Study Guide

Coraline Courage

By Neil Gaiman

Courage

<em>In danger?</em> thought Coraline to herself. It sounded exciting. It didn't sound like a bad thing. Not really. (2.83)

The "not really" at the end of this thought emphasizes the doubts Coraline has. She may be brave, but she's still scared. That's the whole point.

Coraline went through the door.
She wondered what the empty flat would be like – if that was where the corridor led. (3.35-6)

Coraline is a little concerned here, but since she <em>wants</em> to go through the door, we're not sure we'd call this courage. Maybe just reckless.

"It wasn't brave because he wasn't scared; it was the only thing he could do. But going back again to get his glasses, when he knew the wasps were there, when he was really scared. <em>That</em> was brave." (5.75)

Coraline makes her dad's story about the wasps seem downright epic. And hey, courage is a central theme in epic stories, so that makes sense.

"Because," she said, "when you're scared but you still do it anyway, <em>that's</em> brave." (5.80)

Inspirational poster, anyone? You heard it here first.

"You're sick," said Coraline. "Sick and evil and weird."

"Is that any way to talk to your mother?" her other mother asked, with her mouth full of black-beetles.

"You aren't my mother," said Coraline. (6.89-91)

Insulting your mother is both brave and disrespectful. Insulting your other mother is just plain brave. We wouldn't touch that with a ten foot pole.

"What exactly are you offering?"

"Me," said Coraline, and she gripped her knees under the table, to stop them from shaking. "If I lose I'll stay here with you forever [....]" (8.16-17)

We love the detail about Coraline gripping her knees under the table. Neil Gaiman really knows how to create an image: this is much more powerful than just saying "Coraline was scared."

<em>Perhaps there are no souls hidden in here,</em> she thought. <em>Perhaps I can just leave and go somewhere else.</em> (8.79)

Even brave little Coraline wishes she could run for it. Here she tries to figure out a way to get out of Miss Spink and Miss Forcible's theater.

"I'm an explorer," said Coraline out loud, but her words sounded muffled and dead on the misty air. She had made it out of the cellar, hadn't she? (10.2)

Saying "I'm an explorer" is sort of Coraline's mantra: it's a phrase she repeats to pump herself up. But here we get a good contrast between Coraline's strong words and the details the narrator provides about her muffled voice.

<em>Just stay there a few moment longer</em>, she thought at it, wondering if it could hear her. <em>I'll get us both home. I said I would. I promise.</em> She felt the cat relax ever so slightly in her arms. (11.21)

This is one of Coraline's bravest moments, we think. She sets aside her own fears to comfort the cat and give him courage, too.

From the corner of her eye she saw something bone white scamper from one tree trunk to another, closer and closer. She forced herself not to look at it. (13.65)

No matter how brave you are, sometimes you just have to look away.

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