The Golden Compass

by Philip Pullman

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1. Metaphor and allegory are important in Pullman's story. The daemon is both a metaphorical figure and serves an allegorical function. Explore the daemons of at least four major characters, including Lyra, and look at the characteristics of their daemons as metaphors for the nature of the human they serve. What does the author tell you about their daemons, and what do you know about them as a result of descriptions of deamons? In addition to Lyra, select from these characters: Lord Asriel, Mrs. Coulter, John Faa, Serafina Pekkala, Iofur Raknison.

2. The entire story is a religious allegory about the fall from grace of human beings. Allegory is defined as a story in which people, things and happenings have another meaning. Which people and things further the allegorical meaning in this story? Describe what additional meanings, besides an adventure story, you think Lyra's adventures convey. What are the big crises and decisions in her life?

3. Pullman sharply contrasts the world of children and adults. It has been especially remarked that many of his adults are immoral and specifically that they treat children as if they are only property. How would you describe the adults in this novel? Pick some examples of who you would consider to be moral and immoral adults and compare and contrast them. How does their social standing and political power affect these people?

4. Pullman has made a great effort to create a setting which can call upon our knowledge of modern day Oxford for background details and create an entirely different city of Oxford. Look up details in the history and current status of Oxford and compare them with differences in the Oxford of Lyra's story. What are the major differences? What do these differences do for the story?

5. Pullman's story mixes what we know as science with practices that we associate with magic. What are some key differences between the technological features of Lyra's world and ours? What devices do they have in common with us, and what devices do they not they have? What devices do we not have? Do you think Pullman has been consistent in his creation of a magic/ scientific alternative world?

6. In addition to daemons, Lyra is able to call upon the services to two kinds of creatures who have a different type of existence in her world, witches and bears who can talk and reason. What do they do for Lyra? Why do you think they are loyal to her rather than to her enemies?

7. Look through the book for indications of the kind of religion which is practiced on Lyra's world and contrast it with a form of Christianity with which you are familiar. What are the major similarities and differences? Where do daemons fit into the picture of religion Pullman has given us?

8. Which characters stand out from the others in this novel? Besides Lyra, who is the central viewpoint character, what other characters are important and why? How does the author distinguish them from minor characters, in addition to their function in the plot? Pick three major characters (those which appear many times in the novel) and three minor characters and contrast their descriptions by the author.

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