Study Guide

The Graveyard Book Good vs. Evil

By Neil Gaiman

Good vs. Evil

Jack leaned over, raised his right hand, the one holding the knife, and he aimed for the chest… … and then he lowered his hand. The shape in the crib was a teddy bear. There was no child. (1.10)

Trying to stab a baby in the chest? Now that sounds like pure evil to us.

In a voice like the chiming of a hundred tiny silver bells she said only, “The dead should have charity.” And she smiled. (1.161)

The Lady on the Grey, a mysterious and powerful figure deeply involved in death, is the opposite of Jack. She doesn’t want to kill babies – nope, she wants to protect them and keep them safe. She might well know that Bod is no ordinary baby, but a baby meant to take a big bite out of evil. We still think she would be nice to any baby she came in contact with, though, no matter what their his destiny was.

“You are ignorant, boy,” said Miss Lupescu. “This is bad. And you are content to be ignorant, which is worse.” (3.60)

With statements like this – and lots of “crazy” food – Miss Lupescu seems evil to Bod at first (though readers can see she’s probably not). When she saves his life, he learns that she’s one of the best people (she calls herself a person) he could hope to have as a teacher.

The three faces staring into his could have been those of mummified humans, fleshless and dried, but their features were mobile and interested – mouths that grinned to reveal sharp, stained teeth; bright beady eyes; clawed fingers that moved and tapped. (3.102)

Hmmm. They look evil and they almost definitely <em>smell</em> evil. But Bod is totally used to that last piece – he lives in a graveyard, after all. Getting to know the ghouls helps him develop his ability to judge good from bad which is a necessity when you’re battling evil.

“The Saturday after they drowned and toasted me, a carpet was delivered to Mr. Porringer […]. […] it carried the plague in its pattern, and by Monday five of them were coughing blood, and their skins were gone as black as mine when they hauled me from the fire.” (4.82)

Liza hints that she paid back the evil done to her (torturing her and burning her alive) with some very dark magic. Does she become evil by getting revenge on the evil done to her in such a way?

A snake with unseeing milky eyes uncoiled in its alcohol-filled jar. A faceless, tiny sea-creature twisted and revolved in its liquid home. A kitten, dead for decades, showed its teeth and clawed the glass. (6.420)

Bod is using some evil-sounding tricks to scare Mo out of her bullying ways. We see the same pattern we’ve been discussing. Bod has to be a bigger bully than Mo to get her to stop bullying – or does he? If this were a different story, we could see Bod getting to know Maureen and changing her by being her friend. Since she’s just a ten-year-old, we wonder if she herself is bullied in some area of her life.

“<em>Da</em>. I am one of the Hounds of God,” said Miss Lupescu. “I will stand.” (7.287)

We can just feel all of the honor, all of the goodness, and all of the bravery coming off Miss Lupescu when she says these words before she enters the battlefield for the last time.

“So you knew. That the Sleer would take him. Was <em>that</em> why you hid me down here? What was I, then, <em>bait</em>?” (7.764)

Scarlett is starting to think Bod is an evil person here too. What do you think? Does Bod have other options? Could he have saved Scarlett and himself from Jack in another way?

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