The Golden Compass

by

Philip Pullman

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Golden Compass can help.
Themes and Colors
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
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Golden Compass, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation

The Golden Compass follows 11-year-old Lyra as she embarks on a quest to save her best friend, Roger. In Lyra's world, which exists parallel to the reader's world, all humans have dæmons, physical manifestations of a person's soul and conscience that take the form of animals. Because Lyra is still a child, her dæmon, Pan, can change his form at will, but as children reach puberty, their dæmons "settle" into a form…

read analysis of Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation

Humanity, Identity, and the Soul

The Golden Compass is extremely concerned with what it means to be alive and what it means to have a soul. Within the world of the novel, a dæmon is a physical manifestation of a person's soul, while other creatures like animals don't have dæmons and other races, such as the bears, state that their souls are contained in their armor. Given the vast range of options that Lyra sees when it comes to manifestations…

read analysis of Humanity, Identity, and the Soul

Religion, Politics, and Control

The Golden Compass introduces the reader to a world in which the Magisterium—a version of the Catholic Church—rules nearly everything. This sets up one of the novel's primary questions as being what role the church should have over society. In Lyra's case, this question is explored by simply discovering how much of the world the church actually controls. The Golden Compass situates the Magisterium as a fundamentally corrupt organization that, rather than existing to…

read analysis of Religion, Politics, and Control
Get the entire The Golden Compass LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Golden Compass PDF

Truth, Lies, and Morality

Lyra, the heroine of the novel, is, without a question, a regular and skilled liar. She lies about everything, from whether she's been on the Jordan College roof or not to eventually orchestrating the duel between Iorek and Iofur by telling Iofur that she's Iorek's dæmon. Initially, the novel treats Lyra's penchant for lying as a normal part of being a child, but as the novel progresses, it begins to suggest that lying…

read analysis of Truth, Lies, and Morality

Destiny vs. Free Will

Though Lyra, the protagonist of the novel, doesn't know it, her life is guided by fate. Lyra's existence was foretold in a prophecy, which says that she's destined to both save the world and unwittingly lead someone else to their sacrifice. An important part of the prophecy, however, is the fact that Lyra must not know that she's destined to do this—she must believe that she's acting of her own free will, or she's…

read analysis of Destiny vs. Free Will