Coraline, part 2

10May10

We’re still synopsizing Coraline by Neil Gaiman, and she’s in a terrible state.

Theater poster from Wikipedia

Other mother, the one with the button eyes, has offered her the opportunity to stay in the other world, if only she will allow the buttons to be sewn onto or into her eyes. “We only want what’s best for you,” other mother says in a grotesque inversion of the meaning of that phrase, though we have heard it said before by people who don’t really mean it. Other mother puts her hand on Coraline, but takes it off “like a frightened spider” when Coraline’s hand closes on the stone with the hole in it, in her pocket. Coraline escapes up the frighteningly alive seeming passageway to her own world. When she gets there (here), she finds her real parents missing, and they stay gone through the night and the next day. They’ve been kidnapped and are being held in the other world.

I think we’ve gone far enough to think about buttons.

They do have some properties of eyes: later in the book when Coraline rips a button eye from  the-creature-that-had-been-other-father, it can no longer see her. But one wonders what button eyes see. And they are all the same, there is no variation in design or color, no expression.

Certainly dolls often have button eyes, and dolls have no soul, no memory, no heart. Dolls, The Velveteen Rabbit notwithstanding, are not real. Not in our world. And dolls can’t really see with those eyes.

We use buttons to hold things closed–shirts, pants, skirt waists–perhaps eyes as well. And of course there is the process of sewing them on, which must, we feel as we are shown the plate with the buttons, needle and thread, be painful.

The thread itself brings to mind spiders, and echoes the cold feeling of being trapped in a web here. And there are echoes of the coins on the eyes of the dead.

These buttons seem to be permanently closed eyes, eyes that aren’t real, that take from us what is real and allow us to see only what other mother wants us to see.

Coraline part 3 will have to be about mothering and identity, and I’ll try not to go far enough with the synopsis that I spoil anything in the book or the movie.

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One Response to “Coraline, part 2”


  1. 1 Instructions « FreePlayTherapy

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