Coraline by Neil Gaiman is a short novella that focuses on 9-year-old Coraline Jones as she fights to restore her family from the clutches of the evil Other Mother. Stuck in a parallel universe with only her wits and courage to help her, Coraline is forced to undergo several terrifying adventures in her quest. She learns many valuable lessons along the way and grows into a quick-thinking and courageous girl who finds beauty and magic in everyday life.
‘Spoiler-Free’ Coraline Summary
Coraline Jones moves into a new apartment with her parents during school break. As a curious and adventurous 9-year-old girl, Coraline quickly becomes bored of her new surroundings even though she has some eccentric neighbors to keep her company.
One rainy day, Coraline becomes interested in a strange door that opens up to a brick wall. Mysteriously, the brick wall vanishes the next day and the door leads to an eerie corridor. Further into the corridor, Coraline chances upon a parallel universe that looks exactly like the one she just left behind. The universe even has an alternate family with an Other Mother and an Other Father, who look exactly like Coraline’s real parents.
When Coraline returns home from the parallel universe, she finds that her parents have gone missing. She decides to go back to the parallel universe and look for them. Coraline undertakes several brave adventures in the Other universe as she battles the evil Other Mother. She ends up discovering the incredible strength within herself through these adventures.
Spoiler alert: Important details of the novel are revealed below
Coraline Jones, a young 9-year-old girl, moves into a new apartment with her parents during school break. Coraline is a curious and inquisitive girl who loves exploring new surroundings. She has some eccentric neighbors living in the same building as her, including elderly actresses, Miss. Forcible and Miss Spink. These women live below Coraline’s flat with their many dogs and spend most of their time reminiscing their days from the stage. A “crazy old man,” Mr. Bobo, lives upstairs with a bunch of rats whom he claims to be training for the rat circus.
Coraline usually spends her time exploring and going on adventures by herself. However, an especially rainy day puts a halt to her activities. Ignored by her parents who are busy with work, Coraline sets off to explore a rarely-used drawing room – at the end of which lay a huge and mysterious door.
Upon asking her mother to open the door for her, Coraline discovers that the door opens onto a solid brick wall. This proves to be the beginning of a strange sequence of events that occur. That night, Coraline experiences some strange dreams of rats singing a song. The very next day, Mr. Bobo tells Coraline that his pet rats have warned her not to go through the brick wall. Miss. Forcible and Miss. Spink read Coraline’s tea leaves and predict her to be in grave danger. They provide her with a protective stone that she pockets and leaves, excited for some new adventures.
Coraline thinks no more of this prediction and wakes up the next day to find that her mother has gone grocery shopping. Bored once again, Coraline decides to open the door in the drawing-room once again. To her surprise, she finds that the door no longer opens onto a brick wall. It leads to a mysterious corridor instead.
Coraline goes down the corridor and ends up in a parallel universe that looks just like the one she left behind. The only difference is that things seemed somewhat better in this universe than her own. Her bedroom is painted in captivatingly bright colors and she has shiny and shimmering clothes to wear. Coraline even has an alternate family in the parallel universe consisting of the Other Mother and the Other Father. The Other Mother and the Other Father look just like her parents, with the only difference being that they were taller, thinner, and had buttons for eyes.
Coraline explores this universe and finds out that cats can talk here. She also visits an eternal play that is enacted by her two neighbors, Miss. Forcible and Miss. Spink. She also comes across the rat circus and crazy old man upstairs – who seem much more dangerous and sinister in this universe than in real life. Coraline is soon creeped out by the weirdness of the entire universe and decides to return to her own.
Upon returning, Coraline is unable to find her parents anywhere for 3 days. She finds out that the Other Mother has kidnapped her parents and decides to revisit the parallel universe once again. She is scared, but she decides to brave her fears to get her parents back.
Coraline returns to the parallel universe and begins to explore more. She quickly understands that the Other Mother (also known as the “beldam”) is the creator of the universe and that she has trapped several souls inside this world. She comes across some ghost children who advise her to run away from this universe. Coraline however, is determined to rescue her parents from the clutches of the sinister Other Mother. She also decides to free the souls of the ghost children in the process.
Coraline discovers that the Other Mother loves challenges and cleverly strikes up a bargain with her. She tells the Other Mother that she would stay behind in the alternate universe if she is unable to locate the souls of the ghost children or her parents. The Other Mother greedily agrees. After several adventures and mishaps, Coraline successfully locates the souls of the ghost children by making use of the protective stone in her pocket. Coraline finally discovers that her parents have been trapped in the snow globe on the mantelpiece. She is eager to rescue them and return home.
However, Coraline soon realizes that the other mother never meant to live up to her side of the bargain. As soon as Coraline makes this discovery, she hatches a plan to escape from the Other Mother. She manages to flee the alternate universe along with her parents and the ghost children. She finally returns to her original house. Coraline’s parents seem to have no recollection of anything that has happened in the alternate universe, and Coraline is content with the way things turned out. However, she discovers to her dismay that the dangers have not passed.
That night, Coraline dreams of having a picnic with the ghost children whom she had earlier set free. The children inform Coraline that the Other Mother is extremely angry and that she would not rest until she has located the key that unlocks the door to the alternate universe.
True enough, the Other Mother detaches her hand and sends it through the corridor to look for the key. Coraline hatches a plan to outsmart the Other Mother. She pretends to have a picnic with her dolls right above an old well in front of her house. She places the key precariously in the middle of the picnic cloth. The Other Mother’s hand lunges for the key and falls into the well. Coraline then boards up the well with some planks and the Other Mother is finally defeated.
Coraline visits Mr. Bobo once again who passes on another message to Coraline from his rats, saying the danger has passed. Coraline is satisfied and goes to sleep. The next day is the first day of her school year and she wakes up excited for a new adventure once again.
What is the main point of Coraline?
The main point of Coraline is to act as an inspiration for young children to face their fears. Although Coraline is afraid of several things in the parallel universe, she decides to be courageous in order to save the souls of the ghost children and her parents.
What do the button eyes mean in Coraline?
The button eyes in Coraline are one of the main distinguishing factors between Coraline’s original world and the imitation world created by the evil Other Mother. These eyes indicate the evil nature of the other world. The Other Mother insists on Coraline having button eyes sewn into her face as a symbol of Coraline giving up her virtues and joining her in the other world.
What mental illness does Coraline have?
Coraline Jones, the nine-year-old protagonist of the short novella, Coraline does not explicitly have any mental illnesses that the author, Neil Gaiman has written about. However, several experts have speculated that Coraline may be suffering from a psychotic dissociative cluster. This conclusion can be drawn from the fact that Coraline experiences an alternate universe as well as holds fixed beliefs regarding this universe.
What is the main theme in Coraline?
One of the main themes in the short novella, Coraline by Neil Gaiman is bravery. Despite the fact that Coraline is constantly frightened by the evil Other Mother and the sinister atmosphere of the parallel universe, she continues to fight against the Other Mother in order to rescue her parents from danger.