In Coraline, why do they replace eyes with buttons?

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There are several reasons why Gaiman likely decided to have the "Other" characters's eyes covered with buttons.

Most simply, it's creepy. The idea of sewing buttons over one's eyes contributes to the frightening, suspenseful tone of the book. The choice of buttons is also a bit cheeky, since it plays...

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There are several reasons why Gaiman likely decided to have the "Other" characters's eyes covered with buttons.

Most simply, it's creepy. The idea of sewing buttons over one's eyes contributes to the frightening, suspenseful tone of the book. The choice of buttons is also a bit cheeky, since it plays off of the typical narrative of mothers completing domestic work like sewing.

More complexly, the buttons represent the Other Mother's otherworldliness and anonymity. If eyes are the "windows to the soul," the absence of eyes suggests the absence of a soul. When Coraline must choose between returning to her "normal" life or staying with the Other Mother and having button eyes, she must truly decide between keeping her humanity or agreeing to an anonymous, soulless existence.

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Button eyes are a primary distinguishing characteristic between Coraline's "normal" world, in which she lives with her parents, and the world of the "other" mother, who has button eyes. These button eyes are indicative of the "other" mother's evil nature and lack of compassion and humanity.

It is often said that eyes are the window to the soul. With this in mind, by replacing their eyes with buttons, the "other" mother renders the ghost children incapable of making their desperation and unhappiness known. Button eyes are, in essence, the "other" mother's way of isolating her victims from the rest of the world.

The comparison between "normal" eyes and button eyes creates a visual comparison between light and darkness, and good and evil, as they are portrayed in Coraline's story.

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In Neil Gaiman's Coroline, the Beldam (or "other mother") lives in a world where everyone's eyes have been replaced with buttons, evidently by her. The exact practical reason as to why she does this is never made quite clear. It stands to reason that once buttons have been sewn in the place of a character's eyes, they are of the other world and are, effectively, in the possession and control of the Beldam.

Caroline notices that she cannot tell what emotions a person with buttons for eyes are having or even whether or not they are looking at her. She notices that the buttons are functioning as a way to hide what any person is feeling. She could never know if the inhabitants of the other world were truly happy, despite the other world being a more interesting world for her.

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The buttons over eyes represents the Other Mother's unlimited control.

Eyes are very significant in Coraline. When Coraline sees a person's eyes, she is in the real world. For example, her real mother and father both have eyes. However, in the other world, eyes are replaced with buttons. Other Mother has buttons for eyes, as do the ghost children. The symbolism behind buttons for eyes is quite clear: "They were looking at her with their black button eyes. Or at least she thought they were looking at her. She couldn't be sure."

Buttons are a way to limit the humanity of another person. We speak with our eyes. They are a form of communication. Coraline's Other Mother replaces people's eyes with buttons as a way to silence their voices. Buttons are her means of limiting people's expressions in her world.

Coraline recoils at the thought of exchanging her eyes for buttons. Put another way, Coraline does not want to lose her unique individuality. When faced with the prospect of having buttons for eyes, Coraline rejects such a sacrifice. This repudiation is one of the first moments where she understands the importance of going home. Coraline clearly grasps that she is not going to be happy in a world of buttons.

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