Coraline Summary

Neil Gaiman


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Coraline Summary

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The popular young adult tale,Coraline(2002), adapted to theater, film, and several video games, has made British author Neil Gaiman one of the most popular and respected authors in the UK. It won has won numerous prestigious awards, including the 2003 Nebula Award for Best Novel, the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Novel, and the 2002 Bram Stoker Award.

Gaiman started his career as a graphic novel writer (he is the creator of Sandman), and many editions of Coraline are illustrated. His attention to visuals helped make Coraline into a successful top-motion movie in 2009.

The dark fairy tale has themes of family neglect, self-reliance, and the knowledge that getting what you want is not all it is cracked up to be. With courage and intelligence, Coraline learns about a nefarious parallel world, which she explores and eventually defeats.

As the story opens, Coraline Jones, an adventurous and bright girl, and her workaholic parents move into a rickety-old house. They have two neighbors: an older man named Mr. Bobo who trains mice in the basement, and two retired theater performers, Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, who live together and perform plays only in front of their dogs.

The first couple of weeks in her new home, Coraline spends her days exploring the tennis court and the garden. She asks her parents what they would do for entertainment, and all of their responses are unsatisfactory: watch TV, draw, etc. Coraline loves her parents (Mel and Charlie Jones) and they love her, but they are often absent-minded.She finds them a bit boring as they seem to spend all of their time working on their computers. They are so engrossed with their work that at times they snap at her to leave them alone.

Tasked with entertaining herself, Caroline explores her new house. One rainy day, she uses a key she found to open an abandoned part of the house. She senses what she is doing is wrong and recalls Mr. Bobo relaying a puzzling message from the mice he trains that warns her not to go through the door. She opens the door to find a wall of bricks on the other side.

She keeps the surprise to herself and plans to revisit later. One day, when both her parents are gone, Caroline opens the door to find that the brick wall is gone. This turns out to be a portal to an alternate universe that looks just like her regular life, but has fantastic wonders.

Caroline meets her “other mother” who initially disturbs her because she has buttons for eyes. This creature is also known as The Beldam—an old world for hag or witch.The Beldam has created the “other” world for selfish reasons, such as personal entertainment and control. She is

taller, and skinnier, and has paler skin than Coraline’s real mother, and though she treats Coraline with the utmost kindness, her twitchy long fingers and black button eyes unnerve her.

Coraline also meets “other father” and “other neighbors,” all copies made by The Beldam. (It is later revealed that The Beldam can only copy the real world, she cannot make anything original). Coraline is enchanted with this parallel world where dogs and cats can talk. Her other mother and other father treat her very well and want her to stay in this world forever. Coraline wants to stay longer until they tell her she has to let them sew black buttons over her eyes. Disturbed, Coraline leaves their world.

When she returns, Coraline is shocked to find that both of her parents are missing. A witty, black cat, Wuss Puss, whom she had befriended in the other world, tells her this is probably the doing of other mother. Other mother has kidnapped them, forcing Coraline to return to the other world.

Back in the other world and looking for her parents, Coraline runs into three children who were trapped by other mother a long time ago and whose souls other mother depends on for nourishment. Coraline agrees to find their souls so that they all can finally find peace.

When Coraline meets the other mother, she proposes a game that other mother cannot resist. If she can find her parents and the souls of the other children, other mother will let them all go. If she does not, she will stay in the other world forever.

Armed with her intelligence and the insight of Wuss Puss, she finds a snow globe that contains the children and her parents. She successfully rescues both her parents and the other children. With their souls restored, the other children are allowed to move on to the afterlife.

Other mother reneges on her promise, and tries to trap Coraline in the other world. During the escape, other mother’s hand is caught in the portal and severed. The hand haunts Coraline’s real world, trying to steal the key to the other world that Coraline keeps around her neck.

Again, calling upon her intelligence and bravery, Coraline throws the key to the other world down a deep well; the hand follows the key and is trapped in the well, presumably forever.

With the threat of the Bedlam over, Coraline starts to fix the issues with her parents, and prepares for the upcoming school year.