Study Guide

The Graveyard Book Strength and Skill

By Neil Gaiman

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Strength and Skill

Some skills can be attained by education, and some by practice, and some by time. Those skills will come if you study. Soon enough you will master Fading and Sliding and Dreamwalking. (2.10)

All the skills Bod learns from his graveyard teacher come in handy, especially when it comes time for Bod to fight the last of the Jacks of All Trades.

But some skills cannot be mastered by the living, and for those you must wait for a little longer. (2.10)

Bod won’t be able to do all the things dead people can do until he’s actually dead. Some skills just have to wait.

“You’re brave. You are the bravest person I know, and you are my friend. I don’t care if you <em>are</em> imaginary.” (2.251)

In this passage, Scarlett recognizes one of Bod’s major strengths – his bravery. This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t feel fear, only that he doesn’t let fear stand in the way of him doing what he needs to do.

“Teeth so strong they can crush any bones, and tongue sharp and long enough to lick the marrow from the deepest marrowbone or flay the flesh from a fat man’s face” (3.140).

The ghouls have some really disgusting skills and behaviors, all related to them eating dead stuff.

The noise got louder – a scuttling sort of scuffling noise – and while Nick Farthing had no idea what it was, he was utterly, completely certain that whatever it would turn out to be would be the most scary terrible thing he ever – would ever – encounter. (6.214)

Bod can get inside your head while you’re sleeping and control your dreams! We don’t know if he’ll keep this skill with him when he leaves the graveyard, or if it’s just part of having Freedom of the Graveyard.

I can learn everything I need to know, all I can. I learned about ghoul-gates. I learned to Dreamwalk. Miss Lupescu taught me how to watch the stars. Silas taught me silence. I can Haunt. I can Fade. I know every inch of this graveyard. (7.31)

When Bod learns his family was murdered and begins thirsting for revenge, he decides he needs to work much harder at developing all his strengths and skills. It’s going to be one big fight to get revenge.

“This is my home. I can do things here.” (7.438)

Yep, we know that feeling. Something about being at home, and in our own space, makes us more powerful – stronger than we might be in another setting. For Bod, this is magnified since he can use his Freedom of the Graveyard powers to battle the Jacks only in the graveyard. Bod is probably also thinking that his graveyard buddies will back him up at home, but away from home he’d on his own.

Bod breathed in, Faded as deeply as he could Fade, and moved past the man like dust blown on an evening breeze. (7.484)

Aha! Bod is finally putting his lesson in Fading to good use. Without the ability to Fade and not be noticed, the Jacks would’ve snatched him up in a heartbeat. So, if Bod hadn’t chosen to master Fading, he might have failed to meet his destiny of getting rid of those guys.

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