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The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass


by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass Theme of Identity

There are different factions in this book: witches, bears, gyptians, and scholars, and each has its own separate and distinct group identity. Then of course there's Lyra, a young girl struggling to figure out just who she is and where she fits in. Her task is only made more difficult when she finds out who her parents are and doesn't like them. Lyra's transformation from innocence to experience is chronicled through the His Dark Materials trilogy. In this first book we see her interacting with various groups (gyptians, bears, witches, scholars, Gobblers) and trying out different social roles.

Questions About Identity

  1. Does Lyra see herself differently when she finds out who her parents are?
  2. How do Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel's cruel behaviors impact Lyra and her sense of who she is and who she wants to be?
  3. What does Mrs. Coulter want Lyra to be like? What does Lord Asriel want Lyra to be like?
  4. Why does Ma Costa tell Lyra that she's like "witch oil"?
  5. Think about all of the main adult characters' daemons. How do these animals suit them?
  6. What animal do you think Lyra's daemon will be when he settles? Why?
  7. What are the armored bears' major traits? The witches? How are both groups different from humans?
  8. With whom does Lyra fit in best, the witches, the bears, the gyptians, or the scholars? Why?
  9. Is Lyra different from the other children she hangs out with in Oxford? How?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Lyra is a chameleon; she can easily pretend to be a part of different groups, including gyptian and bear societies, but in the long term she doesn't actually fit in.

Since Lyra didn't grow up knowing who her parents were, they didn't impact her identity at all.

Lyra's parents impact her identity because they are a strong example of what she could be, but doesn't want to become.

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