Northern Lights Essay

Philip Pullman’s critically acclaimed 1995 fantasy novel Northern Lights examines the validity of religion and social constructs through employing a combination of strong characterization and eclectic literary techniques in exemplifying the belief that ‘a successful novel always has characters with whom we engage’. Lyra is the main protagonist of the novel; developing her character and maturity as a human being. Lyra makes this novel successful through her engagement of the audience in the journey she undertakes. The novel explores the forces of love and betrayal which are implied to revolve around power.

In Northern Lights, the main antagonists are the ‘Magesterium’, a religious entity that controls the world. They are the evil doers who kidnap children and intercise them and their daemons. This is the basis of Lyra’s mission to stop them and save her close friend Roger. The true evil of the Magesterium is displayed at the station as the imagery of the storeroom of intercised daemons represent “all the daemons of the severed children: ghost like forms of cats, or birds, or rats…” which illustrates the sins the Magesterium have done.

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This piece of imagery affects Lyra immensely as this encourages her to destroy the Magesterium which would end the chaos in the world. Lyra expresses a lot of love and gains a lot of friendships during her expedition to the North. A perfect example of this is shown in the relationship between Iorek Byrnison and Lyra. This relationship is significant to the storyline as both of these powerful beings cannot reach their goals without the help of one another. This is shown when Lyra persuades Iofur Raknison to fight Iorek fairly.

If she didn’t do this the rest of the bears would’ve killed Iorek straight away. Lyra’s encouraging modality “you’re the real king, and he en’t. He’s nothing. ” proves to be vital during Iorek’s victory over Iofur. It also starts the climax which is when the two bears fight for the title of bear king. Lyra shows great compassion at this stage of the novel and it shows that her view of the world has changed deeply as she now cares for others where as before she cared only about herself.

Another example of love shown by Lyra is that the whole purpose of her voyage is to save her closest friend Roger. Her love for Roger gives her the grit and drive to persist in her crossing to the north. When she sees Roger she is overjoyed at the fact that he hasn’t had the “intercision” yet. The descriptive imagery “She was a chaffinch, and she fluttered so wildly that Pantalaimon had to be a cat and leap at her,” proves that Lyra is excited and she cares for him deeply.

In addition, Pullman also explores treachery when Lord Asriel betrays Lyra’s trust by sacrificing Roger to facilitate his crossing of parallel universes. The rhetorical question, “for what he’d done to Roger, and to her: trick her- how dare he? ”, illustrates the tragedy of Asriel’s nobility and presents his unyielding sense of duty as a flaw and also makes Lyra unstable mentally as she loses her friend and her belief of Asriel being a good man.

Lyra is an important figure in this novel as she is the one who saves the day. She also follows the typical ‘Hero’s Journey’ and she makes this book successful because many readers can relate to her as this book is mainly read by teenagers. She is also very real in the sense that she acts like a human being and that in the course of this novel she develops and matures into a fine young woman. With these reasons, Lyra by herself engages the audience into reading Northern Lights.


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