Study Guide

Coraline Dissatisfaction

By Neil Gaiman


Coraline didn't think there really was a mouse circus. She thought the old man was probably making it up. (1.12)

Coraline is perpetually bored and dissatisfied with things at the start of the novel. Here she thinks Mr. Bob is just plain old weird. As we know, this changes once she gives him a chance: sometimes we're our own worst enemies when it comes to being dissatisfied.

Coraline had watched all the videos. She was bored with her toys, and she'd read all her books. (1.26)

This section sums up the theme of dissatisfaction perfectly. Coraline is bored and desperately wants something new to do. And that's a recipe for trouble.

Coraline sighed. Then she went to the freezer and got out some microwave chips and a microwave minipizza.

"You know I don't like recipes," she told her father, while her dinner went around and around and the little red numbers on the microwave oven counted down to zero. (1.63-64)

We can just picture Coraline feeling annoyed as she watches her dinner spin around. Is Coraline just being a bratty kid, or does she have reason to be dissatisfied?

She was still bored, and her mother wasn't yet home.

Coraline got a chair and pushed it over to the kitchen door. She climbed onto the chair and she reached up. She got down, then got a broom from the broom cupboard. She climbed back on the chair again and reached up with the broom.
<em>Chink.</em> (3.27-28)

We love the style of this passage. We only get descriptions of Coraline's actions and we have to infer, or figure out, what exactly she's trying to do and why she's trying to do it. And when you have a bored kid at home alone, you can only imagine what trouble she'll cause...

A whole toy box filled with wonderful toys.

<em>This is more like it</em>, thought Coraline. (3.71-72)

At first, Coraline does seem taken in by the neat things in the other world. It's definitely not boring, that is for sure. It's amazing how easily the little things can make us happy sometimes.

"So," said her other father. "Do you like it here?"

"I suppose," said Coraline. "It's much more interesting than at home." (4.107-108)

When comparing her real home to her other home, the she first thinks of is boring vs. interesting. Goes to show you what's on her mind.

"We're here. We're ready to love you and play with you and feed you and make your life interesting." (5.93)

Once again, the fact that Coraline wants things to be more "interesting" is emphasized, this time by the other mother.

"I don't <em>want</em> whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted? Just like that, and it didn't <em>mean</em> anything. What then?" (10.22)

This is pretty deep stuff. At this moment, Coraline figures out that life isn't fun at all if you just get what you want all the time. You're supposed to be dissatisfied sometimes; it's what makes everything else so great.

Nothing, she thought, had ever been so <em>interesting.</em>

And, caught up in the interestingness of the world, Coraline barely noticed that she had wriggled down and curled catlike on her grandmother's uncomfortable chair […]. (11.61-62)

The word interesting sure pops up a lot in <em>Coraline,</em> but it changes in meaning throughout. At first, the word represents Coraline's complaints of boredom. Now, it represents Coraline's relief and joy at being home.

Coraline slept uneasily that night, waking from time to time to plot and plan and ponder, then falling back into sleep, never quite certain where her pondering ended and the dream began, one ear always open for the sound of something scratching at her windowpane […]. (13.27)

This long, flowing sentence emphasizes how Coraline's mind is whirling. But even with the distraction, we'd say she's not satisfied until she has the other mother trapped and gone for good.

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