Study Guide

The Graveyard Book Fate and Free Will

By Neil Gaiman

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Fate and Free Will

He was surprised when he hit the floor, but he did not cry out: if you cried they came and put you back in your crib. (1.18)

Baby Bod does escape the crib and the house of his own free will. However, he seems to be guided by some invisible power up the hill to the graveyard.

He couldn’t push the minds of the dead as he could the living, but he could use all the tools of flattery he possessed, for the dead are not immune to either. (1.112)

Silas, as much as we like him, has the not-so-nice ability to take free will from people.  We’re pretty sure he does this only in extreme circumstances. It’s also worth noting that he never does this to Bod – not even when Bod runs away.

Silas went out for one final journey before sunrise. He found the tall house on the side of the hill, and he examined the three bodies he found there, and examined the pattern of the knife-wounds. (1.167)

It sounds like Silas is matching up the crime scene with something else he’s heard about. He may well have heard about the prophecy and is looking for proof that Bod is the child expected to bring down the Jacks.

Skagh! Thegh! Kavagh! (3.123)

These are the magic words the creepy ghouls use to open the ghoul-gate. In Chapter 7, Bod uses them to open the ghoul gate so he can push the Jacks in there. Is Bod supposed to go through all these things with the ghouls so he could learn information to help in his big battle with the Jacks?

But he was Silas, and Bod was happy to see him, and even happier when Silas gave him a present, a little model of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. (3.267)

Bod is only six years old, but Silas is already fighting the Jacks in San Francisco. Again, it’s not clear whether Silas is aware of the prophecy about Bod defeating the Jacks, or if he’s trying to protect Bod and beat the bad guys himself.

“You had parents. An older sister. They were killed. I believe that you were to have been killed as well, and that you were not was due to chance, and the intervention of the Owenses.” (6.35)

This is Silas talking here. He’s saying that Bod was saved by coincidence. But, if a coincidence is predicted thousands of years ago, is it still a coincidence, or is it fate?

“Mister Frost.” Scarlett wondered how to say it, then just said it. “About thirteen years ago, three people were murdered in your house. The Dorian Family.” (7.267)

Jack Frost exercised his free will in hanging out by the graveyard in disguise to try to get at Bod. He’s definitely heard things that make him suspect that Bod’s in there. But does he also expect Scarlett? We don’t know if Jack has that power or not. If Jack didn’t know Scarlett would lead him to Bod, did he just give her a ride home to be nice? Maybe Jack didn’t know Scarlett, and Scarlett didn’t go to the graveyard on purpose, but just randomly ends up there when she gets on the wrong bus. Is this all fate, forcing our hero to go up against his enemy at just the right time?

“No. We killed you for protection. Long time ago, one of our people – that was back in Egypt, in pyramid days – he foresaw that one, there would be a child born would walk he borderland of the living and the dead. That if this child grew to adulthood it would mean the end of our order and all that we stand for. (7.605)

There it is, folks, the prophecy we’ve been talking about. Without this passage, we wouldn’t have much to hang our arguments that Bod is meant to fight the Jacks and win.

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