The Golden Compass

25 Sep

One of the things I really admire about Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass (and really, the entire His Dark Materials series) is the maturity of the writing and the plot.  I hate it when books for kids/young adults treat those same kids/young adults like they’re stupid.  Being young doesn’t make you dumb, it makes you…young.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with a bit of light reading from time to time, of course.  Not every book has to have the most intricate plot to be enjoyable.  I just think it’s nice when a writer challenges his/her readers to think deeply, and I think Pullman successfully does just that.

What has always intrigued me about this entire series is the presence of religion throughout the books.  Most YA books don’t tend to open up discussions on the pros and cons of organized religion.  Again, The Golden Compass is not most YA books.

In the world presented in the first novel of this series, a group of people called the General Oblation Board have taken it upon themselves to try to eradicate children of their sin.  They have noticed that a particle called “Dust,” which is thought about the Church Magisterium to provide evidence of original sin.  Dust is barely attracted to children, but starts to cling to people around the time they hit puberty.

Something else happens to these kids around puberty, as well:  their daemons, physical manifestations of their souls, take one form.  When they are young, children’s daemons can take any animal shape at all.  It is not until one enters adolesence that one’s daemon chooses its permanent form.

The General Oblation Board sees these links and decides that the answer is obvious: they must cut the children away from their daemons.  They must cut away their souls.

 

Overreaction much?

 

Whether or not you believe in one religion or none, I think we can agree that should a soul exist, it’d be a pretty bad idea to simply…cut it out.  One of the scenes that has stuck with me most each time I’ve read this book is when Lyra, the heroine, and her friends find a boy who has been separated from his daemon.  She does not immediately pity him and go to his aide, despite the fact that he is distressed.  Instead, she is disgusted by him; looking at him makes her feel ill.  Despite the fact that he still looks the part of a little boy, by not having his daemon, his soul, he has become something foul.

That same boy has always interested me, as well.  For me, when I think of someone “soulless,” I think of them as dead inside, evil.  But this little boy breaks my heart each time I read this novel; all he wants is his daemon and some help.  He is lost and confused and scared and empty.

 

There’s just so much interesting food for thought in this premise!  And in a book aimed at kids, at that!

 

 

What are YOUR thoughts on the religious themes in this book?  What parts struck you as interesting and noteworthy?  I want to hear your thoughts!

 

 

Also, I JUST finished A Game of Thrones the other day.  Can I say…holy crap!

 

 

The results for the rest of the October books are in!  We will be reading…

 

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Dune by Frank Herbert
Timeline by Michael Chricton

 

Hope you’re excited!

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2 Responses to “The Golden Compass”

  1. Kateri September 26, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    I’ve sort of been slacking and haven’t been doing a very good job reading the books I’m supposed to be reading. I couldn’t get my hands on a Wrinkle in Time, and there’s like 239405875423 people on the wait list for Game of Thrones at my library. I read Golden Compass before, but it was awhile ago, and my copy vanished. SO I read a different fantasy-esque book and I enjoyed it so I figured I would share that with you all instead. It’s called “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” by Seth Grahame-Smith. The author, Grahame, took Jane Austen’s original Pride and Prejudice, and deleted some of her words and added several of his own. I have never read the original, but there was enough of the original left in this version that I probably wouldn’t want to. (Sorry, Jane Austen fans). With zombies, though, the book gets much more interesting. If you get a chance, I definitely recommend it!

    By the way, did we read Golden Compass during Banned Books Weeks on purpose? Or was that lucky coincidence? :o)

  2. Stephanie February 15, 2012 at 3:34 am #

    Great post! Reminded me that I should reread Pullman. The religious persecution theme really worked for me in the first two books, but the rewriting of Genesis in the third book didn’t. I admired the idea of it but the execution bothered me.

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