Coraline is a dark, modern-day Alice's Adventures in Wonderland—the story of a girl whose curiosity gets her in trouble, and who must rely on her wits and her bravery to save herself. Like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and other classics of children’s literature, Coraline uses fantasy as a fun-house mirror that reflects, in exaggerated form, the very real fears and trials all children experience. The power of evil represented by the other mother and the world she creates, and the contrasting innocence, goodness, and bravery of Coraline herself, form the main themes of the work.

At first, Coraline is drawn to her other parents, who lavish her with attention and offer wonderful food, treats, and novelties her real parents do not. However, Coraline is instinctively wary of her other parents as well, with their expressionless button eyes that seem to hide their real intentions. In addition, the cat—who appears to speak Coraline’s innermost thoughts—warns Coraline that she may need protection in the other world. Thus, Coraline’s own instinct to recognize and reject evil, even when it hides its true form, leads her to leave the other world and return to her own.

When Coraline realizes that her other mother has trapped her real parents, she makes the decision to return and save them. Even though her parents are not perfect, she remains loyal to them, and she tells the cat that true bravery is doing something even when you are scared.Again, Coraline’s innate sense of goodness helps her to continue even in a horrifying situation.

Once Coraline is trapped in the other world, she uses her wits to find a way out, proposing a “game” against the other mother. However, the more successful Coraline is in the “game,” the more she sees of the other mother’s true evil nature. For example, despite agreeing to play fair, the other mother constantly lays traps to hurt Coraline and slow her down. In...

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