The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman
The Graveyard Book Theme of Fate and Free Will
Thousands of years ago, someone predicted that Bod (or kid a lot like Bod) would destroy the Jacks. Because of this prediction, we can’t help but look at The Graveyard Book in terms of fate and free will. Was Bod destined to defeat the Jacks, or did he make choices in his life that led to his face-off with them? (If you've read the Harry Potter books, this is like the question of whether Harry is fated to defeat Voldemort or be killed by him.) Almost everything in Bod’s life seems specially arranged to prepare him for his battle with the Jacks. But, the decisions he makes throughout the novel are all his. His will is so strong, he sometimes goes against what his parents and guardians want. The novel might be saying that life is a funny combination of fate and free will, and that if we use our free will, we’ll be on track with our destinies.
Questions About Fate and Free Will
- Does Bod ever do anything against his will? Does Silas? Does Scarlett?
- Is there anything Bod could have done which would make him fail to fulfill the prophecy about defeating the Jacks?
- How is the way The Graveyard Book deals with prophecy similar to or different from the way other books (or movies) deal with prophecy? (We're thinking the Harry Potter series, the Percy Jackson series, Oedipus the King, Macbeth, The Matrix…)
- Can you think of any examples where Bod challenges his parents and guardian, and ends up learning something important about his future battles with the Jacks?
- Does Silas know about or believe in the prophecy about Bod? If so, when do you think he finds out?
Chew on This
Bod is very stubborn; because no one makes his choices for him, he’ll always be accepting his true destiny.
The prophecy is just a fantasy made up by the Jacks; if they had just left Bod alone, he wouldn’t have needed to kill the Jacks or even cared about them.