The Golden Compass Essay Questions

Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Is the novel critical of organized religion? Support your answer.

    The author of the novel is highly critical of most organized religions, Christianity and Catholicism in particular, and is a self-confessed atheist so it is unsurprising that his opinions regarding these two establishments would spill over into his writing. In the novel, the church is written as a tyrannical entity that rules over the known world with an iron-fist. It is a theocracy known as the Magisterium and although it is technically a church it also has a militant arm that is responsible for quelling rebellions and suppressing heretical ideas. The Magisterium imposes its concepts of morality and ethics upon the populace whilst itself being a largely corrupt and violent institution.

  2. 2

    What symbol is used to tackle the theme of loss of innocence?

    The mysterious substance known only as “Dust” is a collection of elementary particles correlated with cognizance, occurring and seemingly attracted to more mature beings. This substance, although not clearly understood or explained at length is integral to the novel’s storyline. Dust is drawn to conscious minds and seems to be more strongly attracted to more mature minds. This odd characteristic of Dust causes the Magisterium to label it as “sinful” and “heretical” as it draws an association with original sin and seeks not just to destroy Dust but anyone else that actively study it. Dust, therefore, because of it’s association with sin and maturity becomes emblematic of the loss of innocence that children undergo as they mature, accumulating around their Daemons suppressing their natural shape-shifting ability for good.

  3. 3

    The novel seems to insist that there is no such thing as absolute truth. Do you agree? Support your answer.

    Both the author and as a result, the novel, is critical of any ruling entity or polities that seeks to impose standards of morality, especially if the polity in question invokes a divine right and uses it as an excuse to act with impunity. This is the setting in the novel and many of the characters in it seek power for their own ends and actively try to suppress others with a combination of violence and manipulation. The protagonist, Lyra, displays a very strong individualist streak and a penchant to seek answers, not “the truth” per se. Lyra for example seeks to find a more unclouded idea of ethical living where they don’t suppress what they don’t understand and as such, is a banner-bearer for the book’s understated thesis that there is truth, varied and more deeply personal versions of it.

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