© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass


by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass Theme of Power

Ever hear the saying "Absolute power corrupts absolutely"? It means that when people's authority goes unchecked, all that power can go to their heads and lead them to do some pretty nasty things. This is more or less the situation in The Golden Compass: the Church has power over everything, in the form of a body of warring factions and agencies known as the Magisterium. The most powerful unit is the Consistorial Court of Discipline, or the General Oblation Board (the Gobblers). As we will learn, this particular arm of the Church, headed by Mrs. Coulter, is notable for its evil acts.

Power, used wisely and in moderation, isn't necessarily bad, though. We see some good rulers in the form of Iorek, the king of the bears, and Serafina Pekkala, the queen of the witches.

Questions About Power

  1. What makes Lord Asriel so powerful?
  2. How did Mrs. Coulter get into her current position of power? What is her place in the Magisterium?
  3. Lyra is the child of two very powerful parents. Is she powerful as well? If so, in what way? And what does she use her power to accomplish? Does she put her power to different uses at the begin of the novel as compared to the end?
  4. Are the witches and bears subject to the power of the Magisterium?

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.

Through encountering cruelly powerful characters like Mrs. Coulter, Lyra develops from being a bully to being a protector.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...