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The Golden Compass

by

The Golden Compass Cover

 

 

Reading Group Guide

1. The author tells us that The Golden Compass takes place "in a universe like ours, but different in many ways." How do you think Lyra's universe relates to ours?

2. What is a dæmon? How do they make humans different from other creatures? Why do you think servants' dæmons are always dogs? What sort of dæmons might your friends, relatives, classmates, or coworkers have? Describe your own dæmon.

3. The world of The Golden Compass is ruled by the Church. However, the nature of its power is unclear. What power do you think the Church holds over its people?

4. On pages 89-90, the General Oblation Board is explained in reference to the historical sacrifice of children to cloistered life. "Oblation" refers to the act of making a religious offering. What offering does the General Oblation Board make and to whom?

5. Human knowledge and experience are made physical in Dust. What other psychological, intellectual, or spiritual activities does the author physicalize?

6. What is the relationship between "severing" and death? Is the author using this fantasy to explore the notion of psychic or moral death?

7. Why do you think the author stresses that Lyra is not an imaginative child? Why would "imagination" be dangerous to her? How would it affect her understanding of the alethiometer? Is Lyra a truth-seeker? Who is Lyra Belacqua and/or what does she symbolize?

8. In what ways is gender a significant or stratifying element in the novel? Why do you think all witches are female? Why are dæmons usually the opposite gender of their human counterparts? Is the fact that Lyra is a girl-child relevant to the themes of the story?

9. Alongside human society in The Golden Compass, there exists the community of the armored bears, who have their own hierarchical structure and moral code. In one way Svalbard seems little more than an interesting foil to the human condition, yet the bear kingdom is also a final destination, the site of the story's climactic conclusion. What do you think is the author's purpose in inventing - and exploring - the world of the armored bear?

10. The author has filled this novel with binary imagery: person-dæmon; mother-father; Iorek-Iofur; Lyra's universe-the universe in the Aurora. What other binarisms can you find in the structure, landscape imagery, and vocabulary of this fantasy? How do these dualistic elements affect the novel's larger themes?

11. Discuss Lyra's "betrayal" of Roger in relation to other betrayals that occur in the novel. Has reading The Golden Compass altered your understanding of the act of betrayal?

12. Are Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter in collusion or are they fighting each other? How and in what way?

13. Curiously absent from The Golden Compass are four words that are prevalent in most fantasy adventures: right, wrong, good, and evil. Can these terms be applied to this story? How and why, or why not?

14. On the last page of the book, Lyra and Pantalaimon recognize that they are still "one being; both of us are one." The expression resonates with a phrase from marriage ceremonies. Contrast this moment in the story with the preceding interplay between Lyra's parents.

15. The Golden Compass is the first book in the trilogy His Dark Materials, which gets its name from a passage in John Milton's Paradise Lost, quoted at the beginning of the novel. Philip Pullman has said, "Milton's angels are not seriously meant to be believed - beings with wings and halos and white robes. They are psychological qualities, conceived and pictured as personalities. With them, Milton tells one of the central tales of our world: the story of the temptation and fall of humankind." Discuss the passage from Paradise Lost and this statement from the author in relation to The Golden Compass.

16. When Lyra walks "into the sky" at the end of Book One, we can presume that she is walking into the world of Book Two of His Dark Materials - "the universe that we know." What do you think will happen to her and Pantalaimon when they cross the bridge?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 4 comments:

Kathy Fraser, March 9, 2008 (view all comments by Kathy Fraser)
"Never judge a book by its movie." Our whole family devoured this trilogy, thrilled to find a series of unexpected caliber after the end of the Harry Potter books. Pullman weaves mythology, science and real emotion into a serious page-turner. Occassional violence and some deep themes are treated with the same descriptive detail throughout. You will want all three books in hand before starting the first!
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(13 of 23 readers found this comment helpful)
mel_poehlman, December 21, 2007 (view all comments by mel_poehlman)
I really enjoyed this book. I did not find it to be particularly anti-Christian or anti-religion, as the hype would lead you to believe. It's a fast-paced, engaging story that both younger and older readers will enjoy. I can't wait to start book two.
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(14 of 29 readers found this comment helpful)
Cathy from Olympia, Washington, November 5, 2007 (view all comments by Cathy from Olympia, Washington)
I had been meaning to read this book for years. So when I saw previews for the upcoming movie Golden Compass, I finally did it. I would have read straight through, but alas, work and meals and such prevented this. But I REALLY enjoyed Golden Compass, and read the next two in the trilogy-- The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. Of the three, my personal favorite is The Subtle Knife, but I definitely recommend reading the series in order, beginning with the Golden Compass. The whole trilogy is excellent and has won several awards. I believe it it considered a YA novel, but adults will certainly enjoy this, and I believe my 9-year old will enjoy it as well. That said, I would NOT recommend this book to my daughter's friend-- there are some scary and intense moments in the series!
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(20 of 35 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780440418320
Author:
Pullman, Philip
Publisher:
Yearling Books
Author:
Cremer, Andrea
Location:
New York
Subject:
Action & Adventure
Subject:
Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Magic
Subject:
Children's 12-Up - Fiction - Fantasy
Subject:
Fantasy
Subject:
Fantasy fiction
Subject:
Arctic regions
Subject:
Kidnapping
Subject:
Missing persons
Subject:
Action & Adventure - General
Subject:
Fantasy & Magic
Subject:
Children s-Science Fiction and Fantasy
Subject:
fantasy;fiction;young adult;his dark materials;religion;ya;adventure;children s;science fiction;magic;novel;children;steampunk;trilogy;children s literature;alternate universe;children s fiction;england;british;juvenile;young adult fiction;20th century;wi
Subject:
fantasy;fiction;young adult;religion;ya;science fiction;magic;children;adventure;children s;trilogy;novel;his dark materials;children s literature;british;philip pullman;children s fiction;alternate universe;england;atheism;pullman;young adult fiction;20t
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Hardback
Series:
His Dark Materials (Paperback)
Series Volume:
01
Publication Date:
20010531
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
from 5
Language:
English
Pages:
560
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb
Age Level:
12-17

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Related Subjects

Children's » Action and Adventure » Adventure Stories
Children's » Middle Readers » General
Children's » Science Fiction and Fantasy » General
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » A to Z
Young Adult » General

The Golden Compass Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$4.50 In Stock
Product details 560 pages Yearling - English 9780440418320 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Now available in true digest format comes Pullman's bestselling fantasy of Lyra Belacqua and her daemon familiar, Pantalaimon. When her uncle returns from the North with tales of mystery and danger, his visit sets off a chain of events that draws Lyra into the heart of a terrible struggle.
"Synopsis" by ,

New from Andrea Cremer, the New York Times bestselling author of the Nightshade novels, comes an action-packed alternate-history steampunk adventure.

In this world, sixteen-year-old Charlotte and her fellow refugees have scraped out an existence on the edge of Britains industrial empire. Though they live by the skin of their teeth, they have their health (at least when they can find enough food and avoid the Imperial Labor Gatherers) and each other. When a new exile with no memory of his escape  or even his own name seeks shelter in their camp he brings new dangers with him and secrets about the terrible future that awaits all those who have struggled has to live free of the bonds of the empires Machineworks.

The Inventors Secret is the first book of a YA steampunk series set in an alternate nineteenth-century North America where the Revolutionary War never took place and the British Empire has expanded into a global juggernaut propelled by marvelous and horrible machinery. Perfect for fans of Libba Bray's The Diviners, Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Angel, ScottWesterfeld's Leviathan and Phillip Reeve's Mortal Instruments.

"Synopsis" by , In a world as convincing as Narnia, Earthsea, and Redwall, a half-wild, half-civilized girl named Lyra Belacqua lives a carefree life among the scholars of Jordan College until her life is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors.
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