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Nadine
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THE GOLDEN COMPASS: Part 1 Oxford - Chapter 1-9

[ Edited ]
I am finding it more and more difficult to respond to some of the more general questions with my knowledge limited to the first book. A lot more will be forthcoming in the future books that will shed more light on these topics. So I decided to go back and reread The Golden Compass (we do have three months to discuss these broader topics)after my first gallop through. This thread is for those of you like me, who are rereading the book and especially for those of you who are just reading it for the first time and would like to express your first thoughts as you read.

Message Edited by ConnieK on 10-05-2007 09:05 AM
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Nadine
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Re: Part 1 Oxford - Chapter 1-9

Chapter 1 & 2

These first two chapters are very tightly (and I might add well) written. We are given a lot of information presented in a very natural form. Looking back now in hindsight, I can see that this information is very relevant to the outcome of the book. Right off we are introduced to the daemons and many of the major people in the story, either directly, or by reference.

Right from the beginning, from the description of the Retiring Room (I right off thought Men's Club), we know we are in a world familiar to us but at the same time an alter world where people have animal daemons and some of the technological references which seem odd and a bit old-fashioned sounding. We are given a lot of information (that I actually missed the first time around) about the religious-political (and I can't see any way to discuss one separate from the other). We also learn a lot about the character of Lyra and Lord Ariel and, of course, their daemons. We are also launched into the action of the story immediately with the attempted murder of Lord Asriel and his imminent departure for the north. WE also get our first clue that Lyra is an important and critical player in the events and has an important destiny (another thing I missed the first time through).
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Nadine
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Re: Part 1 Oxford - Chapter 1-9

[ Edited ]
Chapter 1&2

maxicat wrote:
I have not read much of the book but first impression is that Lyra is inquisitive and curios as most teenagers are. She is a risk taker especially with her uncle and the wine episode. But she finds things intriguing in the slideshow he presents.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yes, we find out that Lyra is quite a risk-taker right off and I think this becomes an important part of her personality. She just does things without regard for the consequences. She is also very curious and adventurous. I especially like the play between her and Pan. He seems to be the sensible side of her personality telling her to be cautious and warning her that she will probably fall asleep in the closet (which she eventually does). He also is a "play-it safe" daemon, totally the opposite of Lyra, and that might be an important attribute of daemons. I also see the first indication of her very important moral fiber. It was there from the beginning but I only saw the mischievous child on my first reading. I found the following dialog very revealing about both Lyra and Pan. This is right after Lyra has seen the Master pour something into the Tokay intended for Lord Asriel.

Chapt 1 page 8&9

--------------------------

"...Pan, do you really think it's not poison in that wine?"

"No, he said. "I think it is, like you do. And I think it's none of our business. And I think it would be the silliest thing you've ever done in a lifetime of silly things to interfere. It's nothing to do with us."

"Don't be stupid," Lyra said. "I can't sit here and watch them give him poison!"

"Come somewhere else, then."

"Your're a coward, Pan."

"Certainly I am. May I ask what you intend to do? Are you going to leap out and snatch the glass from his trembling fingers? What did you have in mind?"

"I didn't have anything in mind, and well you know it," she snapped quietly. "But now I've seen what the Master did, I haven't got any choice. You're supposed to know about conscience, aren't you? How can I just go and sit in the library or somewhere and twiddle my thumbs, knowing what's going to happen" I don't intend to do that, I promise you."

Message Edited by Nadine on 09-06-2007 02:07 PM
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Nadine
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Re: Part 1 Oxford - Chapter 1-9

Lord Asriel's presentation in the Retiring Room is important in establishing the factual base of the story but I think the conversation between the Master and the Librarian afterwards is the most revealing. Chapt 2 pages 29-32.

First of all, the Master is moved from the villain side of the scale to the good guy. He really didn't want to murder Lord Asriel but it was an important necessity:

---------------------------------------------------------------------
"Forgive me, Master, but I can't help being relieved. I was never happy about the idea of...."

"Of poisoning him?"

"Yes, of murder."

"Hardly anyone would be happy at that idea, Charles. The question was whether doing that would be worse than the consequences or not doing it. Well, some providence has intervened, and it hasn't happened. I'm only sorry I burdened you with the knowledge of it."
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note how that idea of destiny has creeped in again. The deeper I look into this the more I see this theme of "Free Will vs. Destiny."
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maxcat
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Re: Part 1 Oxford - Chapter 1-9

I was going to say, Nadine, that Pan seemed to be the opposite of Lyra. He is cautious and perhaps afraid of any consequences. Obviously, he wants to protect her and keep her out of trouble. But I have a feeling Lyra is adventurous as you say and will get into further trouble as the book goes on. I am thoroughly enjoying this book . Even though I am an older adult, I do read Harry Potter also. Today's kid's books are designed to be read by adults also. Another series is Redwall by Brian Jacque. It doesn't matter to me if the book is in the kid's section in a bookstore. If it appeals to me, I'll buy it and read it.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost
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Nadine
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Re: Part 1 Oxford - Chapter 1-9


maxcat wrote:
I was going to say, Nadine, that Pan seemed to be the opposite of Lyra. He is cautious and perhaps afraid of any consequences. Obviously, he wants to protect her and keep her out of trouble. But I have a feeling Lyra is adventurous as you say and will get into further trouble as the book goes on. I am thoroughly enjoying this book . Even though I am an older adult, I do read Harry Potter also. Today's kid's books are designed to be read by adults also. Another series is Redwall by Brian Jacque. It doesn't matter to me if the book is in the kid's section in a bookstore. If it appeals to me, I'll buy it and read it.




I'm with you maxicat. I am also an older adult and a Harry Potter fan. I do find a lot of depth in children's books. I don't know if children fully understand them when they are very young, but as we grow older we can reread them and discover in them deeper truths that have been around since man first started painting pictures on cave ceilings (though I'm not quite that old! :smileywink: ) I think the value of fantasy and children's books, in particular, is that they are supposed to be "make-believe" and we feel safer and more comfortable reading about these things when they don't seem so personal. But they are about ourselves.

Although HDM is kind of a child's fantasy book, it is also very adult. In fact so much so, that outside of the fact that the heroes are children and there are a lot of animal characters, I don't view them as children's books at all.
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Nadine
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Re: Part 1 Oxford - Chapter 1-9

Chapt 1 & 2
The Political Church

Reference Page 30

Something else that I didn't pay too much attention to was the absolute political power of the Church and how it was organized.

After John Calvin took over the Papacy, the "Church" became the absolute power over every aspect of life. After Calvin died there was no longer any central power but it was divided among competing groups known as the Magisterium. The most powerful and feared was the Consistorial Court of Discipline. Other agencies were formed under the protection of one or more of these ruling groups and one of them was the all important Oblation Board.

Deviant theories or beliefs not in line with the Church's thinking were suppressed. One of these was the Barnard-Stokes heresy. The Church's official opinion was that there was literally only two worlds our material world and the spiritual world of heaven and hell. The Barnard-Stokes heresy stated that there were numerous other worlds just like ours.

Now this book is science fiction so Pullman can invent anything he wants to but there seems to be some solid science behind this, though some controversial science. If you really want to know you can plow through this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiverse

And of course astronomers are discovering planets in other solar systems and these could possibly qualify as other worlds as well.

I think his point here is that in Lyra's world religious beliefs take precedence over scientific findings. This somewhat reminded me of Galilieo who got into real trouble by suggesting that the earth revolved around the sun. He was condemned and could of been burned at the stake--many others were. But he lived out his life under house arrest and his books were banned. This may be the parallel that Pullman is making here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_Galilei

It is interesting to note that the Catholic Church officially reversed its opinion on Galilieo in 1984:

http://www.cas.muohio.edu/~marcumsd/p111/lectures/grehab.htm

Of course as we have noted in this second chapter and find out by the end of the book, Lord Asriel proves the Barnard-Stokes heresy.
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Nadine
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Re: Part 1 Oxford - Chapter 1-9

The final significant finding from this conversation is about Lyra herself. (Chapt 2 page 31-32) On my first reading it meant nothing to me. Even though it is mentioned, we do not know at this point what an alethiometer is. But we do find out that Lyra is very important to upcoming events and that the Master has actually been trying to protect her. She is "destined" for a very important role and she can't know about it. The Master knows that she must travel to the North and must betray someone and it will be a devastating experience for her.

I totally forgot about this conversation as I read the rest of the book.
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maxcat
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Re: Part 1 Oxford - Chapter 1-9

Me neither! You are right about rereading childrens books as an adult and getting a different perspective on them, though. I have found that out too.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost
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Nadine
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Re: Part 1 Oxford - Chapter 1-9

Chapt 2 - Tony Makarios

I am amazed at what I have forgotten in a mere two weeks. I just read this book!

So I have found another relevant thing. I remembered the incident but forgot the boy's name so I never made the connection. But in Chapt 3, page 40 we meet Tony Makarios and his daemon Ratter. Later on Tony makes a second critical appearance. I'm sure many of you missed that as well but are making the connect now.

I think later on, we will have even more sympathy for this boy who is very alone here and becomes ultimately alone later. The connection certainly produced in me a deeper feeling about him. This is where we get to know him.
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Nadine
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Re: Part 1 Oxford - Chapter 1-9

Chapt 3

I noticed on that same page, Chapt 3 pg 40, that Pullman casually drops in the name of Dr. Dee--"the great magician." I don't know if such casual references mean anything since (I think) this is the only time Dr. Dee shows up. It does place Lyra's world more solidly in a specific historic time (also with the help of the Calvin reference that also only comes up once).

If anyone is is curious about who Dr. Dee was:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dee

I also thought this piece of trivia was interesting:

Roger Highfield, The Science of Harry Potter (New York: Penguin, 2002), 218-221, claims that Dee's physical appearance is the inspiration for Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series.
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Nadine
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Re: Part 1 Oxford - Chapter 1-9

Chapter 5

I don't know if this will have relevance later on but when Lyra mentioned Dust, Mrs. Coulter (and her daemon) have a very startling reaction.

--------------------------

As soon as she said that, Mrs. Coulter's daemon snapped his head up to look at her, and all the golden fur on his little body stood up, bristling, as if it were charged itself. Mrs. Coulter laid a hand on his back...

Later, Pantalaimon said, "You know when all the fur stood up on her daemon? Well, I was behind him, and she grabbed this fur so tight her knuckles went white. You couldn't see. It was a long time till his fur went down. I thought he was going to leap at you."

That was strange, no doubt; but neither of them knew what to make of it.
-------------------------------

I too find this over reaction strange. I thought Mrs. Coulters interest in Dust (and side project) were mainly devices in her attempt to climb the power pyramid. But this little incident reveals that she is deeply and sincerely afraid of it. I don't want to open this topic too much in this section because of the spoiler problem. But this may alter in my mind her true motivation. The first time through I viewed Mrs. Coulter's action as politically motivated but now I wonder if she is actually motived by fear of the implications and threat of Dust itself.
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Nadine
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Re: Part 1 Oxford - Chapter 1-9

Chapter 5

Pg 89-90 and 95

--------------------------------
"...General Oblation Board. Very old idea, as a matter of fact. In the Middle Ages, parents would give their children to the church to be monks or nuns. And the unfortunate brats were known as oblates. Means a sacrifice, an offering, something of that sort. So the same idea was taken up when they were looking into the Dust business..."

.....

"Sacrifice is rather a dramatic way of putting. it What's done is for their good as well as ours. And of course they all come to Mrs. Coulter willingly. That's why she's so valuable. They must want to take part, and what child could resist her?"
-------------

Here is a definition and a reference to the historic term:

ob·la·tion
1. The act of offering something, such as worship or thanks, to a deity.
2. Oblation
a. The act of offering the bread and wine of the Eucharist.
b. Something offered, especially the bread and wine of the Eucharist.
3. A charitable offering or gift.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oblation

I found this somewhat chilling along with Mrs. Coulter's reaction to the word Dust. As long as I was seeing all this as just a political power struggle it did seem quite so bad--well at least that would have been a rational, thought out act. But I am now realizing these people sincerely believe that what they are doing is right. This also explains Mrs. Coulter's efforts to bring the kids in willing and treat them kindly when they could have just as easily just been abducted. I thought her time and effort put into this kidnapping enterprise strange, and out of proportion, especially for someone who probably could have better spent her time and energy doing something else.

But I am now finding the idea that the "children come willingly to offer themselves as a sacrifice for the great good" very disturbing. (Actually, almost in the sense of suicide bombers.) This is also a topic that deserves more attention as we get deeper into the book and trilogy.
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maxcat
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Re: Part 1 Oxford - Chapter 1-9

I wasn't too keen on Mrs. Coulter. She seemed too sweet but had a cruel streak to her. She is found to be part of the Gobblers and is keeping Lyra to help her find children. She can be cruel if nothing goes her way.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost
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maxcat
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Re: Part 1 Oxford - Chapter 1-9

In this book, people are saying that the General Oblation Board was the actual Gobblers. Did I say this right?
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost
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maxcat
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Re: Part 1 Oxford - Chapter 1-9

I have a question to throw out to readers...what are your thoughts on John Faa? Do you think he will go through with his plan to save the children or is he full of air?
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost
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Nadine
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Re: Part 1 Oxford - Chapter 1-9


maxcat wrote:
I have a question to throw out to readers...what are your thoughts on John Faa? Do you think he will go through with his plan to save the children or is he full of air?




In the Roping he was the initiator of the plan and he seemed pretty single-minded when asked if they would take revenge on the people who kidnapped the children. He stated very clearly that his objective was to rescue them. He struck me as a man who would stick to his plan no matter what.
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ConnieAnnKirk
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Re: Part 1 Oxford - Chapter 1-9

Hi, maxcat, and welcome! Yes; the "Gob"blers get their name from the G.O.B., the General Oblation Board. See p. 89-90 in GC.

Hope this helps!

~ConnieK



maxcat wrote:
In this book, people are saying that the General Oblation Board was the actual Gobblers. Did I say this right?


~ConnieAnnKirk




[CAK's books , website.]
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niki
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Re: THE GOLDEN COMPASS: Part 1 Oxford - Chapter 1-9

I don't know why but in someways this world reminds me of Orwell's 1984. Where The Authority is the unseen "Big Brother" who may exist or only be an invention. The various "departments" of this world are run by high level members of "party" that have their own power area where they seek to impose their ideology and control over the population like the Ministry of Truth, Love, and Peace. The poor are kept happy in their ignorance and the more intelligent are expected to believe everything they are told to believe.

I don't see anything particular religious about this world, except for some of the terminology and external trappings.
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curlycew
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Re: THE GOLDEN COMPASS: Part 1 Oxford - Chapter 1-9

What grabbed my attention first in the first chapter was the odd relationship between Lord Asriel and Lyra. It was so cold and distant from the start, hardly the sort of thing that would inspire loyalty in the heart of a child. I am beginning to see the glimmer of a larger picture, but I am beginning to think it would have been better if Asriel had drunk the poison in the first place. Don't have a clue, so I'll keep on reading.
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