Study Guide

Coraline Fear

By Neil Gaiman

Fear

Coraline hesitated. She turned back. Her other mother and her other father were walking towards her, holding hands. They were looking at her with their black button eyes. (4.128)

The short and choppy sentences here emphasize Coraline's growing fear about the other world. It's hard for her to process it all clearly.

She became certain that there was something in the dark behind her: something very old and very slow. Her heart beat so hard and so loudly she was scared it would burst out of her chest. (4.130)

Neil Gaiman is really great at describing emotions without naming them: here, he shows us how scared Coraline is by describing the thumping of her heart.

All alone, in the middle of the night, Coraline began to cry. There was no other sound in the empty flat. (5.23)

Coraline is alone throughout the story, and we kind of start to take it for granted. But a little kid all alone at night? That's scary stuff.

Coraline was too close to stop, and she felt the other mother's cold arms enfold her. She stood there, rigid and trembling as the other mother held her tightly. (5.91)

Poor Coraline runs toward what she thinks is her real mother and ends up stuck in a hug with her menacing other mother. The beldam is so much like her mother that sometimes Coraline forgets to be afraid of her.

She closed the door and hauled the toy box in front of it – it would not keep anyone out, but the noise somebody would make trying to dislodge it would wake her, she hoped. (5.146)

Coraline's actions here reveal just how desperate and scared she is. Even though she knows the toy box won't do much, putting it in front of the door at least makes her feel a little better.

Her long white fingers fluttered gently, like a tired butterfly, and Coraline shivered. (6.92)

Shivering is a really common way in literature to show that a character is scared. Especially next to the beautifully creepy description of the other mother's fingers, this is a very poetic sentence.

Somewhere inside her Coraline could feel a huge sob welling up. And then she stopped it, before it came out. (7.1)

People cry for all kinds of reasons: sadness, pain, anger, and of course, fear.

She preferred the other mother to have a location: if she were nowhere, then she could be anywhere. And, after all, it is always easier to be afraid of something you cannot see. (8.46)

Coraline manages to be wise, even when she's super scared. Here she recognizes that what you can't see is scarier than what you can.

She had never been so scared, but still she walked forward until she reached the sac. Then she pushed her hand into the sticky, clinging whiteness of the stuff on the wall. (8.82)

This is definitely one of the strangest parts of the book (that sac was super gross), and Coraline's fear is really highlighted: in fact, it is discussed much more directly here than at other times in the story.

"She is pushing me so hard to hurt you. I cannot fight her."

"You can," said Coraline. "Be brave." (9.4-7)

Coraline's answer to fear? Bravery.

"Yes," said Coraline. <em>I'm not frightened</em>, she told herself, and as she thought it she knew that it was true. (10.9)

Coraline says she isn't frightened and then realizes she's actually telling the truth about how she feels. This is an uplifting moment after so many chapters filled with tension and fear.