Summary: Chapters 37 & 38

Lyra tries to consult the alethiometer to see if the daemons are right that the knife creates specters and that every last hole has to be closed. She finds she can’t read the alethiometer. Will and Lyra realize that they have to leave each other and live in their own worlds. Xaphania appears and asks Will to teach her how to close the windows made by the subtle knife. She tells Will and Lyra that one window can be left open, but Will and Lyra know it has to be the window they opened for the dead. Xaphania tells them they have to break the knife. Xaphania leaves Will and Lyra to mourn their coming loss. Kirjava takes the form of a cat and Pantalaimon takes the form of a pine marten. Will puts his hand on Pantalaimon and Lyra puts her hand on Kirjava. They know their daemons won’t change shape any more.

The next day, Serafina Pekkala and the Gyptians arrive in a boat to pick up Will, Lyra, and Mary. The mulefa show the Gyptians where the dead escaped and tell the Gyptians they are planning to plant a grove of seedpod trees around it, because it is a sacred place. Before Mary gets on the Gyptians’ ship, Atal and the other mulefa give her seedpod seeds and some of their precious oil. The Gyptians sail on until they pass into the world of Ci’gazze. Lyra decides to go with Will and Mary into their Oxford world one last time. Serafina Pekkala teaches Mary how to see her daemon. Lyra and Will go to Will’s Oxford together, and there they find a bench in a garden. The bench is also in Lyra’s world. They agree that, even though they must live in separate worlds, they will return to this bench every year and think of each other. Lyra returns to the world of Ci’gazze and Will closes the window behind her. Will breaks the knife by thinking of Lyra.

Mary offers to help Will and his mother in their world. Three weeks later, Lyra is back at Jordan College. She tells the story of her adventures to the Master and to a female scholar named Dame Hannah, who offers to take Lyra under her wing and teach her. She promises to teach her how to use the alethiometer. Lyra accepts Dame Hannah’s offer. Lyra and Pantalaimon go to the bench in the garden. They talk about Will and Kirjava, and what their new life will be like, and what it will be like to have friends who are girls Lyra’s own age. Then agree they must find heaven whenever and wherever they are. The Amber Spyglass ends as Lyra and Pantalaimon resolve to establish a Republic of Heaven.

Analysis: Chapters 37 & 38

Lyra can no longer read the alethiometer because she is no longer in the childlike state of grace in which she existed before she fell in love with Will. Just like Adam and Eve, Will and Lyra had—for all their adventures—lived in innocence before they realized they were in love. Thanks to the success of her quest, Lyra is allowed to make choices, as are all other conscious beings. In defeating the Kingdom of Heaven, Lyra, Will, Lord Asriel and even Mrs. Coulter have ensured that people have the right to choose for themselves. With Will and Lyra’s separation, Pullman shows that with the right to mature and the freedom to choose come heavy responsibilities. But even painful responsibilities, Pullman suggests, are preferable to the unburdened and unconscious life that the Church prescribes.

In the final pages of the trilogy, the full significance of Will’s name becomes clear. Will symbolizes free will. His character, so strong and proud, stands for the right to choose the path one’s life takes. Though it might seem as if Will and Lyra have no choice but to part, they could have chosen differently. Had they prized their own happiness over the happiness of everyone else, they would have left the knife intact and cut back and forth between their worlds, letting Dust leak out. But they exercise their will and make the more difficult decision.

In Paradise Lost, Eve eats the fruit and is banished from the Garden. Adam loves Eve so much that he cannot bear to live in a world without her, so he eats the fruit and shares her banishment. Out of his great love for Eve, Adam chooses to fall. Will makes a less selfish decision when he gives up Lyra for love of the world. But both Adam and Will are making their first decision as adults.

In her Oxford, Lyra discovers that after Xaphania and the other angels closed the hole that Lord Asriel made, the Church all but collapsed. After talking to Dame Hannah, Lyra figures out that she has to work for what she wants. She will have to study to be able to read the alethiometer. But this right to pursue knowledge is the right that Lyra and Will fought for. The pursuit of knowledge and of a good and loving life is what will eventually build the Republic of Heaven on Earth.