilogue chapters serve that function without spoiling the chiastic resonance of Part Nine’s chapters, latch, ring, and turtle-back lines. Together, Part Nine and the three Epilogue chapters provide the latch with Part One that closes the circle of the Running Grave ring. Now we need to see how Part Nine and the Epilogue ‘work’ with Part Five, the novel’s turn.
A true ring composition, according to anthropologist and textual exegete Mary Douglas, has at least three signature elements; a latch of beginning and end, a story turn reflecting the start and foreshadowing the finish, and ‘turtleback’ lines between the chapters going-out to the turn and, in reverse order, those going back to the latch point. Having discussed how Part Nine and the Epilogue work with Part One as a latch, we need to see if those closing chapter sets are foreshadowed by what happened at the middle of the nine Part novel, Part Five. As we did in the latch discussion, I’ll begin with the parallels between the two Parts and then between Part Five and the Epilogue.
Parts Five and Nine
Robin-Strike Split Frame: Chapters 65-77 and 126-133 All of Part Five is told in alternation between Robin’s experiences undercover at Chapman Farm and Strike’s investigations and reflections in and around London. Part Nine’s last eight chapters are in strict back and forth alternations of one chapter each between Strike speaking with Abigail Glover and Robin in the Rupert Court Temple. This split frame when Robin is in Norfolk is also true of Parts Three, Four, and most of Six, which does not negate the parallel between Five and Nine but which makes it need much more direct echoing to cement a correspondence.
Season of Drowned Prophet: Chapters 65-77 and 132-133 All of Part Five in Norfolk takes place in the Season of the Drowned Prophet, a season which will climax at the Manifestation ceremony. The concluding chapters of Part Nine are the revelations that there never was a ‘Drowned Prophet,’ Daiyu having been butchered and fed to pigs, the discovery that shatters the foundation of the UHC cult.
Deirdre Doherty: Chapters 70 and 123 Strike makes his first meaningful contact with Flora Brewster who witnessed the death of Deirdre Doherty in the Chapman Farm Temple pool in Part Five, chapter 70. He texts her “Did you ever know a woman named Deirdre Doherty?” (p 534). That question, to his dismay, causes Brewster to pull down the Pinterest page of her illustrations. Brewster by Part Nine has re-appeared and agreed to testify to the police about the crimes committed by the UHC, to include Retreat Room ‘spirit-bonding’ rape, the assault that destroyed Deirdre Doherty’s marriage and life.
Emily and Drowned Prophet Mythology: Chapters 66 and 132-133 Robin learns from Emily Pirbright in the Norfolk toy-shop, Part Five, chapter 66, that the foundation miracle and spiritual heart of the United Humanitarian Church, the resurrection of Daiyu Wace and her continuous manifestations since, were bullocks. In the last chapters of Part Nine, Robin proclaims this in her nightmare confrontation with Becca Pirbright and Mama Mazu in the upper room of the UHC Temple in London; Strike explains what really happened to Daiyu and how the Pirbright girls were an important cause of the myths that grew up around her death.
“There is truth:” Chapters 66 and 132 I would add to the preceding parallel that Robin tells Emily point-blank in the toy-shop that her syncretistic relativism, a spiritual relativism, is wrong; “There is truth” (p 508). She is a truth-teller in Part Nine’s confrontation with Becca and Mazu, in which she explodes the foolishness of their faith in the Drowned Prophet.
Mazu with screaming Baby Yixin, Team Becca-Mazu vs Robin: Chapters 73 and 132 All of Mazu’s appearances with Wan’s baby Yixin (‘One Heart’) except one outside of Part Nine’s finale take place in Part Five The most important one because of its connections with the finale upstairs in the London Temple is in chapter 73, in which Robin is being fondled by Papa J in his office. Mazu and Becca break in: “Wace removed his right hand from her breast, placed it between her legs and began to rub. At the exact moment Robin jumped backwards, the door behind her opened. She and Wace both turned, his hand falling from her breast. Becca and Mazu entered the room, the former in her white tracksuit, the latter wearing long white robes, a witch bride with her long black hair. With the door open, baby Yixin could be heard crying from upstairs” (p 555). At the story turn, then, Yixin is crying upstairs in the Norfolk Farmhouse, near where Jacob is being kept prisoner. At the story finish, the baby, Mazu, Becca, and Robin are again all in the same place with Yixin crying with Robin accusing Becca of collusion in Jacob’s murder..
Mother-of-Pearl Fish Denied, Seized: Chapters 69 and 132 Becca, almost certainly with Mazu’s co-operation, plants the sacred pendant, a supposed relic of the Drowned Prophet, under Robin’s bed in the dormitory. Robin finds it, realizes she is being framed, and throws it from the bathroom window into some tall grass (Part Five, chapter 69, p 529). As discussed at length in the Part Nine ring reading, Robin inadvertently but definitively takes the pendant from Mazu in the upstairs Temple room while beating her with the rifle butt (Part Nine, chapter 132, p 908).
Daiyu’s Axe!: Chapters 69 and 122,133 Niamh Doherty tells Robin about a hatchet hidden in a hollow tree trunk before she left for her retreat at Chapman Farm (Part Two, chapter 21) but Jaing shares with Robin the location of the axe in the forest in Part Five, chapter 69; Midge finds and retrieves it on a stealth mission to Chapman Farm in Part Nine, chapter 123, and Strike explains its role in Daiyu’s murder in 133.
Scripture and Invocation: Chapters 71 and 132 Will Edensor quotes from the First Epistle of John Theologos as well of the Bhagavad Gita in the center chapter of Part Five, it’s ‘meaning in the middle.’ Part Nine ends with Mazu performing a divinatory rite using the I Ching in the room above the Rupert Street Temple’s sanctuary, quoting from the Oracle, and threatens Robin with the wrath of the Divined Prophet. As mentioned above, Midge arrives soon thereafter to invoke Christ by name and win the day thereby.
Robin as Artemis: Chapters 73 and 132 Wace tags Robin with the sobriquet ‘Artemis’ in his Part Five private meeting with her (p 552). Robin plays the part of the huntress avenger and protector of young girls in her rescue of Yixin in Part Nine’s chapter 132. Much more on this below).
Pirbright Recording: Chapters 75 and 133 Strike receives the Patterson Agency tape of an interview they’d managed with Kevin Pirbright near the time of his murder. Cormoran struggles to decipher it into a working transcript, then to make heads or tails of its contents without much success (Part Five, chapter 75). Only in his epiphany near the end of Part Eight (pp 857-861) does its meaning become clear. He explains what Kevin had said about meeting “the bully from the church” days before his death in the last chapter of Part Nine in conversation with Abigial Glover before her arrest (p 922).
Aside: Grave and Career — Change at Agency with Respect to Saving Children Organizing all my notes about Part Nine, I haven’t found a place to put down this marker about a series correspondence. In Harry Potter, books 3 and 7, Career and Hallows, are the stories of two men, fierce enemies, who are each believed by the Wizarding World to have murdered heroes in cold blood. Both are revealed in the end to have been framed — by the men they supposedly killed — to have been forced into a life of hiding and shame, and to have been embraced at last by Harry Potter, the Boy Who Swore Not to Let Them Live. The close echoing of books 3 and 7 in the series, as well as books 1 and 5, caused me to redraw the ring structure of the series, not as a turtle-back, but as an asterisk (see Harry Potter as Ring Composition and Ring Cycle for that or the chapter I contributed to Harry Potter for Nerds).
I predicted, subsequent to this relationship and the Parallel Series Idea, in my final tally of Serious Striker rankings that Career of Evil, Strike3, the consensus pick of HogwartsProfessor writers as — by far — the worst of the six novels then in print, would rise in its appraised value after the publication of Strike7, Running Grave. I wrote that “I think Career’s place in the first Strike septology will rise when all of its parallels with Grave become clear.”
The most important of those parallels, really more of a reverse echo, is the difference within the Agency about the importance given to saving children. In Career, Robin is fired by Strike, point-blank, no mercy, for going rogue to save a young girl from the child molester her mother chose to live with. In Grave, Strike dispatches Dev to Birmingham to break the law in order to break open the case against the UHC and their baby trafficking, the Agency, led by Robin, does everything it can to rescue Jacob (the police drop the ball here), and Robin re-enacts the Career home invasion fight with an angry mother in her Temple wrestling match with Mazu and rifle butt to the face (Midge steps in to play Shanker’s part in that drama). No one is fired at the end of Grave, of course; Strike instead of arriving at a wedding he wishes he could prevent tells Robin what she needs to know in order to refuse Murphy’s imminent proposal.
I know the Robin beat-down on Mazu with Midge preventing a murder is also a mirror reflection of Strike’s beating of John Bristow at the end of Cuckoo with his prosthetic limb, a pounding that Robin only just intervenes in time to save their client’s life. But the parallels with Career, especially the nightmarish violence against women throughout it, much of it aimed at and endured by Robin, give me a fresh appreciation of why Strike3 is what it is, a place-marker on the character and thematic arcs of Ms Ellacott and the themes of a woman’s, especially a mother’s love for children in the context of a career and professional life. More on this in future posts.
Robin as God-mother and Abortionist/Midwife: Chapters 2 and 72 I want to close this section of the novel Turn discussion with a more challenging pair of correspondences, one in line with the thematic thread that runs through everything Rowling writes, namely, women who hook unwilling male partners through pregnancy — Merope, Krystall, Leda, now Bijou — and the wish of women who do not want their children for those babies’ deaths; think of Gloria Conti, Agnes Waite, and now Lin Doherty. Rowling makes this representation structurally prominent in Grave by placing it along the story-axis; in opening the story at a baptism, in Robin’s doing all she can to help a woman who has taking an abortifacient in the story-turn, and in the heroic finish of Robin rescuing the baby she delivered away from a woman who is not the child’s mother.
A link I didn’t make in my discussion of Part Five’s echoing of Part One that only became clear after reading Part Nine is the importance of Lin’s self-induced miscarriage, a kind way of saying her auto-abortion, in chapter 72. Robin became god-mother to Ilsa’s baby in the novel’s opening chapters, in which role she swore to act in the place of the infant and to foster his spiritual life (see the Anglican service of baptism for these vows she and Strike make). In chapter 72, however, she is drawn willingly by her maternal impulses to act as abortionist to Lin’s infanticide in the dormitory bathroom as she had been the midwife in extremis to Wan in Part Four. Those events are joined in being revealed and foreshadowed in the same chapter (60), Strike’s report to Strike of the breach delivery with “rusty forceps” — egad, for a cult that makes its living in large part via the sale of babies, the absence of ObGyn care for pregnant women at the Farm makes this delivery and Lin’s abortion a back-alley coat-hanger-esque feminist Morality Tale with all its nightmare stage props — is conjoined with Lin’s appearance carrying mugwort bulbs, her abortifacient of choice.
[To the objection that chapter 60 is Part Four and not part of the story turn as such, note that Robin’s report to Strike is four points long and numbered 1 and 2 and then 1 and 2 again rather than 3 and 4, a ring turn marker. Part Four is the story center by pagination, as discussed in the analysis of Strike’s reflections on the cross in the Aylmerton Church.]
Robin as Abortionist/Midwife and Baby Saver: Chapters 72 and 132 I bring up this beginning to turn echoing here because the cry of the baby Robin delivered in chapter 60 is what she hears in the pivotal chapter of Part Nine and draws her to the hidden door in the golden wall of the Temple. This echoes the death of the baby and near death of the mother in Robin’s fight with Mazu, the anti-mother ‘Mama’ of the book, in which Robin is only prevented by Midge’s entry (“Jesus Christ!”) and the appearance of the mother-of-pearl fish pendant from murdering the cult leader. Rowling-Galbraith, by these powerful structural juxtapositions, if not equating is at least relating strongly a woman’s desire to have and protect her child and the desire to kill the baby in utero she does not want.
Robin’s twined role as midwife, abortionist, and Artemis-Avenger. Wace gave Robin this nickname in Part Five, chapter 73, with the explanation that the goddess is “a huntress, but also protector of the hunted, of girls up to marriageable age, the goddess of childbirth and… strangely… of chastity” (p 552). Forgive me for thinking that she, in Rowling’s mythology at least, is simultaneously the patron divinity of a woman’s right to a safe delivery in child-birth and to its horrific opposite, pre-natal infanticide.
As Wace, the super-villain of the novel, observes, “There are many contradictions in Artemis,” as there certainly are as well in the second and third waves of feminism which, unlike the ardently and unequivocally pro-life first wave feminists and contrary to every orthodox revealed tradition, advocate for and defend the murder of unborn children by their mothers. Whether Rowling is doing more than highlighting this contradictory overlay of life-giving and life-taking by women is known only to her.
That Rowling is not presenting a cartoon and one-dimensional view of ‘abortion’ I think can be seen in her presentation of Jacob Pirbright-Wace, the infant-child being ‘allowed to die’ through neglect and lack of medical care at the Farmhouse. Jacob’s mother Louise is in agony at his prolonged death. Robin is haunted by it and escapes Chapman Farm not only to avoid non-consensual sex with Taio but also to save Jacob. She learns of Jacob’s death from Will Edensor in Part Nine, chapter 123, which she calls “infanticide” in her throw-down with Becca in chapter 132 (p 908). The difference between intentional feticide or ‘abortion’ and what everyone recognizes as infanticide is logically and ethically an empty distinction (see ‘If Abortion, Then Infanticide’ for that discussion). If nothing else, Rowling is portraying in story that there is more to feminism, “reproductive rights,” and a woman’s responsibility for her children from conception forward than campaigning for unqualified and unrestricted ‘abortion on demand.’
Parting note: Strike and Robin both refer to the death of Daiyu as infanticide in the last chapters of Running Grave, when Daiyu at the time of her death was seven years old (pp 921, 941). English is rather specific in its use of words to describe a baby; newborn, infant, toddler, and baby are used for specific years in a child’s life postpartum with ‘infant’ being used for babies in their first year of life. In England and Wales, a person is charged with infanticide rather than murder if the victim is less than one year old. Either this is one more instance of poor proofing on Team Rowling’s part or she is making a statement that equates the murder of all children with the horror of killing the helpless baby, which in turn raises the issue of killing those who are in the womb, helpless and voiceless.
Part Five and the Epilogue
As with Part One and the Epilogue’s parallels completing the novel’s latch, so goes the story turn and the Part Five-Epilogue echoing.
Amelia: Chapters 67 and 135 Amelia Crichton, Charlotte’s full sister, called Strike’s office the day after her sibling’s suicide and hung up without leaving a message in the first ‘Strike chapter’ of Part Five (chapter 67). “Amelia had made no contact with Strike since, nor had he tried to contact her. If the rumour that Charlotte had left a suicide note was true, he was happy to remain in ignorance of what it said” (p 513). Strike meets with Amelia in the second chapter of the Epilogue and, incredibly, she has destroyed the suicide note and he tells her what it said. Again, more to come on the possibility that Charlotte’s death was a staged suicide; for now the turn-end link is sufficient.
Lin Abortionist and Mother: Chapters 72 and 134 As discussed above, Lin does what she can to kill the child conceived with Giles Harmon against her will. In the Epilogue, she appears as the doting mother of Qing/Sally and the means of helping her to find a bright future is discussed by Sir Colin and Pat Chauncey.
Will Edensor Spirit Bonding: Chapters 76 and 134 Robin is desperate to speak with Will in private by the end of Part Five as she feels the walls closing in on her, so she asks him to spirit-bond with her to get him alone in a Retreat Room. She achieves the breakthrough she wanted, relaying at last the news that his mother had died, even if that success came with a punch to her face (p 575). Will was unable to look Robin in the eye when he appeared with Qing in the Agency office because of his attempt to spirit-bond with her (Part Eight, chapter 103, pp 736-737) but by his depiction in the Epilogue chapter he has reconciled with his family and, presumably, Robin (pp 927-928).
Pat Chauncey: Chapters 70 and 134 Ah, Pat! She confesses to Strike just before the pivot chapter of Part Five that she had lied about her age on her application for the job at the Agency (pp 536-537). She more than demonstrates her worth to the Agency in subsequent Parts and is almost chummy with Sir Colin Edensor in the first Epilogue chapter. A full arc of redemption.
Eros/Anteros (Bijou): Chapters 70 and 136 Having discussed at some length above the importance of both the Eros/Anteros conflict and the through line of women trapping husbands via sex and pregnancy, Bijou deserves at least a mention. She rides the story axis like a dancing pole. In Part One, she successfully hooks up with Strike twice despite Ilsa’s warnings and his own disdain for her. In Part Five, she tells him everything in the same chapter that Pat confesses her lie, to include the fact of her pregnancy and desire to win Andrew Humbold, QC (pp 532-533). She almost gets a mention in Part Six, chapter 89, the chapter after Robin’s escape from the Farm, when Strike offers to sleep in a makeshift bed rather than with Robin in the proper bed. ‘Don’t be stupid,’ said Robin. ‘I’m with Ryan, you’re with… whassername?… Bougie…’ ‘True,’ said Strike, after a slight hesitation. ‘So we can share the bed,’ said Robin (p 633), perhaps the defining moment of their lives as Anterotic lovers (“I knew you were there”). ‘Bougie,’ it turns out is quite the slam: “According to Urban Dictionary, bougie means people who are pretending to be rich or high class when they really aren't or don't realize they aren't.” Robin nailed that one. Rowling gaffes when Robin learns the truth; Strike tells her in Part Six (p 670) and she learns about it again in Part Eight for the first time(?) from Ilsa that Strike and ‘Bougie’ aren’t a couple (p 748); regardless, it isn’t until the last chapter of the Epilogue that Strike explains to Robin, indirectly but expressly, that he is in love only with his partner.
Turn Conclusions Part Five works as the story center in the nine Part Ring, especially if the Epilogue is considered an adjunct piece to Part Nine. It resonates with elements from Part One and foreshadows the main events of Part Nine and the three tag-on chapters. The middle of the book by page count are the last chapters of Part Four, in which Charlotte’s suicide and Strike’s trip to Cromer and Aylmerton church are featured, which also works as a ring Turn in correspondence with the Part One-Part Nine with Epilogue latch.
The Turtleback Lines
As noted at the start of this epic post, I have already written at some length about the relationship between the Parts of Running Grave in my ring-readings of Parts Five through Nine. Above, I wrote out the relations of the latch Parts, Parts One, Nine, and the Epilogue, as well the turn Parts, Parts Five and the end of Four with the latch elements. The turtle-back line discussions for the novel ring will need to be updated in lieu of the ending which I did not know while writing them, but they will serve as holding points until I revisit this or another Serious Striker tests my rings-within-rings Running Grave hypothesis. Until that time, these links will take you to the turtle-back lines evidence for Parts Four and Six, Parts Three and Seven, and Parts Two and Eight.
If I hadn’t just reviewed these subjects above, I’d be tempted to go back and write about the center of Part Five and the novel’s ‘Meaning in the Middle.’ As it stands, I’d just urge you to reflect further on Chapter 66: ‘There is Truth,’ Chapter 70: Bijou, Chapter 71: Scripture and Logic (‘Step Six’), and Chapter 72: Infanticide.
Conclusions to ‘Part Nine: A Ring Reading (B)’
Running Grave is a remarkably involved but systematic ring composition whose nine Parts are, in addition being rings themselves, constitute a ring composition as a whole, with latch, turn, and turtle-back lines. The rings-within-the-larger-ring of each Part check the box of Mary Douglas’ fourth ring characteristic, the wheels-within-wheels of traditional chiastic writing.
Rowling’s dedication to this once nearly universal but today largely forgotten story-scaffolding is a defining element of her artistry and, structure reflecting and buttressing meaning, the core message of her books. That few if any Rowling Readers besides myself have devoted time and effort to revealing and discussing this formal aspect of her work reflects both the topical concerns and focus of academics and ‘serious’ fans and their ignorance of Rowling’s method and de facto denial in their neglect of its importance. Hats off to you for reading this far!
Conclusions to this Ten Part Ring Reading of Running Grave
I have spent four weeks reading, charting, and writing about The Running Grave. After reading Part Nine and the Epilogue of Strike7 but before charting the combined fifteen chapters, I decided to lay out all the charts I had already made in the ring of the novel as a whole on my living room floor. As you can see in the picture above, the nine 22” x 17” charts take up a lot of space.
I know that it is a truism that there is as much to learn from a failed hypothesis, one having been proved wrong via rigorous experimentation with controls, as there is from a hypothesis which proved to be true. I suppose for the real scientist, if such a person exists, a person who does not identify with his or her theories and hope that they will prove to be correct, that pithy ‘victory-even-in-defeat’ maxim is solace when an idea is shown to be false after a close look. I know I would have been terribly disappointed if I’d found that Rowling had not written Running Grave as a ring or, more to the point of my several weeks of effort, if the nine Parts of Strike7 were not rings within that larger ring.
As it is, I think I have offered a compelling and sustained argument, one I close for a moment with today’s post so I can write about other Running Grave subjects, that Rowling-Galbraith’s latest novel is a ring of nine rings, a remarkably complex and satisfying story structure. As I leave the subject, at least temporarily, I am obliged to say that my effort here in this ten post series is not anything like a demonstrative proof that she has done this.
As I’ve just admitted, I am obviously invested in the hypothesis, enough to prejudice my results. No one has attempted to chart this book independently of my reading to see if their structural analysis reproduces my findings more or less.
I read through a specific lens, too, to see if the text conforms to the traditional chiastic structure that anthropologist Mary Douglas called “ring composition.” Reading anything through one lens exclusively is a prima facie method for missing any other explanation or an alternative structural choice that Rowling might be making; “if your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
That raises the possibility, as well, that, in the effort to convince other Rowling Readers that she writes in rings, I have “forced the pieces” of the puzzle to make my case. No doubt, several of the parallels I have pointed out in the nine Parts of Running Grave I have charted have struck you as much weaker than others.
And the author has remained silent on the subject of how she plans her work with respect to structure. She has admitted that her first writing teacher was “hot on structure,” but what Lucy Shepherd taught her about how a story works — “exactly what gave writing structure and pace” (Fraser, p 19) — we do not know. Beyond tweeting once that “I plan a lot and usually in table form,” she has left that to her readers to figure out (yes, I know about the pictures of Rowling’s Order of the Phoenix tables — and I know that they really tell us very little about that book’s structure).
I will close consequently with a prize for anyone that has made it to the end of this post and the series: Rowling’s bracketing the book with fun links between the opening epigraph and the Credits pages and between the Prologue and her Acknowledgements.
I know most people do not read the Credits and Acknowledgements with any attention, but looking at these end papers through a Chiastic Crystal lens reveals something delightful, a piece of literary candy, as Rowling once put it, that a careful second search finds hidden in the folds of the bottom of the bag.
Note first that Rowling divides her Credits into six parts. She begins with the professional and personal partnerships with men that mean the most to her, her editor-publisher and husband respectively, and links them by noting how each felt about the idea of a cult novel.
The second and next to last people acknowledged are her assistants, again, divided by a professional and personal dichotomy, her copyeditor first and her PAs in Edinburgh after the middle pair.
The center pair are her legal representatives and managers, agent Neil Blair in London and the PR team of Stonehill, Salt, and Hutchinson, a group I like to think of SSH, Inc., because of their role in urging The Presence to choose her public battles carefully.
Together it is a three part chiasmus, A-B-C-C’-B’-A.’ That would be hilarious in itself, I think, but, when one remembers that the Prologue chapter has six parts that work as a ring and that the Prologue is not really matched with the three chapters of the Epilogue, it is really a hoot. Rowling has paired her opening to Running Grave with the throw-away Acknowledgements page to be sure that almost every single part of the book has its parallel precisely placed across the story axis.
The Credits page? What does it reflect?
The Credits page of Running Grave is curious in at least two ways.
First, there is no credit given to David Bowie for ‘Heroes,’ the theme song of the UHC. It is only quoted once, admittedly, but it is is quoted (p 93, the last words of the center chapter of Part One) and Bowie and the song are mentioned eleven times in Strike7. The first mystery of the Credits page is what isn’t there.
The second is in what is there, twice. For no obvious reason, credit is given two times to Dylan Thomas for ‘When, Like a Running Grave,’ the poem that gives the book its title and opening epigraph, though the poem is nowhere mentioned in the novel. Each credit cites a different edition of the poet’s collected work but the same page number, meaning there is little difference in the editions. Why have two, then, for its one deployment as an opening epigraph?
The same is true of the I Ching references (note: Rowling pronounces I Ching as ‘Eye Ching,’ something I have never heard and find as odd, off, and disturbing as readers who pronounce her name ‘Rauling’ — has anyone ever heard the title pronounced that way?). There are two entries among the Credits for the “Richard Wilhelm translation rendered into English by Cary Baynes,” one published by Princeton’s Bollingen Press and the other under a Penguin imprint. Again, these are the same book; why would they make two entries in the Credits for this one version of the I Ching?
It could just be a copyeditor’s gaffe — and we were just told her name…
I don’t think so, though, or at least I don’t want to think so. I want to believe that Rowling wanted to make the ultimate brackets, the first and last pages of Running Grave match up somehow. By repeating the source citations for the opening epigraphs on the Credits page, she highlights that connection.
[The only part of Running Grave that does not have a partner passage or page in the book is its dedication to her old friends, Aine Kiely and Jill Prewett, the ‘Godmothers of Swing’ and Porto veterans, to whom Prisoner is dedicated, and to Lynne Corbett, a friend dating back to her semester abroad as a college student in Paris (see Nick Jeffery’s pieces on her here and here). Corbett is an accomplished astrologer so perhaps it is no accident that the “goddess” names Rowling assigns to three women are also asteroids: Juno, Ceres, and Astarte. This playful dedication, with its pagan religious overtones (connected perhaps to their calling her ‘Artemis,’ also an asteroid?) in a book series riddled with mythic and occult symbolism has no obvious parallel in Strike7 but certainly has resonance with Troubled Blood, in the acknowledgements of which book Corbett was thanked for help with its astrological elements. Put a marker down there for future discussion.]
And with that aside, I will close this ten post series. Thank you for reading this far and for liking the post or sharing your comments, questions, and corrections in the boxes below. On to gaffes, alchemy, reader reviews (I haven’t read any to date!) and other Running Grave topics that are lighter than structural analysis!
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