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Coraline
Coraline
by Neil Gaiman

Coraline Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Initial Situation

Exploring New Terrain

Coraline and her family have moved into an old house. Coraline gets bored pretty quickly, so she spends her time exploring the house, and finds a weird door with a brick wall behind it. We've got the following ingredients: a creepy house to explore, conveniently absent adults, and a cool kid with a lot of bravery and curiosity. Now that's the recipe for a perfect adventure. Awesome.

Conflict

The Other World

One day, when Coraline's parents are away, she opens up that weird door again, and finds a passageway to another world where she has "other" (read: totally scary) parents. She decides to come back home, but we know this other world is going to cause her some trouble.

Complication

Parent-napped

As if the existence of a creepy other world wasn't enough, when Coraline returns home, her real parents have disappeared, and she knows that they've been kidnapped into the other world. This means she's going to have to go after them. Talk about a complication.

Climax

Shut the Door!

After successfully finding her parents and the souls of the three children, Coraline still needs to get out of the other world (the other mother didn't keep up her end of the bargain to let her go free). As she goes to close the door behind her, she has trouble, and there's a moment when we're not sure she's going to get it shut. The other mother even sticks her hand in the door... but whew – Coraline gets it shut, and we can breathe.

Suspense

Give Us a Hand

Coraline escapes the other world and rescues her parents and the three children, but it's not over yet: the other mother's hand has followed Coraline back home. The hand is on a mission to get the key to the door that connects Coraline's world to the other world, and we are on the edge of our seats. Just when we thought everything was settled, we're forced back into what's-going-to-happen mode. Brilliant move, Gaiman.

Denouement

Neighbors and Friends

After finally defeating the other mother for good, Coraline walks back toward her house, encountering Miss Spink, Miss Forcible, and Mr. Bobo along the way. Maybe it's her new found confidence, but Coraline seems to make more of an impression on all three of them this time; they even get her name right. We think she'll probably continue to hang out with them in the future.

Conclusion

Back to School

After beating evil and saving everyone, Coraline is a lot stronger and more confident, and she's ready to tackle her next big challenge: a new school year. Piece of cake compared to crazy other worlds. As she falls asleep the night before school starts, she has a sweet dream of playing with the three children whose souls she saved.

Next Page: Three-Act Plot Analysis
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