I think that one of the really beautiful things about literature is that whether or not it was the intention of the author, a lot of great little bits of interpretive detail exist. I haven't read Coraline in a while, but I'll give it a go.
I'd say that everything posted here so far is valid. The button eyes are creepy and create a definite doll image to the other mother (which is interesting, because the other mother see's Coraline as little more than a doll or plaything that she will use to her content and then discard). In this way the other mother becomes representative of sorts of her very intentions, which really is a great strategy for characterization in children's books, giving kids something really vivid to latch onto in their character associations.
There is also the assertion here that the buttons connote a blindness, or impaired vision, on the other mother's part, and surely this is true as well. The other mother has a very limited sight (literally and figuratively) She has made a very limited world and can actually see no farther than the boundaries she created. Also, she is blind to human concepts of love and affection. Finally, she is blind to Coraline's final ruse - being linded by her own personal ego and conceptions of self-superiority to Coraline.
There has also been mention of the addage that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and indeed thisimplies that the other mother is without a soul, or a proper soul at least. Her characterization certainly justifies this.
For the sake of not simply repeating here what has already been said (though this certainly seems a complete analysis, if brief), I'd like to offer one more possible view on the button eyes: a sense of unreality in patchwork composition. The button eyes are the defining feature that make the other mother unreal. She can't be believed as a human entity. More than this, she becomes a patchwork entity, pieced together from many different, separately working parts. The buttons, after all, do function by themselves as organs of sight, but you get the sense that with the pull of a string they can be removed (of course, not even the least damaged or less functioning) and returned at will with zero adverse effects to the vision of the other mother. That she is a patchwork piece of creation (and all the more creepy for it) is supported by her severed hand, which functions perfectly well as its own autonomous entity. Was er hand, then, really originally her own? Maybe she found it or took it and attached it to herself... maybe the rest of her body is quite the same! Maybe, she's patched together a body already and is using Coraline in order to try to procure a soul for herself (The other children could have been used to supply souls to the other creations in her world... maybe she is simply really trying to be capable of love). Of course, if the other children lost their souls to some other creations, how are they their own separate entities as the little stones, and not an innate part of those creations? Well, this world has that patchwork quality to it, and though something may be used, or syphoned through so to speak, it does not have to be actually a physical part of those creations. Remember that the other father creation really did do his best to give Coraline mercy, exhibiting signs that he had or was using a soul.
This offers a really tragic look at the other mother, and though she certainly is evil, elicits a tiny amount of pity toward her, where before perhaps there was none. I understand that it really sounds like a stretch, and only Neil knows if he had the slightest inkling of this when he wrote it, but the connection is there, and that's what makes it beautiful.
Do with this what you may!
Rock it with I
I'd also like to extend this to topic to include other aspects of the other mother's physical person.
What do you make of her hair, which, as the story goes on, takes on a greater and greater life of its own?
Also, what do you make of the really long, spindly fingers (ideal for sewing, perhaps...)?
Maybe the pale complexion holds something of interest as well... ah, this is so interesting and fun!
Rock it with I
I've been reading stories for a long time and I also create some of my own. I'm guessing that Mr. Gaiman did not have a particular reason for making the "other mother's" hair have a life of its own other than to make her more interesting, scarier, and mysterious.
Ditto with the long, twiny fingers/fingernails.
Grendel is a State of Mind.
With her long spider fingers and hair that has a life all it own(it reminded me of cobwebs, how they pull from there different anchors when anything ruffles them)
In my head, The other mother's true form is similar to that of Shelob in Tolkien's trilogy. I imagined her as being a great and terrible spider, older then the hills , an eater of souls, praying on those who stunble into her web. An illaborate web certainly, but a web none the less.
The sky was made of peaches...
She certainly is older than the hills if the faerie girl had been captured centuries ago.
OK, maybe not that old, but still, very, very old...
How old are buttons? What if she existed before them? What did she use as eyes, then?
Thanks to Life that has given me so much
it gave me laughter and crying
thus I tell joy from sorrow
the two materials that shape my song
Gracias a la vida, Violeta Parra
I am 13 (12 when I read Coraline the first time) and I was wondering about the buttons. I think they are a creepy asset to the "Other Parents". But, they may have a hidden meaning. I definetely agree with GMZoe and the quote (I'm assuming) she posted. -Jessica13
Dolls are creepy? Ha ha ha Only sometimes. Don't look if you have doll phobias!
p.s. I have been telling lots of doll lovers about the release of Coraline in February. Expect one of them to be sitting next to you in the theater, quite possibly with their doll. Just giving you fair warning.
The button-imagery in the book was, not surprisingly, the most initially jolting bit of imagery for me upon first reading the book. To be certain, the book is filled with disturbing images and metaphors and even turns-of-phrase, but much seems to revert back to the button-eyes, which is as it should be, perhaps, since those eyes are so crucial to the Other world and its inhabitants, not least of which is the Other Mother who rules that domain. Much of what is really REALLY good about Neil's creation, here, is what he does not say explicitly. I loved that, and continue to love that, particularly in regard to the actual background and identity of the Other Mother. Witch? Ghoul? Monster? Deity? We don't know--even the sort of omnipotent deus ex machina character, the cat, refuses to reveal her nature, though he clearly knows ~what~ she is, e.g. "Her sort of thing loves games and challenges," and "She may want something to love, something other than herself. Or she may be hungry. It's hard to say with her kind of thing." That being noted, I think it's especially interesting that the Other Mother is also obliged to wear the button-eyes...just like her victims and her henchmen/creations in the alternate world. The buttons have much going-on underneath, I expect, but Neil has tantalizingly left that to the imagination. But I do think the fact that the Other Mother is obliged to wear the buttons, despite her creative, proprietary role in the Other world, reveals something very mysterious. The buttons, therefore, seem to be a prerequisite for ~any~ primary entity to dwell or exist in the Other world. This could mean a great deal, for the cat, in response to Coraline's question about the nature of the place itself, apart from the Other Mother, seems to indicate that he did not know, exactly, whether the Other Mother made the Other place, or whether she merely "found" it. Since she has to wear the button-eyes, even as creatrix of the trappings & decor of the Other place, might imply that this place pre-exists her, and that she is bound to certain "rules" in its regard. The nature of the passageway between the worlds also hints at this, being, as it was described, "far older" than the Other Mother. So the buttons are wonderfully mysterious, and I believe Neil has hinted that he may one day explore the background of the Other Mother in far more detail, in another work. I'd sort of like to see that...and maybe not. The "mystery" of it all is fun, despite our eager curiosity, to me. To my mind, the Other Mother is one of Neil's strangely incarnated deities, from out of his Anansi Boys and American Gods milieu. Part deity, part spider-spirit, endued with magical powers. But she could also be a riff on the classic vile sorceress of myth. The speech she gives about putting her own mother in a grave, and the reference to her (by the soulless children) as "The Beldam" (which is an archaic expression that could be applied to an old hag or witch) is equally intriguing. Really, it's quite marvelous how Neil constructed this story and left just the right amount of it to his readers' imaginations. But the buttons hold the key. Or maybe the key holds the key? Or the house holds the key? Or the connecting passageway holds the key? Fun, huh? Cheers...Jake from www.theransomnotes.blogspot.com BTW:I truly cannot wait to see what Selick does with his adaptation, but urge real lovers of the book not to be too surprised by changes that may seem jarring. Tricky business, these adaptations. If Selick captures the spirit of the book (and it looks as if he really has) and works his own animation magic, then we should be in for a grand treat.
The imaginary world seems great until you realize none of its real. The thing that hurts the most is that there is no love from the other mother, just lust for her soul, she is a trap door spider. The buttons show how stupid and crazy a choice to live in the fake world then the real... she should be content with real life, work to improve and change things, and stay away from that trap door... don't sow buttons into your eyes Coraline... Her other parents where fake, soul-less and nothing more then bate to steal her very soul away. But in the end she had a purpose... to help the others get their eyes back, and free their soul form the evil, fake mothers grasp, cuz people are more then just dolls/ puppets...
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