The Golden Compass

by

Philip Pullman

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Mrs. Coulter Character Analysis

The primary antagonist of the novel. It's never stated how old Mrs. Coulter is, but she looks young and is extremely beautiful, with pale skin and dark hair. Her dæmon, a golden monkey, is similarly beautiful. She's both glamorous and alluring, which, according to Lord Asriel, makes her the obvious person for the Magisterium to let study Dust and use children as test subjects. In addition to being able to trick the children into coming with her willingly, her alluring nature means that people are far less likely to take issue with the unethical things she does via the General Oblation Board. Lyra is similarly entranced by Mrs. Coulter and her glamorous lifestyle, and so agrees to go live with her. However, Mrs. Coulter eventually shows Lyra that she doesn't intend to take Lyra to the North, as promised, and instead seems to want Lyra to just be a beautiful pet. Lyra later learns that Mrs. Coulter is actually her mother, and after her affair with Lord Asriel and Lyra's subsequent birth led to Lord Asriel killing Mr. Coulter, Mrs. Coulter decided she wanted nothing to do with Lyra. Once Lyra begins to see through Mrs. Coulter's glamour, Mrs. Coulter begins to look terrifying and evil. She and her dæmon are cruel and controlling; doctors at Bolvanger talk about the savage pleasure Mrs. Coulter seems to get from watching children undergo intercision. Mrs. Coulter also proves herself to be extremely hypocritical—she insists that intercision is a good thing and that Dust is bad, but both Lyra and Mrs. Coulter know that intercision on children in particular isn't safe or beneficial, as it causes patients to die. Mrs. Coulter simply doesn't care about the children who undergo the procedure. Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel reunite after Lord Asriel opens up a bridge to a parallel universe. Though the two are still clearly in love, Mrs. Coulter refuses to accompany Lord Asriel to the other universe.

Mrs. Coulter Quotes in The Golden Compass

The The Golden Compass quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Coulter or refer to Mrs. Coulter. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of The Golden Compass published in 1995.
Chapter Four Quotes

Mrs. Coulter came into the bathroom to wash Lyra's hair, and she didn't rub and scrape like Mrs. Lonsdale either. She was gentle. Pantalaimon watched with powerful curiosity until Mrs. Coulter looked at him, and he knew what she meant and turned away, averting his eyes modestly from these feminine mysteries as the golden monkey was doing. He had never had to look away from Lyra before.

Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Seventeen Quotes

"If he's got Dust and you've got Dust, and the Master of Jordan and every other grownup's got Dust, it must be all right. When I get out I'm going to tell all the kids in the world about this. Anyway, if it was so good, why'd you stop them doing it to me? If it was good, you should've let them do it. You should have been glad."

Related Characters: Lyra (speaker), Mrs. Coulter, Pan, The Master, The Gobblers
Related Symbols: Dust
Page Number: 283
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Twenty-One Quotes

"She guessed that the two things that happen in adolescence might be connected: the change in one's dæmon and the fact that Dust began to settle. Perhaps if the dæmon were separated from the body, we might never be subject to Dust—to original sin."

Related Characters: Lord Asriel (speaker), Lyra, Mrs. Coulter
Related Symbols: Dust
Page Number: 375
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Twenty-Three Quotes

"We've heard them all talk about Dust, and they're so afraid of it, and you know what? We believed them, even though we could see that what they were doing was wicked and evil and wrong...We thought Dust must be bad too, because they were grown up and they said so. But what if it isn't? What if it's—"

She said breathlessly, "Yeah! What if it's really good..."

Related Characters: Lyra (speaker), Pan (speaker), Mrs. Coulter, Lord Asriel, The Gobblers
Related Symbols: Dust
Page Number: 398
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Golden Compass LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Golden Compass PDF

Mrs. Coulter Character Timeline in The Golden Compass

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Coulter appears in The Golden Compass. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter Three
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...and settles in to eat it on some steps. There's a woman behind him ( Mrs. Coulter ), but Tony isn't aware of this until his dæmon, Ratter, senses the woman's golden... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...of these children have reached puberty. As Tony drinks his chocolatl, one boy asks what Mrs. Coulter wants. Mrs. Coulter sweetly says that she needs help, and the children feel lucky to... (full context)
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...shows her into the drawing room. He introduces Lyra to boring guests and then to Mrs. Coulter . (full context)
Chapter Four
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Mrs. Coulter invites Lyra to sit next to her at dinner. Lyra is entranced; she's never seen... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...guests leave, the Master sends Lyra to his study so they can speak. They discuss Mrs. Coulter and Lyra deems the woman wonderful. The Master looks older than usual, and Lyra realizes... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...next morning and sends her to knock on the Master's window before she leaves with Mrs. Coulter . The Master lets Lyra in and Lyra asks if she's still leaving. Oddly, the... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...is missing after she says goodbye to the servants. She feels guilty, but reasons that Mrs. Coulter will be able to help her look for him. In the zeppelin, Pan sits on... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Mrs. Coulter takes Lyra to the Royal Arctic Institute for lunch and points out other notable members.... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Once Mrs. Coulter is gone, Pan pulls at Lyra's hair and they take out the alethiometer. It has... (full context)
Chapter Five
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Over the next few weeks, Lyra goes everywhere with Mrs. Coulter . She learns how to eat asparagus, gets to wear beautiful clothes, and attends the... (full context)
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
...thinks of Roger, but she soon forgets him in favor of whatever wonderful thing that Mrs. Coulter does next. After six weeks, Mrs. Coulter decides to throw a cocktail party and involves... (full context)
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...her new dress and wearing a small shoulder bag with the alethiometer hidden in it, Mrs. Coulter tells Lyra to leave the bag in her room. Lyra resists, but the golden monkey... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Lyra has no trouble pretending to be charming, but Pan remains disgusted with Mrs. Coulter and the golden monkey. As the room fills with guests, Lyra feels more and more... (full context)
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...Adèle Starminster, a journalist, and asks to speak with Lyra. Adèle wants to know if Mrs. Coulter is nice and what Lyra does for her, but Lyra keeps her answers short. Mrs.... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...around the party until someone sends her to Lord Boreal. The older man asks what Mrs. Coulter is teaching Lyra. Feeling rebellious, Lyra says that she's learning about the Oblation Board and... (full context)
Chapter Six
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...for her story. She tells it clumsily, leaving out only the alethiometer, and says that Mrs. Coulter is one of the Gobblers. She starts to say what they do to the kids,... (full context)
Chapter Seven
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Lyra tells John Faa about running away from Mrs. Coulter , who she says is one of the Gobblers. She says that Mrs. Coulter didn’t... (full context)
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...on when Lyra left with the person Lord Asriel said she should never leave with: Mrs. Coulter , her mother. Lyra is shocked. John Faa says that Mrs. Coulter must have some... (full context)
Chapter Eight
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...the fact that Lord Asriel is her father, but she's confused about her emotions surrounding Mrs. Coulter being her mother. She doesn't worry long, however, as she throws herself into riling up... (full context)
Chapter Nine
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...what the alethiometer is telling her. One day, he asks her to find out what Mrs. Coulter is doing. The long needle swings around and stops several times at a picture of... (full context)
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...clockwork body. He says they come from Morocco, and this one was certainly sent by Mrs. Coulter . Lyra realizes that the lizard symbol means air, and Farder Coram says the symbol... (full context)
Chapter Fourteen
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...by one and they don't come back. The girls say it's boring except for when Mrs. Coulter comes. Lyra chokes back a shriek and the girls explain that Mrs. Coulter is the... (full context)
Chapter Fifteen
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...she hears and sees a zeppelin landing nearby. As it descends, Lyra and Pan see Mrs. Coulter in one of the windows. (full context)
Chapter Sixteen
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...Pan decide to say that they were kidnapped, and Lyra realizes that she's afraid of Mrs. Coulter more than anything else. She focuses on the fact that the gyptians and Iorek are... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Mrs. Coulter passes by the door of the cafeteria and as she does, the children fearfully stop... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Lyra listens to Mrs. Coulter interrogate three men about the dæmons' escape. A man explains that the alarm on the... (full context)
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
The doctor asks about Lord Asriel, and Mrs. Coulter says that since he continued his "heretical" work in Svalbard, he's too dangerous and has... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...in the other. The guillotine hangs between and above them. As it rises, Lyra hears Mrs. Coulter enter. When Mrs. Coulter sees Lyra, the golden monkey frees Pan from the cage. Pan... (full context)
Chapter Seventeen
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...notices the golden monkey quickly feel Lyra's body and discover the pouch on her waist. Mrs. Coulter offers Lyra tea, but Lyra begins to sob uncontrollably. While Mrs. Coulter comforts Lyra, Pan... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Lyra asks if it has to do with Dust and demands an answer. Mrs. Coulter says that Dust is bad and evil, and separating children keeps them safe from Dust.... (full context)
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Softly, Mrs. Coulter says that Lyra can sleep in here with her. The golden monkey paces, betraying Mrs.... (full context)
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...coming and asks what the strange noise is. Suddenly, the golden monkey attacks Pan while Mrs. Coulter pulls Lyra onto a motorized sledge. (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Mrs. Coulter sets a group of Tartars on the gyptians and Lyra watches her wrestle with Roger.... (full context)
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...up and Serafina passes on that Bolvanger is in ruins, the children are safe, and Mrs. Coulter escaped. Lee Scoresby attaches a rope to his balloon, throws it to the witches, and... (full context)
Chapter Nineteen
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...Iofur doesn't allow people to mention Asriel. He explains that Iofur is entirely besotted with Mrs. Coulter , which means that he's happy to imprison Lord Asriel for her and the Oblation... (full context)
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
...a stuffed doll on his knee, where a human's dæmon might sit. It's dressed like Mrs. Coulter . Lyra steps close and gives him greetings from her and from Iorek. She whispers... (full context)
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...since he killed his father. He's impressed, but then asks her to tell him what Mrs. Coulter promised him last. Lyra returns from the anteroom and says that Mrs. Coulter promised to... (full context)
Chapter Twenty
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...the circle and tell Lyra how Iofur ruled them like they were under a spell. Mrs. Coulter had given Iofur a drug, which he used to orchestrate Iorek's wrongful killing of another... (full context)
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...Eisarson, says that since human laws don't apply on Svalbard, Iofur was going to let Mrs. Coulter set up a place worse than Bolvanger and do things that would be illegal elsewhere.... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-One
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...everything is fine, but Roger says that he's more afraid of Lord Asriel than of Mrs. Coulter . Lyra offers to consult the alethiometer, but Roger says he'd rather not know the... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...alethiometer down and says that she's going back to the palace with Iorek to fight Mrs. Coulter and the Oblation Board, who are coming to kill them all. Lord Asriel says calmly... (full context)
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Lyra asks about the Gobblers, and Lord Asriel explains that Mrs. Coulter started the General Oblation Board. He says that it's under the Magisterium, and the Magisterium... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Lord Asriel says that intercision was Mrs. Coulter 's idea; she suspected that a dæmon settling and Dust gathering were connected. In her... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-Two
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Lyra watches the bears fight the witches but then hears Mrs. Coulter 's zeppelin approaching with troops. The Bears erect their fire hurler and send coal flying... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-Three
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Lyra watches the golden monkey and Stelmaria meet and touch each other. Mrs. Coulter steps into Lord Asriel's arms. Lord Asriel invites her to come with him and says... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
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...of Dust and destroy it. He says that the Oblation Board, the Church, Bolvanger, and Mrs. Coulter all want to do away with Dust, so Dust must actually be good. Excitedly, Pan... (full context)