Study Guide

The Ocean at the End of the Lane Versions of Reality

By Neil Gaiman

Versions of Reality

Sometimes in The Ocean at the End of the Lane the magical element isn't so much a case of the supernatural world in action, or a millennia of accumulated knowledge and wisdom—sometimes it's just a case of looking at things a bit differently. Gran Hempstock obviously sees things in such a way that make our version of reality boring and—let's face it—pretty disappointing. Then it makes you wonder, whose perception of reality is more realistic? Are the Hempstocks loonies, or do they see the world for what it really is?

For a really good—and befuddling time—try thinking on this theme alongside the theme of memory.

Questions About Versions of Reality

  1. When Gran does her "snipping" of the incident between the boy and his father, she creates two versions of reality. Does one have more legitimacy than the other?
  2. Would you rather live in our world as we know it, or understand reality the way the Hempstocks do? Why?
  3. When Ginnie wipes the boy's memory and convinces him that Lettie just went off to Australia, is she creating a different version of reality?

Chew on This

Reality is a subjective experience, just like memory—so when memory is toyed with, it changes reality.

Reality is a constant that is perceived differently by different people. So when you mess with memory the reality stays the same, only a person's perception of reality is changed.