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The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass

by Philip Pullman

Innocence Theme

Loss of innocence is a dominant theme in literature, from the epic fall of mankind into sin in Milton's Paradise Lost to a young child's first experience with death in children's books like Bridge to Terabithia. Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass deals with the loss of innocence a bit differently from many other books. Here, the loss of innocence is not necessarily such a bad thing. Experience – the opposite of innocence – is presented as just as valuable and necessary. This might sound like small potatoes, but the shift in perspective has big-time consequences for the book, especially when Lyra decides that "Dust" might not be so sinful after all. (Read all about that juicy and controversial topic in "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory: Dust (and Original Sin).")

Questions About Innocence

  1. Does Lyra lose her innocence at some point in The Golden Compass? If so, when? What are the pros and cons of losing innocence?
  2. If you were to divide up the book's characters, who would go into the "innocent" bucket and who would be in the "experienced" bucket?
  3. What happens when daemons finally settle into a shape? Is it a bad thing or a good thing?
  4. Why does the General Oblation Board want to sever children from their daemons?
  5. Why is Lord Asriel so dead set on destroying Dust?
  6. Why do Pan and Lyra decide that Dust is a force of good?
  7. Do you think Lyra will lose her ability to read the alethiometer when she gets older? Why or why not?

Chew on This

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

Lyra is better off for having lost her innocence. Though she doesn't see the world as such a nice place anymore, now she's better able to protect herself and her friends.

The General Oblation Board acts like severing children's daemons will help them remain innocent, and that's the best thing for a child. However, the fact that Mrs. Coulter doesn't want Lyra to be severed from Pan proves that loss of innocence isn't a bad thing.

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