Coraline: Book Summary & Themes

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  • 0:03 A New Home
  • 1:07 The Door
  • 2:29 Back Home Again
  • 3:10 The Rescue
  • 4:51 Themes
  • 5:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

''Coraline'' is about a young girl who is unsatisfied in her own life, so she goes exploring and finds another world where nothing is as it seems. ''Coraline'' is a dark tale of learning to appreciate what you have and not running from your fears.

A New Home

At the beginning of the story, a young girl named Coraline has just moved into a home that was converted into several small apartments. Her parents, busy with a writing project, are neglecting Coraline, which allows this curious little girl to get herself into trouble. Coraline starts to explore their new home first and stumbles upon a door in the living room. When she tries to open it, she discovers it's locked.

Coraline harasses her mother until she agrees to open it. However behind the door is just a brick wall, which disappoints the young girl. So she sets off to visit her neighbors: Mr. Bobinsky, a rat trainer extraordinaire whose rats tell Coraline not to go through the door; and Ms. Spink and Ms. Forcible, two old ladies that in their prime of life were amazing stage actresses. When Ms. Spink and Ms. Forcible share a cup of tea with Coraline, they read her tea leaves, determine she may be in trouble and offer her a stone with a hole in the middle. They explain to Coraline that the stone will be of assistance in her future.

The Door

Coraline, a child not to be dissuaded, decides when her parents are gone to try and open the door by herself. She believes it to be special, especially since her neighbors have tried to steer her away from it. This time, when she unlocks the door, there is not a brick wall, but a hallway. Without much thought, Coraline bolts down the hallway, which seems to go on forever. When she finally makes it out, she is back in the same apartment. However, the lights are brighter, the colors are deeper, and everything seems much more exciting. When she starts to explore this other home, she runs into her parents - well, what looks like her parents, until she realizes that in the place of their eyes are shiny, black buttons.

Coraline is taken aback by the eyes of these parents, but they win her over with their constant attention, willingness to cook whatever food she wants, and the toys and excitement they bring into her life. She plays for hours, and goes to visit her neighbors again, realizing they are more exciting and younger versions of the people at her old home. She also runs into a black cat that can talk. The cat is rude and sharp with her, but eventually tells her that he is the same cat from her other home as well. He just has the ability to move between worlds, like Coraline. Although Coraline is enamored of this new home, she decides to go back to her real home and parents - for now.

Back Home Again

She goes home again, but everything seems even more dull, and her parents are still too busy to play with her. So she sneaks back to the other world and has dinner with her other parents. At dinner they tell her that she could live there forever, as long as she is willing to let them sew buttons onto her eyes. Coraline becomes terrified and runs back home.

When she makes it home again she realizes her house is very quiet. She goes searching for her parents but cannot find them. She deduces that the Other Mother, the mother with the button eyes, must have taken them when the black cat leads her to a mirror in which she sees her parents on the other side. Coraline realizes she must go back to save her parents.

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