by Neil Gaiman
Coraline Theme of Identity
When you're totally on your own – like Coraline is – you need to have a super strong sense of self to get you through things. In Coraline, our heroine doesn't have friends or family to rely on, so she learns this lesson pretty quickly. She doesn't need other people to know her in order to know herself: even if everyone forgets her name, it doesn't mean she isn't Coraline. And of course, other people's identities become an issue for Coraline, too. Who is the other mother? What is the other mother's identity in relation to Coraline's real mother's identity? And the three ghost children? Can they have identities if they don't even have names? Coraline is struggling with all of these questions, all the while trying to save the day. Impressive.
Questions About Identity
- Some of the characters in the book, such as the three ghost children, don't have names. How is this a significant detail? What does it tell us about their identities?
- Everyone's always calling Coraline "Caroline." What effect does this have on our interpretation of Coraline's identity?
- Are people's identities self-defined or defined by others? For example, we can learn about Coraline's neighbors based on the alternate versions of them created by the other mother, but does it really help us understand their identity?
- The black cat tells Coraline that names are pointless. What does he mean by that, and do you agree with him?
Chew on This
Mr. Bobo's identity becomes more clear the moment Coraline learns his name.
It doesn't matter what other people think of Coraline: identity comes from the inside.