The Golden Compass

by

Philip Pullman

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Golden Compass can help.
Dust Symbol Icon

Within the world of the novel, Dust is an elementary particle that collects around adult humans beginning at the onset of puberty, as a person's dæmon begins to settle. It is a physical embodiment of adults’ capacity for individual choice as they lose their childhood innocence and gain knowledge of the world—whether those choices are good or evil. Because of this, the Magisterium decides that Dust is both proof of and the reason for original sin, or the ability to make choices and acquire knowledge (and also is the root of death, disease, and evil). Turning original sin into a physical thing that can be studied, manipulated, and blamed for the world's evils magnifies the Magisterium's need for power, as it means that there's a way to create a population that's easier to control: stopping Dust from settling, and original sin from taking hold, through intercision.

Dust Quotes in The Golden Compass

The The Golden Compass quotes below all refer to the symbol of Dust. 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 Two Quotes

Ever since Pope John Calvin had moved the seat of the Papacy to Geneva and set up the Consistorial Court of Discipline, the Church's power over every aspect of life had been absolute. The Papacy itself had been abolished after Calvin's death, and a tangle of courts, colleges, and councils, collectively known as the Magisterium, had grown up in its place.

Related Characters: The Master, The Librarian
Related Symbols: Dust
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Fifteen Quotes

"We dunno," said Annie. "Just something from space. Not real dust. If you en't got any Dust, that's good. But everyone gets Dust in the end."

Related Characters: Annie (speaker), Lyra, The Gobblers
Related Symbols: Dust
Page Number: 246
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Sixteen Quotes

"I think he's got an entirely different idea of the nature of Dust. That's the point. It's profoundly heretical, you see, and the Consistorial Court of Discipline can't allow any other interpretation than the authorized one. And besides, he wants to experiment—"

"To experiment? With Dust?"

Related Characters: The Gobblers (speaker), Lyra, Lord Asriel
Related Symbols: Dust
Page Number: 274
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

Dust Symbol Timeline in The Golden Compass

The timeline below shows where the symbol Dust appears in The Golden Compass. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter Two
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...Lord Asriel says that the glowing light is moving downward, not upward, and is actually Dust. (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Silence follows, and Lyra feels that this Dust is different from normal dust. Scholars begin to gasp and Lord Asriel draws their attention... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
...much later. He says they voted to give him money but won't tell Lyra what Dust is. He also refuses to let her look at Grumman's head. Lyra says that the... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...to explain things to her, but the Master thinks that Lyra might be interested in Dust. He says that knowing about it might help her on her journey. The Master also... (full context)
Chapter Three
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...Lyra's life proceeded like this until she hid in the Retiring Room and heard about Dust, and the narrator also says that the Librarian was wrong that Lyra wouldn't be interested... (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
...things, so when Mrs. Coulter tells Lyra about electrons, Lyra says that they're particles like Dust, but they're negatively charged. At the mention of Dust the golden monkey snaps to attention,... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...an aeronautical accident in the North. As she wanders away, Lyra hears a man mention Dust to a young woman. The man says that a scientist called Rusakov discovered Dust and... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...as oblates, which means "sacrifice." The General Oblation Board is drawing on those ideas with Dust. The man suggests that Lyra speak to Lord Boreal and points out an older man... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...Uncomfortable under Lord Boreal's stare, Lyra admits that Lord Asriel showed her a photo of Dust and that the Oblation Board took Roger. She says that she hasn't "taken part" yet... (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
...knows what happens to the children. Lyra says that she only knows that it's about Dust and that the children are a sacrifice. Lord Boreal deems this dramatic; he says that... (full context)
Chapter Seven
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...rescue him. She tells them everything she can remember about Lord Asriel's visit and about Dust, and specifically about the special photographs of the city in the Aurora. John Faa says... (full context)
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
John Faa says that in the years after, people began to get anxious about Dust. He tells Lyra that the pastry cook at Jordan has been watching over her and... (full context)
Chapter Eleven
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...Hell, and Lyra thinks that it seems almost holy. She thinks that it might be Dust, but then promptly forgets the thought. A city then appears in the sky—but as Lyra... (full context)
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
...and need the witches' help, but Kaisa says that some clans are working with the "Dust hunters." He doesn't know if the Dust hunters and the Oblation Board are the same,... (full context)
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Kaisa explains that they don't know what the Dust hunters do at Bolvanger, but it emanates hatred and fear. The Dust hunters have a... (full context)
Chapter Fourteen
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...can't tell Lyra definitively what the adults do here, though one says that they measure Dust. Eventually, they take kids away one by one and they don't come back. The girls... (full context)
Chapter Fifteen
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
After lunch, the doctors test Lyra for Dust. She continues to play dumb and says she's not dusty. During one test, Lyra tests... (full context)
Chapter Sixteen
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...herself. The doctors talk quietly about Lord Asriel, what he's doing with his experiments on Dust, and Mrs. Coulter's cruel interest in seeing children and dæmons being ripped apart. Lyra involuntarily... (full context)
Chapter Seventeen
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... (full context)
Chapter Eighteen
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Lyra asks what Dust is. Serafina Pekkala doesn't know, but says that priests and the Church fear Dust. Lyra... (full context)
Chapter Nineteen
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...accuses him of plagiary. Lyra lies and says that the Palmerian Professor was writing about Dust. Santelia shouts insults about the Palmerian Professor. Lyra sits down and flatters Santelia into telling... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-One
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...asks Lyra for her story. When she finishes, she asks him to tell her what Dust is and why it's so scary. Lord Asriel says that it’s what makes the alethiometer... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...-1: it doesn't exist, but a person can calculate things using it. He declares that Dust is proof that something happens when "innocence changed into experience." He shows her where in... (full context)
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...licensed. Mrs. Coulter is ambitious and alluring, so she was the perfect person to investigate Dust for the Magisterium. Lyra asks why the Church would cut children in the first place.... (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
...Asriel says that intercision was Mrs. Coulter's idea; she suspected that a dæmon settling and Dust gathering were connected. In her travels, she's seen other cultures successfully separate dæmons from bodies.... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-Three
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...Roger is stuck. Suddenly, the Aurora flickers and Lyra thinks that she can feel the Dust. Roger cries out for Lyra and Lyra runs to him as Pan changes form rapidly... (full context)
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...run. Pan attacks Stelmaria and the two young dæmons fight her. Lyra fights the thick Dust and sees palm trees and boulevards in the sky. She pulls Roger away, but Stelmaria... (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
...scratches her hand and confirms that Lord Asriel is going to find the source of Dust and destroy it. He says that the Oblation Board, the Church, Bolvanger, and Mrs. Coulter... (full context)