Analysis: What's Up With the Title?
Neil Gaiman, author of The Graveyard Book, doesn’t hide the fact that he’s in looove with Rudyard Kipling’s classic collection of short stories The Jungle Book (which you can read for free online, illustrations and all). This love is shown in the title, which – as you can see – just substitutes “Graveyard” for “Jungle.”
Gaiman's beloved Jungle Book is the story of an orphan (otherwise known as a man-cub) named Mowgli who’s raised by wolves in the jungle, and who has many adventures. There is something really special about anything other than humans raising a human child and actually doing a good job. (We’re thinking of Tarzan here in addition to The Jungle Book.) In The Graveyard Book, Gaiman uses his imagination to change this idea into something new and different.
This title is short and to the point, calling attention to the novel’s setting, a graveyard. At the same time, the title is mysterious for readers who might not know anything about this book. The title makes you focus on the graveyard, instead of the hero of the story, Nobody Owens. This shows that in addition to Nobody’s story, the theme of death is something we should be paying close attention to. The Graveyard Book wants us to feel real empathy for the dead and to consider what it might be like to be dead. It wants us to get to know the graveyard so well we almost imagine we’re living there ourselves, from the smells or rot and decay to the beauty of nature in full swing. (Bod’s graveyard is not just a graveyard, but a nature preserve as well, by the way.)
In “Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory,” we discuss the graveyard as an allegory for a library and the graves as allegories for books. Be sure to check out that section, and "Setting," for more on the graveyard.