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In what way does Mary Malone “play
the snake” for Will and Lyra?
Mary Malone plays the snake by introducing
Will and Lyra to the idea that sex is not a shameful act. Mary began
her adult life as a nun.. She dedicated her life to God by refusing
physical pleasures (primarily sex) and ignoring her body’s urges.
In the world of the mulefa, Mary tells Will and Lyra how she came
to break her nun’s vows. She was at a conference when she met a
man who made her happy—mentally, spiritually, and physically. Mary
realized that denying her body’s urges didn’t make anyone happier
or improve anyone’s life, so she left the convent and dedicated
her life to secular science. This story makes Lyra realize that
there is a whole realm of pleasure that she has never experienced.
Lyra doesn’t understand the kind of physical pleasure that Mary
describes, but she recognizes it as something important. Just as
the snake showed Eve how to gain knowledge, Mary points Lyra and
Will in the direction of adulthood by telling them that sexual pleasure
is nothing to be ashamed of.
How do daemons reflect the nature
of their humans?
When a daemon finally settles (takes one
shape for good), it means that the person belonging to that daemon
has grown up and attained a fixed identity. The shape that a daemon
takes reflects its human’s soul. Servants’ daemons take the shape
of dogs, which reflects their owners’ congenial natures and willingness
to take orders. Witches’ daemons are most often birds, which suggests witches’
independence and their ability to fly. Lord Asriel’s daemon is a
snow leopard, which reflects Lord Asriel’s power. Mrs. Asriel’s daemon
is a beautiful but cruel monkey, which reflects her lovely appearance
and deceptive personality. The lying, cheating Lord Boreal, also
known as Sir Charles Latrom, has for a daemon a tiny snake that
hides in his clothing. Will’s daemon, Kirjava, settles into the
form of an extraordinarily beautiful cat, which shows that Will is
wise, proud, and independent. Lyra’s daemon takes the form of a pine
marten. Like Lyra, pine martens are rare and seem wild to outsiders,
but are also sleek, graceful, and self-contained.
Why do the witches understand Lyra’s
importance before everyone else?
The witches don’t follow the rules of the
Church and they don’t live among ordinary humans. Coming from the
northernmost regions, they fly through the aurora borealis, where
the barrier between universes is thinner. They talk to angels and
live much longer than ordinary humans. Their knowledge of other
worlds and their refusal to kowtow to the Church give them an open-minded
attitude toward Lyra. The witches believe that the lives of all
conscious beings began at the moment of Eve’s fall, an event they
celebrate. When the increasingly powerful Church forbids the accumulation
of knowledge, the witches began to look for another Eve, someone
who can restore wisdom to the world. Lyra’s destiny fills them with
hope and joy.
Ace your assignments with our guide to His Dark Materials!