Without emotion; apathetic; unmoved.

Rob was impassive to his parents divorce.

The only characters with impassive behaviour seem to be the panserbjorne. All other characters seem to be passionate or interested within conversation. This is done by Pullman to add to the mystery of the bears, and show their differences to mankind


To look upon or treat with contempt; despise; scorn.

The teacher responded disdainfully to the students obscene answer.

A word that can be used to describe the reaction of Lord Asriel upon finding Lyra in the Retiring Room. However, given the information that he is her father, it’s easier to see how he acts as a fatherly figure, moving on from what she has done and ensuring she has learned from her wrongs. This could be subtle foreshadowing to the revelation that he is Lyra’s Father.


Feeling or showing profound hopelessness.

The stranded explorer felt extreme despondency.

A word that sums up the dwindling spark of hopeless in every readers mind, due to the Lyra’s destiny. Her destiny consists of a great betrayal, and everything our protagonist is building to fight against could be all in vain since she inevitably must betray someone.


To entice, lure, or ensnare by flattery or artful talk.

A good politician can inveigle the voters.

Lyra is a master in the art of inveigling others, and it is this skill that has given her success thus far in the novel. Phillip Pullman has featured it as a positive attribute, when society would see it as deceitful and wrong. This challenges societies moralistic ideas, which is a very crucial underlying theme incorporated into the novel.


To make favorably inclined; appease.

When Billy knew he was caught stealing, he tried to propitiate the police officer.

Lyra loves the idea of others liking her and acts differently around each character to keep her acquaintances content, and uses propitiation to do so. This feature is an important part of Lyra’s characterization because it allows her to shift between several different groups and cultures with ease, allowing Phillip Pullman to place her in a multitude of situations while still finding success in her goals.


Domineering in a haughty manner; dictatorial.

The school bully was imperious.

The only character described in an imperious way is the Kind of Svalbard, Iofur Raknison. A character who gives an idea of the nature of all panserbjorne, which helps Phillip Pullman highlight the differences in values and beliefs between the bears, and mankind.


Characterized by or given to pretentious or conspicuous show in an attempt to impress others.

Jim’s attempt to impress Sally was ostentatious.

This characteristic of Lyra is displayed around other children to support her feeling of importance. It is ironic that Phillip Pullman would make Lyra ostentatious when her destiny alone will impress those around her. It reminds the reader that she is still a child, and wants to impress her friends.


Disinclined or indisposed to believe; skeptical.

Johnny was incredulous after seeing two Santa’s at the mall.

Although it is used in the text to describe a character, the novel is written to give the reader a feeling of incredulity, and keep the characters in restrained awe. This is done to create defamiliarization by having the characters reacting impassively to certain things a reader would find extraordinary.


A feeling or condition of hostility; hatred.

There is a bitter enmity bewteen the opposing candidates.

Enmity is a curious way to describe Lyra’s feelings for the Gobblers, considering her mother is the leader of the Oblation Board. Lyra’s hatred for the Gobblers displays why it was so difficult to decide whether Lyra should remain at Jordan College, or leave with Ms. Coulter.


Bewildered; puzzled.

Conversation about the universe left Joe awfully perplexed.

Perplexed is a word chosen by Phillip Pullman to describe Lyra when studying the Alethiometer. Even though it is a rather common word, it shows Lyra’s instinctive nature to try and decipher the nature of the Alethiometer. An important characteristic of Lyra’s which fuels her adventures. Without that desire and perplexity, Lyra wouldn’t have been able to save Lord Asriel from being poisoned, and her destiny would have gone unfulfilled from the beginning.


To express sharp, stern disapproval of.

The boss rebuked when he was told an employee had shown up late.

The way Lord Asriel responds during a conversation early in the novel characterizes him, in that he has no interest in the ideas of men with little intelligence. This contrasts with John Faa, who carefully considers all ideas presented to him. This contrast is used by Pullman to illustrate the idea that different types of people exert power in different ways, and children can learn from this.


Inclined or ready to submit.

A well trained dog is submissive.

The submissive nature of the children when around Ms. Coulter is done to show the power her deamon has over the manipulative minds of the young. It is done as a statement towards the ways certain people in our society can exercise will power over others, and although it seems harmless to most, Pullman displays that it can be used in a dangerous manner.


The act of making an offering, especially to a deity.

Most modern religions agree that human sacrifice is too extreme of an oblation.

This word is so subtle yet so powerful when understanding the intentions of the Oblation Board. One can assume that the Oblation Board, who is kidnapping children, is using them as a sacrifice to some sort of higher power. The fact that oblation refers to a religious offering reminds the readers that The Golden Compass has religious opinions, specifically on the idea of sacrificing to a deity.


Adhering fixedly to a particular opinion, attitude, course of action.

Travis replied obstinately, even when proven wrong.

The Golden Compass was written to encourage people to challenge the values created by society. When Phillip Pullman makes a point of displaying obstinance as a negative or immature trait, he is commenting on the idea that it is important to support your beliefs, but more important still is to allow yourself to change those beliefs when shown how they can be improved.


To wander; stray. To digress in speech.

Sam noticed Greg’s divagation when the conversation led to embarrassing stories.

To a child reading The Golden Compass, it may seem as if the author is divagating at certain points in the novel, as in he is straying from the plot to fill the pages with meaningless dialogue. Similar to the way someone will stray from the topic of conversation to satisfy something other than the audience, Pullman is getting away from the plot to place in subtleties that will be picked up by someone other than the original audience.

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