Study Guide

Coraline Choices

By Neil Gaiman

Choices

"You didn't lock it," said Coraline.

Her mother shrugged. "Why should I lock it?" she asked. "It doesn't go anywhere." (1.56-57)

This doesn't really seem like a choice at first – who cares if she locks it or not – but it turns into a pivotal, or important, moment in hindsight.

"I'll read the leaves, if you want," said Miss Spink to Coraline.

"Sorry?" said Coraline.

"The tea leaves, dear, I'll read your future." (2.62-64)

Hearing her fortune turns out to be very important for Coraline; it also informs us that maybe Coraline <em>didn't</em> have a choice in the matter – the danger was coming to find her either way.

Coraline stopped and listened. She knew she was doing something wrong, and she was trying to listen for her mother coming back, but she heard nothing. Then Coraline put her hand on the door-knob and turned it; and, finally, she opened the door. (3.33)

Coraline makes a really important decision when she opens the door and goes through it. Do you think this was a choice? Or would you say that the other mother was gunning for Coraline and she was going to have to face her down at some point anyway?

There was something hungry in the old man's button eyes that made Coraline feel uncomfortable. "No, thank you," she said. "I'm going outside to explore." (3.90)

Coraline has a really good sense about people (especially people made out of rats). What would have happened if she'd gone with the rat-man?

Coraline backed away.

"I'm going now," said Coraline. (4.119-120)

Despite being curious, Coraline decides to not stay in the other world. Smart move, Coraline.

"Don't be silly," said Coraline. "I'm going back for them because they are my parents. And if they noticed I was gone I'm sure they would do the same for me." (5.83)

Coraline explains to the cat that she practically doesn't have a choice about going to rescue her parents. She does it "because they are [her] parents." Duh.

"No," said Coraline.

The other mother sat on the sofa. Her mouth was set in a line, her lips were pursed. (6.93-94)

Neil Gaiman creates a nice contrast in this scene between the other mother's ramblings and Coraline's own terse, or short, answers. Coraline finally shuts the other mother down here: she's the one making the calls.

"And what is it you think you should be finding in this hide-and-go-seek game, Coraline Jones?"
Coraline hesitated. Then, "My parents," said Coraline. "And the souls of the children behind the mirror." (8.24-5)

We love the detail about Coraline hesitating before saying what she'll be finding. Do you think she knew what she was going to say all along? Or did she have to make an on-the-spot decision?

<em>If I'm going to do this</em>, thought Coraline, <em>I'm not going to do it in her clothes.</em> (8.117)

Coraline is still scared, but she's starting to gain confidence here. Her decision to change clothes really reasserts Coraline's identity in the other world.

Dinner was pizza, and even though it was homemade by her father [...] Coraline ate the entire slice she had been given.

Well, she ate everything except for the pineapple chunks. (12.16-17)

Coraline starts to make different kinds decisions after she returns from the other world. It's no longer a question of saving the world or not: now it's about what pizza toppings to eat. Sounds much better to us.

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