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The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass

by Philip Pullman

Lies and Deceit Theme

"Liar": it's kind of a mean word. Nobody wants to be called a liar, after all. To be totally honest, though, Lyra is a liar. She exaggerates quite a lot and often straight-up doesn't tell the truth. <em>The Golden Compass</em>, however, takes a much larger view of what Lyra does with words. In some ways the novel portrays her as a persuasive and powerful artist. Her "lies and deception" turn into something positive by the end of the novel – a form of persuasion that can be put to good use. Along with the theme of lies and deceit comes its opposite: truth and wisdom. Isn't it interesting that the biggest "liar" in the book is given the alethiometer, a truth reader?

Questions About Lies and Deceit

  1. When do Lyra's lies help her or others?
  2. Do any of Lyra's lies turn out to be harmful?
  3. What is your favorite lie or tall tale that Lyra tells? (Shmoop thinks it's super funny when she tells that shady stranger that she's waiting for her dad, who is a murder.)
  4. What name does Lyra give the traders who kidnap her? Why?
  5. How does Lyra convince Iofur to fight Iorek?
  6. Why does Iorek give Lyra the name "Silvertongue"?
  7. Aside from Lyra, what other characters in the book use lies or deception? Are their lies harmful or helpful?
  8. Why do you think it's Lyra, the liar, who's able to read the alethiometer so easily? What does this contradiction say about her?

Chew on This

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

Though Lyra may seem to be a powerless child, her clever mind and silver tongue give her a great deal of power, which she uses to her advantage over many characters, including Iofur and Mrs. Coulter.

Over the course of the book, Lyra switches from using lies for bad purposes (gaining attention, bullying other kids) to using lies for good purposes.

Lyra lies far more than she should. She could get out of most sticky situations in the book with out being deceitful.

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