An Analysis of The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman from a Writer's Perspective
The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman, is an important text in that it serves as the doorway into the His Dark Materials trilogy. "His Dark Materials" is a phrase from Milton's Paradise Lost, referring to the raw material out of which God creates order. There may be other texts in the series with more moving or more profound elements, but they all depend of the success of this first to get the reader engaged in a world not of his or her own.
The class is, of course, aware of the controversy which has sprung up around this series caused in part by Pullman's own outspoken critical view of Christianity and Organized religion. His own web page contains both his denial of having an agenda and that any messages found are brought there by the readers. He ends his refusal to explain what his books mean with the clever point "Anyway, I'm not in the message business; I'm in the “Once upon a time” business" (Pullman "My Books"). Of course, on the other hand, this same web page informs us that he plans to come out with a monetization of Christ's life "The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ" to be published next April by Canongate as part of their Myths series. In the write up Pulman notes "I've always been fascinated by the two parts of the name of Jesus Christ, and by the difference between them" (Pullman "Jesus and Christ"). None of this is important to the overt reasons we are examining his work.
Clearly Pullman has written an excellent text, the winner of . As writers what do we observe?
Elements which Seem to Work:
There are no throw away characters in The Golden Compass. Even victims who are carried away and not seen again have a history.
No simple good or evil characters. The Oxford Master is first seen planning to poison Lord Asriel, Lyra's "uncle," but we learn later that he hated to plan itself and he has always had a deep affection for Lyra. Mrs. connection to Lyra is even more complicated first a radiant role model, then an ogre who leads those who steal children, and also a loving mother.
Things Not So Successful: