Shadow in the North Ideas for Reports and Papers
by Philip Pullman

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Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Jim, the budding playwright, regularly sends manuscripts to the Lyceum Theater for perusal but always receives polite rejections from Henry Irving and Bram Stoker. Who were these gentlemen and what is their connection to England's literary tradition? (In regard to Bram Stoker, look at the publication date of his most famous work, Dracula, and compare it to the date of Shadow in the North's action. Is Pullman sharing a a joke with the audience?)

2. One criticism of Pullman's Ruby in the Smoke trilogy has been that while they use Victorian England as a setting, some of his ideas and characters— Sally, in particular—are too modernistic. Read Gillian Avery's A Likely Lad (1971) and compare the characterizations and actions. Which appears more accurate? Which is more interesting?

3. Jim spends a great deal of time at London's music halls, which ran revues very much like those on the Vaudeville stage in America. What kind of acts appeared on each stage? Who were their great stars?

4. One of the reasons Sally gives Fred for not marrying him is that no comprehensive Married Women's Property Act exists. What was this law? Was it ever passed by Parliament and if so, did it accomplish its objective?

5. In one way or another Sally, Isabel, and Lady Mary each fit a stereotype of women in fiction. Describe these stereotypes. Is there any way to counter them?

6. When Bellmann describes to Sally his vision of the future, he speaks of a world where people reap the benefits of a society built on the fear of an ultimate weapon. Compare Bellmann's objective to the worlds seen in the novel 1984 and the film Brazil. Is he right to assume that for the majority of society the world would become a utopia?

7. Fred and Jim go to the seance to prove Nellie Budd false as a spirit guide. The great magician Harry Houdini indulged in similar pastimes for different reasons. What were they?

8. At the charity event where Mackinnon performs, Charles comments to Frederick that "Disraeli's moved him [Lord Wytham] out of the Cabinet . . ." Who was Disraeli and what were his major political coups?

9. Read the passages of John Milton's Paradise Lost that refer to Satan and the fallen angels. How does Bellmann compare to these characters?