A Child Raised by Ghosts: “The Graveyard Book”

Halloween is coming, and so is the anniversary of Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book.” What a more perfect book to revisit during the spooky season!

Book Culture Classics Fantasy On This Day Recommendations Young Adult Young Readers

Author of Coraline and all things spooky fantastical, Neil Gaiman never misses a good ghost story all the while making his characters oh so quaint and lovable. Today marks the anniversary of one of his most influential works, The Graveyard Book. A heartwarming and touching tale of a boy named Bod raised by ghosts after his parents are murdered. There are many great themes in this book that many typically miss as they are reading. What a perfect day to bring these ideas to light!

1. Alienation

Considering that the main character is an orphaned child, this theme dominates most of the story’s content. Many group divisions are seen as in the book’s characters, cultures, and races. This concept is almost intrinsic in the environment in which the story takes place. An example of a character experiencing this alienation is Silas; he does not fit into either the group of the living or the dead. Thus, Silas is not allowed to participate in the Danse Macabre. Since he is not portrayed as an emotional character, it is not readily apparent that he feels this alienation. Further on, the reader sees that Silas is hiding in the shadows to watch the dance, then you can feel this sense of alienation and isolation as he wants to be a part of the celebration. Silas’ feelings highlight the fact that anyone who is being left out of the Danse Macabre feels just as isolated and alienated.

2. Good V. Evil

This concept of good versus evil in The Graveyard Book is much different than previously seen themes in books. It is turned upside down; so many stories typically feature the good versus the bad binary, but this story changes the classic narrative. Many books and stories that involve ghosts, vampires, death, in general have those characters cast as the evil ones. However, in this story the ghosts are the good guys; they practically save the main character’s life, take him in as their own, and love and care for him. Graveyards are always usually seen as scary, bad places, but in this story, we see one as a home. Bod spends his entire life in a graveyard, regardless of this scary and bad stereotype. Furthermore, the character of Silas is assumed to be a vampire even though it is never explicitly stated. He can fly and navigate the world of the living. In most narratives, vampires are seen as blood-sucking demons; however, in this story, he is Bod’s protector. Overall, the real bad guys are actually human, as that is what killed Bod’s parents and left him an orphan. This makes this story all the more interesting and makes you rethink what is actually evil, and not just figments of our imagination.


3. Greed

Several times in the book this notion of greed appears. First in the pawnshop where the owner doesn’t want to purchase goods from Bod, but once the brooch is brought up his attitude immediately turns around. He tries to persuade Bod with cookies, and instead of lowering the price he locks Bod in the back room and intends to steal the brooch. This brooch heralds a bunch of ridiculous acts; a man tries to poison his friend in fear he will steal his money, and then they both fight until they knock each other out. Their greed gets the best of them and results in them losing everything. Greed is always portrayed as evil in the book. Each time a character acts upon greed, it always ends up in them losing everything and hurting themselves all the more in the end.

All in all this book is full of great themes that make you consider so much about reality, plus it is a great book to read during the impending fall season. This book can be read by all ages, despite the hefty topics they are written in such a way that it can be digested by anyone. Neil Gaiman is an amazing author that is beloved by all, and he should be celebrated this day. So you should cuddle up in your fall blankets and sit down with The Graveyard Book!

For more fall recommendations, check out more of our articles here!