Breaking Binary Constructs by Exploring Duality and Multiplicity in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials

UNCP Author/Contributor (non-UNCP co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Nami Lee Montgomery (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP )
Web Site:
Susan Cannata

Abstract: This paper explores ideology, identity and power within Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials. The contextual framework explores the adult/binary to show that it, like all binaries, is unstable and contradictory. The idea of the child as an “Other” is explored using theories from children’s literature critic Perry Nodelman. The framework also defines ideology and proposes a dialogic construction of identity, using Louis Althusser, Mikhail Bakhtin and Robyn McCallum as the critical theorists, while Michel Foucault’s theories are used in the framework of power. These frameworks illustrate that ideology, identity and power are multi-faceted and complex. They are not unitary or essential ideas and they are explored in terms of their duality and multiplicity in the textual analysis of His Dark Materials. This paper shows that within His Dark Materials, binary constructs are dismantled because characters, ideas and settings are portrayed in terms of their duality and multi-dimensionality. This is accomplished through Pullman’s use of complex characters whose identities are affected by their encounters with “Others.” Ideologies are adapted or accepted as characters are exposed to new ideas and ways of seeing the world, thereby showing the fluid nature of ideology. The origins, contexts and uses of power are also examined through various scenes and characters of the trilogy. Due to the rich complexity of Pullman’s trilogy, it can be seen as a work of realism – as well as a work of fantasy – because it reflects the real-world complexity in all people, places and ideas.

Additional Information

School of Graduate Studies, UNCP
Language: English
Date: 2014
His Dark Materials, The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman, Children's Literature, Ideology, Identity, Power, Language, Binary Constructs, Duality, Multiplicity

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