I have recently enjoyed studying a novel by Philip Pullman entitled Northern Lights. The main idea of the novel is about a girl who is travelling north to find her kidnapped friend and other children. She also wanted to give her father something. The novel was a delightful account of how the girl developed and became wiser throughout the story. The main element of the novel I am going to look at is how Lyra develops throughout the course of the novel. Pullman describes the development and determination of the character through characterisation. The author uses effective skills to develop the protagonist into becoming a wiser, more mature and a more courageous person.
At first I found Lyra to be naï¿½ve and headstrong but as her character develops she learns more about how the world works. There is one thing in her I feel was with her through the novel. This was her courage. I feel that she is consistently courageous to the extent of the plot. Here is quote from the start of the novel in which her background story is told.
‘She was proud of her college’s eminence and liked to boast of it to various ragamuffins she played with by the canal or clay beds.’
Jordan College adopted Lyra when she was very young as her mother and father had died. She likes to think of it as ‘her college’ and is very proud of it. However, she is not educated at the college and there fore has a lot of spare time which she uses to play with street children. This shows her character to be of a young naï¿½ve and mischievous nature.
This next quote shows the characters childish nature.
‘In many ways Lyra was a barbarian. What she liked best was clambering over the college roofs with Roger, the kitchen boy, who was her particular friend.’
This quote proves that she can form strong friendships. Another aspect of her character covered by this quotation is her distinct courage and she crawls around the high rooftops of the college. Either this or she is just childlike and does not realise the possible consequences of her actions. Interesting vocabulary in this quotation include: ‘clambering’ which suggests to me the impression of a child’s clumsy and ungainly movement, ‘barbarian’ use of this suggests they had their own little tribe and that she was fierce, brutal or a cruel person.
Further on in the text Lyra runs away from a woman who captured her and is now left on the streets. She is confronted by a drunken man who offers her some brandy and shows a few more of her qualities.
‘Where are you going all alone like this’
‘Going to meet my father’
‘And who is he?’
‘He’s a murderer’
‘Ah! You’re joking’
‘Good night’ he said
Here she promptly lies to the man and makes up a story about her father so the man will leave her alone. This proves that the man did not fool her and her character has grown from being naï¿½ve to being sensible and no longer childlike. It also displays her newfound talent for lying. In the quotation she is also using informal language, trying to fit into her surroundings.
The next quotation confirms that Lyra is determined to achieve her goal and it also shows her stubbornness.
‘You’ve done your part Lyra.’
‘But I en’t done nothing yet!’ Lyra protested as she followed the others.
Lyra has joined with ‘The Gyptians’ she is trying to convince them to go north with her to try and find the kidnapped children. The Gyptians disagree and tell her it would be too dangerous for her to go. However, she rebels and ends up forcing her way with them. This shows stubbornness, her determination to achieve her goal and again her courage.
Near the climax of the story, Lyra is in the prison camp and is trying to listen into a conversation through the air duct above the room.
‘Lyra was trembling. The blood was pounding in her ears’
She is listening in on the conversation and finds out about all the terrible thing they do to children there but she keeps listening until they leave. This demonstrates that she is fearful in some ways but she can control this fear and listen on. This reveals that she is brave and courageous. She gathers a group together so they can escape now she knows what would happen to them. This proves she has strong leadership qualities. When everyone agrees to go with her they promptly escape from the camp.
The next quote establishes that she is a quick thinker.
‘A movement later she had turned on all the gas taps and flung a match at the nearest burner.’
This is a quote from a section of the book where Lyra is destroying a building as a distraction so they can escape from the camp. It shows great creativity and a benefit of her patchwork upbringing, where she has learned a few useful things. I think this was one good quality that she learned from when playing with her friends.
The following quote also shows that she is a quick thinker and creative.
‘Then she dragged a bag of flour from the shelf and hurled it at the edge of the table so it burst and filled the air with white, because she heard that flour will explode if treated like that near flames.’
I feel that the use of the word ‘white’ is effective because it describes the atmosphere in the room at that time. It would have made it feel like there was a curtain of mist in front of them and may have made them feel claustrophobic and confused.
The next quotes describes Lyra’s ‘patchwork’ upbringing.
‘Lyra’s Knowledge has great gaps in it, like a map of the world largely eaten by mice….’
This highlights that she has had education put together by small pieces of information and learns things as she goes along. The quote is a effective example of this because you can just imagine the world with pieces of the map missing, like he education. This quote is also a simile.
From my study of characterisation of Lyra, I have concluded that throughout the course of the novel she matures significantly as a person. Her initial character features were: naï¿½vetï¿½, being headstrong, being childlike and being courageous. These are now replaced by characteristics such as: maturity, courage and sensibility. I think that the author has employed great skill and achieved a great goal in the creation of Lyra.