Coraline Themes

The Importance of Overcoming One's Fears

At the beginning of the story, Coraline feels secure in her comfortable existence. However, she is bored by her life and is constantly seeking stimulation or encouragement from either her environment or her loved ones. Once Coraline is put in an uncomfortable and compromising situation, she learns more about herself and her inner strength. In the other world, Coraline is confronted by various fears that intensify after she conquers each one. She must conquer her fear of the other mother in order to restore her reality. As the story progresses, Coraline realizes that her biggest fear is losing those whom she loves the most. As Coraline overcomes each obstacle, she realizes that she is strong, powerful, and capable.


At the beginning of the novel, Coraline views herself as an explorer lost in a boring world. Although her parents are at home most of the time, she finds herself lonely and dissatisfied. She asserts her independence by refusing to ask for help. Once Coraline discovers the other world, she is forced to confront the strengths and weaknesses of her character. She places her faith in the cat, her sole companion as she battles the beldam. Although Coraline struggles with asserting her own identity in both the real world and in the other world, she is also left to hyper-examine the identities of others. As she further discovers herself, she also discovers the true identities of those that surround her.

The Potential of Imagination

Imagination plays an ambiguous yet essential role throughout the novel. At the very beginning of the novel, it is clear that Coraline uses her imagination in order to escape life's banality. In one example, Coraline's mother asks her daughter where she has wandered off to. Instead of explaining the reality of the situation, Coraline opts for a more provocative answer. She imagines that she has been kidnapped by aliens who eventually let her free because she faked a foreign accent. In this example, Coraline's imagination is comedic relief. As the story progresses, the reader is left to consider whether the entire existence of the other world is another imaginative exploration of the story's protagonist. Although this question remains unanswered, it is clear that Coraline's imagination is her personal salvation.

The Power of Choice

Coraline touches on a theme that is essential to human existence—the importance and the difficulties of making choices. Coraline must consistently make choices, both big and small. After her parents are abducted, Coraline must choose how to structure her time and make herself comfortable in the real world without their support or guidance. As the narrative intensifies, Coraline is faced with big choices that will affect her and her family's futures. Despite the initial comfort of the other world, Coraline chooses to escape this environment and save her parents from the evil other mother. Coraline is never held to anyone's expectations except for her own. She finds her independence and her strength from evaluating all potential options and choosing the most responsible way to achieve her goals.

Deception and Illusions

The other world was carefully constructed by the beldam to represent Coraline's real life. Upon her initial visit to the other world, Coraline is shocked at how the world beyond the door is a better version of her own. However, Coraline makes the decision to not be complacent in accepting this world's initial appeal. She is prompted to consider how her other mother has deceived her, and she is forced to unpack the motivations for the beldam's deceit. Later in the novel, Coraline is convinced that her other father is an innocent and complacent character. Later, she discovers that this persona was merely an illusion in order to convince Coraline that he is not a suspicious or sinister figure. Through her exposure to the other world, Coraline learns to understand how appearances can differ from the reality of a situation.

The Harm of Manipulation

The character that most clearly personifies manipulation is the other mother, also known as the beldam. The beldam has created the other world by manipulating and replicating Coraline's reality. As the story continues, the reader begins to understand how the other mother has manipulated numerous other figures in the other world. She manipulates the other father in order to trap Coraline in the other world. Simultaneously, the beldam manipulates Coraline into believing that her other father is a trustworthy and reliable character. Coraline must become aware of the other mother's manipulative tendencies in order to stay vigilant and accomplish her ultimate goals.

The Truth about Family

It is clear that Coraline struggles with her parents. When they first move into their new apartment, Coraline is disheartened by her parent's busy schedules and their general inattentiveness towards their daughter. In the other world, Coraline meets an alternate parental duo who shower her with attention and cook her favorite recipes. Although her other mother and other father seem to check all of the boxes, Coraline begins to truly miss her real parents. In her real parents' absence, Coraline learns to accept and appreciate their flaws and quirks. Throughout her journey into the other world, Coraline learns that family is the most important and meaningful thing in life.