His Dark Materials Analysis
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08 February 2008
Society Viewed Through an Amber Spyglass
In his trilogy His Dark Materials (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass respectively) Philip Pullman dives deeper into the mysteries of Ð²Ð‚ÑšThe Authority,Ð²Ð‚Ñœ and his reign. The Authority is God and his reign stretches across countless millions of interlocking worlds. Our journey has picked up with a young girl named Lyra, and her companion Will, as they seek to complete an unknown destiny.
It doesnÐ²Ð‚™t take a rocket scientist to figure out very early in the series that this is PullmanÐ²Ð‚™s stab at Christianity, and really religion in general. Pullman is a proclaimed atheist and this trilogy of Ð²Ð‚ÑšfantasyÐ²Ð‚Ñœ is, for him, as real as our everyday lives. Early on, he establishes that even in these strange worlds, the God of Christianity is worshiped, and his Church rules with an iron fist. Anything contrary to the ChurchÐ²Ð‚™s accepted doctrine is considered heresy and any heretic is subject to execution. The Church censors and suppresses all daily life, while often being the largest hypocrites of all by doing exactly the opposite of what they teach.
Naturally this has not been received well by many fundamentalist Christians. Already the Catholic church has released a statement saying that good Catholics should not see The Golden Compass (the first book of the trilogy, which was turned into a movie). So I present a very easy, straightforward question, no loopholes, no tricks, not even any fancy words or rhetoric: Why, in America, can people not hold a different believe than your own, and still be respected? Perhaps just as importantly, why can someone not learn about someone elseÐ²Ð‚™s different opinion, without appearing heretical? Pullman makes that his central theme and challenges us to consider that repeatedly throughout his trilogy. He has created these novels as a kind-of super-massive argumentative essay, where the characters and various happenings are merely metaphors to our everyday lives. The fascination is that he does it with such finesse. The trilogy is ripe with irony. Here the irony is that, unless you take his literature into careful consideration, Pullman will Ð²Ð‚ÑšfinesseÐ²Ð‚Ñœ you into thinking that this is merely a work of fantasy. So while making powerful arguments against society, he guards against weaker minds by giving them something in which to get lost.
Here is a neat thing: IÐ²Ð‚™m Christian. Here is another neat thing: I read the entire trilogy, saw the movie, and am still Christian. I havenÐ²Ð‚™t sold my soul to the Devil for a stick of gum anytime lately, in fact, IÐ²Ð‚™ve yet to hear of anyone that has. But I did learn something about certain parts of our society. They are intolerant. Not all people, in fact, not even most people. But some are intolerant to the point of foolishness.
I present this thought: A strong mind is not easily swayed. It is the duty of every person to sharpen their mental acuity at the very least to a point where they can read material, and not immediately assimilate the authors point of view. I question if this is what the Church is afraid of. Does the Church believe the majority of their followers so ignorant and blind that simply reading a piece of fantastic literature would cause them to spiral into the very grasp of Satan himself? It is a sad state that I fear is reality. It ought to make one ashamed to take part of such an organization that insults its followers intelligence so.
IÐ²Ð‚™ll address exactly how Pullman succeeds in challenging the readerÐ²Ð‚™s mind here. It begins with being aware of the deeper implications of his work, or Ð²Ð‚Ñšreading in-between the linesÐ²Ð‚Ñœ so to speak. Someone of sound mind reads his trilogy and understands the obvious correlation to the society in which we now live. Someone of weak mind reads his trilogy and may never have a second thought about what Pullman may be trying to really say. At least these people are docile, or at least benign. It is the third which is truly scary, and one at which PullmanÐ²Ð‚™s trilogy scoffs. It is the weakest mind that does the aforementioned: assimilate all information presented to it. It continues with the capacity to understand and process the current state of affairs in the world. It concludes with application into real life (i.e. writing a paper on it, or at least rejecting negative propaganda associated with it).
Again, it is ironic. I