The Graveyard Book

by Neil Gaiman

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How does Gaiman use humor, fantasy, and suspense to describe Bod and Scarlett's encounter with the Indigo Man in The Graveyard Book?

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In The Graveyard Book, author Neil Gaiman uses humor, fantasy, and suspense to describe Bod and Scarlett's encounter with the Indigo Man. It is extremely suspenseful when Scarlett and Bod first descend the steps leading to the chamber in which they see the Indigo Man because it is so dark.

Scarlet is surprised when Bod indicates that he can see in the darkness surrounding them. Bod leads Scarlett down the steps, describing to her what he sees as they descend. Even though it is very suspenseful and frightening, there is also some humor in this scene. Bod notes that “someone’s made a painting on the wall.” Naturally Scarlet asks him to describe the painting.

“A big hairy C is for Cow, I think. With horns." It is almost comical to picture the pair in a frightening setting, waiting for something alarming to occur but then stopping to view a picture of a cow painted on the wall.

Once they reach the room where they meet the Indigo Man, “there were bones on the ground,” which is another element of both fantasy and suspense. Naturally, both Scarlet and Bod are frightened. Then “the noise began all about them,” which adds to the suspense.

The man who approaches them, the Indigo man, “looked well-preserved, but still like something that had been dead for a long while.” This is an element of fantasy, as Scarlet and Bod see a ghost or a vision of a walking corpse approaching them. That his “skin was painted (Bod thought) or tattooed (Scarlett thought) with purple designs and patterns” adds to the fantasy, and also adds a bit of humor. The purple circles drawn around his eyes that make “his face look like an owl’s,” which adds a tone of humor, as we picture a frightening ghost that looks somewhat like an owl.

When the Indigo Man shows no response to Bod’s claim that he has “the Freedom of the Graveyard,” Bod is puzzled because “even the most irritable inhabitants of the graveyard had been calmed by this statement.” This is both fantasy, as well as a touch of humor as we imagine Bod scaring the spirits away by telling them that he has authority to traverse the graveyard.

Then, once they realize that the Indigo Man is imaginary, the dialog also adds humor to the scene, as Bod admonishes the Indigo Man to stop.

“You can stop now,” he said. “We know it’s not real.”

“I will feast on your liver!” screamed the Indigo Man.

“No, you won’t,” said Scarlett, with a huge sigh.

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In chapter 2 of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Bod and Scarlett travel into the Frobisher's mausoleum in search of ancient barrows. In the process, they meet a frightening figure called the Indigo Man, who threatens them with bodily harm unless they leave.

Bod narrates their descent into the barrows because Scarlett can't see in the dark. It's already been established that Scarlett can't see or interact with ghosts the way Bod can, so it's a surprise to both of the them when they meet the Indigo Man because he's as vivid and frightening to her as he is to Bod.

Though it's a frightening scene because of how threatening he is, there's also a bit of humor to the encounter with the Indigo Man. His threats and actions are a little overdramatic, especially in comparison to what comes next—he lets out "yodeling screams" and threatens to eat the children's livers, but, once Bod realizes that he must not be real because Scarlett can see him, they start discussing him as if he were a scarecrow. The fact that a frightening creature like the Indigo Man, who is implied to have caused the death of somebody who ventured into the barrows at some point, is calmly discussed by two children, is pretty funny despite the potential scariness of the scene.

The fantasy element comes in because the Indigo Man is imaginary. Generally, an imaginary creature is nothing to be afraid of because you can control it with your own imagination. In this case, though, the imaginary creature isn't imagined by either Bod or Scarlett, so they have to figure out what it is and how to stop it on their own. The Graveyard Book concerns many fantastical creatures, such as ghosts and night-gaunts, and the encounter with the Indigo Man is just one of them.

Finally, though the encounter with the Indigo Man ends favorably for Bod and Scarlett, it's still a very suspenseful scene. The Indigo Man is unfamiliar to Bod, who knows most of the inhabitants of the graveyard, and does not respond favorably when he tells him that he has the Freedom of the Graveyard. Though the children overcome the Indigo Man by refusing to be afraid of him and acknowledging that he's imaginary, that raises an important question: who is imagining him? As it turns out, there is something more frightening beyond the Indigo Man, heightening the suspense even further.

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