Themes and Characters
Pullman has been very articulate about his intentions for the three books as a whole. They are to be "A rewriting of Milton's Paradise Lost," for young adults, and the first novel is Lyra's story. In the second, he introduces another focal character and the third novel involves them both in an epic struggle. In this work, the good people, like Lyra and her friends, are on the side of the fallen angels and humans and against the established educational, governmental and religious institutions of her society. Indeed, Pullman has designated Lyra as "The New Eve," whose coming-to-knowledge is essential for the fulfilling, self-determined life of all humans.
When she sets out on her quest, Lyra is eleven years old and does not even reach the age of twelve by the end of book one. The whole story chronicles the transition from innocence to experience, or the fall from the unselfconscious grace of childhood into the self-conscious action of adulthood, but Lyra is still very much a child at the end of the first novel. At the same time, she has gone through several painful rites of passage, beginning with her confusion when the Master of Jordan College tries to poison her "uncle," Lord Asriel, then gives her a gift from this same man, the precious Alitheometer. She is confused when he insists that she hide it from Mrs. Coulter and does not tell her what it is or how to use it. Then she has to learn further distrust the glamorous Mrs. Coulter, her newfound...
(The entire section is 1835 words.)
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