Freudian Friday: Rachel Morgan

Kim Harrison‘s Hollows series is and will remain one of my favorite urban fantasy series. By and large, each of the (so-far) nine novels is well-plotted, funny, and filled with compelling characters. Plus, this was the very first contemporary urban fantasy series that I read, and it kicked off my love of the genre.

I even wrote to Kim Harrison (aka Dawn Cook) in 2005, when I was still an undergraduate, to ask if what advice she had for aspiring writers. I still have that email somewhere, encouraging me to practice my writing and also find some other career I enjoyed to pay the bills.

Oops. I sure do practice writing, but I kind of belly-flopped on the whole enjoyable career bit.

image via

Anyway, that’s enough of a trip down memory lane—let’s talk about our plucky heroine, Rachel Mariana Morgan in terms of Freudian Friday. When we first meet Rachel in Dead Witch Walking, she’s quitting the system (also known as Interland Security: like the FBI for this world’s magical beings) and striking out as freelance investigator with the help of a living vampire named Ivy and a pixie named Jenks for back-up.

The step to leave Interland Security is a dramatic one for several reasons: one, no one quits the system without consequences; two, Rachel has not much money or clout for starting her own company; and three, her dad worked for Interland Services and seems to have died in that service.

Since we’re talking about Daddy Issues in Urban Fantasy, it’s this last reason that matters to us. Over the course of the series ***HERE BE SPOILERS*** Rachel learns that her father worked for a man conducting illegal genetic research, that he used that genetic research to tamper with Rachel’s blood and turn her into something more than Witch, and that (gasp) he was not actually her father!


On top of all that, Rachel discovers that her biological father is a musician she had a crush on once upon a time. In his grave, Freud is probably nodding, winking, and touching the side of his nose. This Electra complex isn’t even metaphorical.

So if all this information makes for great reading, but what does it mean for Rachel as a character?

First of all, her relationships are not the best. Jenks, her pixie-partner, likes to say she falls for the underdog—she likes a man who needs rescuing, fixing, or help all around. Her first boyfriend of the series, Nick, is a human and a thief. Her second boyfriend, Kisten, is a living vampire who dies twice protecting her. Her third boyfriend is a fellow Witch and an all-around nice guy—and he really doesn’t do much for her. Her most recent love interest is a resurrected Witch of questionable morality she met as a ghost when she was a teenager (it’s a long story).

So, what? Is she trying to atone for a life she shouldn’t have by saving the people around her? She should have died as a child, but her father’s explorations of illegal science kept her alive—as a half-demon. Rachel’s children would be born as demons because of that research. She shouldn’t exist, and much of her recklessness comes from knowing that.

We could say that she’s trying to save men because no one could save her father. But I don’t think it’s that simple.

Rachel’s character arc shows a gradual realization that life and magic are rarely black-and-white. With titles like White Witch, Black Curse, we see that Rachel is coming to learn that “illegal” and “immoral” acts are not always “evil,” and neither is the person who performs them.

The wonderful thing about Rachel is that she defies Freud’s categorizations. Sure, she pursued her career because she wanted to be like her father and perhaps be worthy of his sacrifice. But she also has her own demons (pardon the pun), and she’s living her life to atone for and own her own sins, not her parents’.

What do you think, readers? Is Rachel irreversibly screwed-up because of her parents’ actions? Did her father’s tampering with her genetic code ruin her moral code? How much are her parents’ actions actually effecting Rachel’s choices?

P.S. If you haven’t actually read this series, go get Dead Witch Walking right now! You won’t regret it, I promise!

6 thoughts on “Freudian Friday: Rachel Morgan

  1. Hmmm….Rachel.

    I think she is less screwed up than Ivy…lol. I personally think that Rachel manages to deal remarkably with what gets chucked at her in each book. I’m curious to see where things go, because I love, love, love the massive gray area that Kim Harrison has built over this series. I love gray areas. I love the disturbing –yet somehow still understandable — attraction between Rachel and Al, and the growing trust and friendship between her and Trent. That took me by surprise, but it was a warm sort of surprise. I enjoy seeing characters alter their worldview, and I think Harrison does that masterfully.

    Until recently, I had no idea Kim Harrison was a pseudonym. I guess I can look forward to people saying the same about me someday. 🙂

    • Actually Ivy is at the crux of some the problems I have with this series, but that’s maybe a topic for another whole blog post. I’m troubled by her relationship with Rachel. It’s weirdly abusive and not really all that friend-like, for all that their supposed to be friends…

      I, too, love the freaky attraction dynamic between Rachel and Al–it’s fitting, in a way, since Rachel will only find her equal in the demon realm. I wasn’t surprised about the Trent friendship, though. By my reading, Trent is the long-term not-quite love interest. And I dig Trent, too. He might be my second favorite character — after Jenks, of course!

  2. I have not read the series, but sometimes, it is simple. At the heart of every story is a simple premise, like no good deed goes unpunished. Or nothing is easy. Or what you ask for may not be what you want. I guess. I mean, yeah, it’s all complicated, and should be, but at the same time, it seems to me the heart of a story is usually rather simple. (shrugs)

    • That’s probably true, and I think the heart of this story is something to do with the unclear line between good/evil, black/white. It makes for a fascinating theme.

  3. One of the things I like best about the series is the way Rachel describes the colors in her aura, and the way the smut, as she calls it, changes over time. It’s a visual reflection of how her views about good and evil, and about herself, have changed.
    Thanks for the great post!

    • Thanks for commenting! I love the aura, too, especially when Rachel starts describing her smut as almost pretty, like aged patina. I think that’s a great way of showing the shift in her attitude.

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