The Golden Compass Page by Page
Chapter 13 - Fencing
I’ve read that some people can’t read this chapter
without crying profusely. I’m actually a bit jealous of them,
because it seems that they’re getting far more entertainment
value out of this book than I am if they’re deeply
heartbroken over Tony Markarios.
Maybe I can’t “feel” this scene properly
because my first exposure to this was the film adaptation of The Golden
Compass put out by New Line. Even knowing nothing about the source
material before seeing the movie, it was obvious to me sitting in the
theatre that they weren’t handling it the right way.
The film version cut out Tony Markarios entirely, and made
Lyra’s own friend Billy Costa the severed boy Lyra finds in
the shack. In the novel, Lyra is overwhelmed by horror and pity at the
discovery of a person severed from their daemon, it didn’t
matter who it was clutching that fish, the enormity of the hideous
cruelty inflicted on this boy horrified Lyra nearly to the point of
vomiting and she had to take a “time out” to gather
herself before she could deal with Tony any further.
The movie ruined this by making this a HAPPY occurrence rather than a
horror scene. The film has Lyra much more happy to have found her
friend Billy (or at least half of him) than disgusted and revolted by
his condition of being permanently severed from a element of his being
that not even death could have parted him from.
The script made it out as though Billy had simply lost his teddy bear
and they could go to the store the next day and get him a new one.
Enough ranting about the film version.
This chapter shows Lyra’s strength and integrity. If I were
to somehow come across a disemboweled person with their entrails
hanging out in a lurid and somehow still living, would I have the will
and compassion to even touch them, let alone carry them and their loose
intestines into my car and put up with the sight and smell and the
sound of his agony all the way to the hospital despite knowing there
was no way he was going to survive this? Quite possibly not.
The fact that this is supposed to be utterly impossible probably makes
this all the more traumatic for Lyra.
The understanding that a bear’s armor is his soul reminded me
of how I am with my computer. In Chapter 11 Lyra sees Iorek taking care
of his armor and thinks of the way she loves and cares for Pantalaimon.
Since 2001 I’ve nearly always have had my laptop within sight
of me. Once when I had to have my iBook put into the Apple Store for
repairs I joked to a friend that I had left my soul behind at the mall
not considering the significance of what that meant. I’m
always polishing and cleaning my laptop (now a 2006 model MacBook) with
a soft rag and a product called “Apple Polish”.
Without exaggeration, the sum of my life’s work lies within
my MacBook, and whenever I’m away from it I feel uneasy
sometimes, worrying what would happen if I returned to wherever I left
it to find it was stolen or destroyed, and am relieved when
I’m reunited with it.
Diana Peterfreund wrote a great essay in The World of the Golden
Compass: The Other Worldly Ride Continues called “Ghost in
the Machine”, comparing the role her own computer
(interestingly, also an Apple iBook) serves in her life to the daemons
of Lyra’s world and the way people are incomplete and
severely debilitated without them.
This is the first time I’ve read The Golden Compass since
reading the second two books in the trilogy, and it feels kind of
strange hearing Lee Scorseby (for some reason just calling him
“Lee” doesn't feel right) and Lyra talking about
Stanislaus Grumman knowing what an important role he plays in the rest
of the story and how utterly ignorant Lee Scorseby and Lyra are of the
magnitude of what they are talking about.
Since I’m young and unseasoned as writers go I found it
immensely impressive how complex a story Pullman was able to set up
from the very beginning, laying the groundworks for character
interactions and story arcs across multiple universes seamlessly.
Well, after what somehow took three days to complete, I’m
done with Chapter 13. Some of my favorite chapters in the book are
coming up next. I can’t wait.
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