Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Amber Spyglass and Religious Allusions

            After analyzing Frankenstein in AP Lit and reading How to Read Literature like a Professor, my eyes were opened up to the subtle religious allusions that exist within the book I read. In particular, my mind was drawn back to a book I read back in middle school: The Amber Spyglass. The Amber Spy Glass was the third and concluding book in Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. It featured, a girl, a boy, daemons, witches, magic, different worlds, and a war that would determined the fate of the universe. All in all, it sounds much like any typical fantasy novel for adolescents. However, what stuck with me in this particular novel was the way these young characters dug deeper into controversial topics like religion and the way the author actively made allusions to the bible. In a sense, this story is a retelling of Paradise Lost, but instead of the ending being tragic, their sin is seen as something beautiful and natural.
            The wording and references to religious imagery can be spotted in this passage:
“She could see him quite clearly, even at that distance; the moonlight was brilliant, and her eyes were adjusted to it. She looked through the spyglass, and put the matter beyond doubt: it was a human figure, radiating Dust.
            He was carrying something: a long stick of some kind. He came along the path quickly and easily, not running, but moving like an athlete or hunter. He was dressed in simple dark clothes that would normally conceal him well; but through the spyglass he showed up as if he were under a spotlight.”
            In this passage, the character being described can be considered to be a Christ-like figure. The figure is wearing simple clothes, holding a stick, and is being illuminated. Though they didn’t mention long hair or a beard, this description is enough to covey the image of Jesus.

            This passage is practically a direct retelling of the story of Eve and the apple, “So the snake said, “Put your foot through the hole in the seedpod where I was playing, and you will become wise.” So she put a foot in where the snake had been. And the oil entered her blood and helped her see more clearly than before, and the first thing she saw was the sraf.
            However, instead of the new gained knowledge from the snake leading to tragedy, this Eve is almost rewarded for her “sin”. It is not seen as something bad, but rather, something that should be celebrated. The knowledge that she was exposed to, enlightened her. The snake comes up many more times throughout the novel. He is hidden within the sleeves of Sir Charles, and it is implied that the snake is his daemon. And if the snake truly is his daemon, a reflection of himself, then Sir Charles could be a character representative of Satan in this series.

            In fact if you look at the His Dark Materials series as a whole, the trilogy itself is one giant allusion to the Bible. It retells the origin of sin, and asks the same questions of existence and God. However, what differs is its interpretation. It changes the point of view so that sin becomes something natural and something necessary for happiness and life to exist. 

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