Another angle on The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Well, I couldn’t let M. Otaku have all the say on this great book. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is my favorite novel by Neil Gaiman. (I also loved Coraline, so there are not any real disagreements here.) I want to push back a little bit, though, on the idea that Coraline is better because Coraline takes care of herself. In a way, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is more like a true fairy tale. Consider the following: 1) an ordinary boy sets off on an ordinary road and finds something very extraordinary; 2) the ordinary boy survives/ succeeds only by the direct assistance of other beings who are vastly more than they seem; 3) the boy comes home again, not really through his own effort, but by obeying the second weird rule having put himself in all the danger by breaking the first.

Point 1 applies to both Coraline and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, but in 2 and 3 they diverge. In a way, Coraline may be considered a type of Superman who, through her own wit, strength, and will conquers the ‘other mother’. In The Ocean at the End of the Lane, the boy is a type of the Christian view a mankind, essentially powerless and under assault from evil forces far outside his ability to even comprehend; in need of a champion in the fight. The boy, through the instinct of his nature, disobeys the first of what we can call the ‘Dont eat the fruit of this one tree’ type commands. And, after being plagued by the repercussions of his disobedience, flees to those who can save him. Then, though sorely tempted, he obeys the second (to stay in the fairy ring) and is saved….

(As a side note, strange rule set for the protagonist by those assisting him is very very common in fairy tales. The two I am thinking of in The Ocean at the End of the Lane are even understandable in comparison.)

(( As a side note after the side note… I thought that The Ocean at the End of the Lane was more poetic and better wrought…))

Anyway, I guess I didn’t like that Coraline fixes everything on her own, it seemed so… impossible.


2 thoughts on “Another angle on The Ocean at the End of the Lane

  1. Mélanie says:

    Coraline is a nice (French) name like Coralie… 🙂

  2. That is a good point. Though, Coraline does receive help from the black cat in the story. Without whose assistance, the story would not have reached a successful conclusion. And I think Coraline immersed one into its fantasy world better than The Ocean at the End of the Lane, but it had the advantage of the setting having less connection to the real world.

    But, I do prefer a more active hero–just not so active as to make the other characters unnecessary to achieving a happy ending, e.g. Goku of Dragonball Z. D’Artagnan is perhaps the perfect example of what I want in a hero. Similar to the narrator of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, he gets himself into a mess by trifling with Milady and needs the help of his friends to extricate himself from his predicament. There are also many times when d’Artagnan would have despaired had it not been for the help of his friends, and, were it not for Athos, d’Artagnan might have even allowed himself to be swayed by Milady’s glamour into letting her escape justice at the end. (I am reminded of Frodo’s actions in Mt. Doom.) All the same, his actions were very important to the happy ending of that book.

    Nevertheless, The Ocean at the End of the Lane might be more true than Coraline. I’ll give it that. Was it the main character of this work who reminded you of me? 🙂

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