Study Guide

Inkheart The Color Red

By Cornelia Funke

The Color Red

Red as Vanity

Red is not a happy color in Inkheart, and it tends to symbolize anger, vanity, and greed. Capricorn—the evilest dude of all the evil dudes in this book—has a church, for example, that is totally red:

The walls, the columns, even the ceiling, were vermilion, the color of raw meat or dried blood. For a moment, Meggie felt as if she had stepped into the belly of some monster. (17.18)

And not just any red, as we see in this passage, but the shades most closely resembling raw meat and dried blood—which is about as ominous as color references come. Yikes. Unsurprisingly, the giant chair Capricorn set in place of the altar is red, too:

In its place there now stood a massive chair, upholstered in red and with designs carved thickly into its legs and arms. (17.27)

Instead of an altar—a place traditionally for religious ceremonies and humbling sacrifice—Capricorn places himself front and center in his red church through the positioning of his red chair. Can you say vain? By positioning himself in this way, Capricorn presents himself as a sort of god—and all the red involved, makes it clear that he's a god with devilish intentions.

When Capricorn shows up to make Mo read for him, he's also in red, "wearing a suit as red as the church walls" (17.40). Since he surrounds himself with dudes sporting black jackets, this only makes Capricorn stand out more, like a peacock among crows, which highlights the fact that Capricorn is greedy for attention. Of course he's also greedy for material things, so when he has Mo read treasure out of Treasure Island for him in his church, the mental image we get is of Capricorn red and bloated, brimming with greed and vanity, almost the point of bursting.

Red in the Face

We also see the color red associated with anger and other strong emotions. When Elinor gets mad about how Capricorn is keeping them captive, her "cheeks were flushed red, whether in horror or indignation Meggie couldn't guess" (18.70). We're not sure either—Capricorn taking her captive is definitely pretty horrible, but Elinor is also quite good at being indignant.

Basta also turns red when he's angry, but only when he's really angry—like when Dustfinger is taunting him from inside the crypt, daring Basta to come in and get him, and threatening to curse him with the power of a murdered man's coffin. Basta says:

"I'll cut your filthy fingers off if you try to touch me!" yelled Basta, his face red with rage. "Every one of them, and your tongue into the bargain!" (49.56)

It looks like Basta might have a little problem with anger management, right? After all, Dustfinger's stuck in the crypt and can't hurl anything but words at Basta at this point, so that rage blooms in him to the point of turning his face red lets us know this guy's feelings are officially running the show.

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