Study Guide

The Golden Compass Chapter 5

By Philip Pullman

Chapter 5

The Cocktail Party

  • Lyra hangs out with Mrs. Coulter in London, where they visit the Royal Arctic Institute, have fancy lunches and teas, shop, and go to the theater.
  • Mrs. Coulter also begins to teach Lyra geography and math, since Lyra's education at Jordan College has been a bit patchy.
  • Wanting to show she knows at least something, Lyra mentions Dust to Mrs. Coulter. Her daemon's hair stands on end at the very mention of it. Mrs. Coulter asks Lyra where she heard about Dust, and Lyra tells her she overheard the word at Jordan College.
  • Pan later tells Lyra that Mrs. Coulter held on tight to her daemon until her knuckles "went white" when Lyra said the word "Dust" (5.18). Pan was afraid the golden monkey was going to pounce on Lyra.
  • Lyra learns how to be a woman from Mrs. Coulter: how to put on makeup and be feminine.
  • Autumn turns to winter, and Mrs. Coulter decides to give a party. Lyra is to help her plan it.
  • Lyra and Pan quarrel a bit because Pan doesn't like Mrs. Coulter and feels cooped up there in her apartment. He says Mrs. Coulter is keeping Lyra as a pet and never intends to go North. Lyra itches to go North as well.
  • On the day of the party, Lyra and Mrs. Coulter have an argument about whether Lyra can carry a white shoulder bag. Lyra wants to carry it because it's where she secretly keeps the alethiometer.
  • Things get nasty, and Mrs. Coulter's daemon grabs Pan. When Lyra slams the door to her room, Mrs. Coulter flies in and dresses her down.
  • After the outburst, Mrs. Coulter instantly reverts back to all sweetness and light. Creepy. Lyra's opinion of Mrs. Coulter starts to change.
  • Lyra makes chitchat at the party. She overhears a male scholar telling a younger woman about Dust, and Rusakov Particles. The two are flirting, and the man is trying to impress the woman. He mentions that Mrs. Coulter is the head of the Oblation Board.
  • The man includes Lyra in the conversation, and she learns that the Oblation Board is the name for the Gobblers: "General Oblation Board" (5.76). Whoa. Mrs. Coulter is the head of the Gobblers?
  • The scholar also mentions that the idea for the Oblation Board goes back to the Middle Ages, when parents would send their children (oblates) to be sacrifices to the church. The kids would become nuns or monks.
  • The woman pulls Lyra aside and starts to question her. Her name is Adele Starminster, and she's a journalist. She doesn't get very far with her questions, though, before Mrs. Coulter sees her and breaks up the conversation.
  • Mrs. Coulter threatens the woman, and she leaves.
  • Pan sees the golden monkey coming out of Lyra's room. He's afraid the monkey knows about the alethiometer.
  • Lyra is called aside to have a conversation with Lord Boreal. Feeling "rebellious and uneasy," Lyra pretends to know about Dust, Rusakov Particles, and the Oblation Board (5.121).
  • Lord Boreal seems to think that Mrs. Coulter has let Lyra in on their project. He tells Lyra a little more about the Oblation Board – the children, for example, are necessary. Hmm. In what way?
  • Lyra overhears other things at the party: namely, that Lord Asriel has been captured and is being held in Svalbard by <em>panserbjørne</em> (armored bears).
  • Lyra and Pan are pretty freaked out by everything they've heard at this party, and Lyra decides they must leave. Pan acts as lookout while she packs some money and puts on warm clothes.
  • When Pan gives the signal, the two sneak out the front door of the flat.