This month, I’m participating in a read-along of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, as part of R.I.P. We’re looking at a few chapters a week, with no specific questions for each post. This week’s discussion is on the last two chapters. See my first post here.
So much to love in these last two chapters–and so much to be desperately sad about! Since we’re talking about the end, there will be spoilers… Warning duly noted, let’s jump in!
Chapter seven is practically a novella, and right from the title, “Every Man Jack,” it promises us resolutions to the arching plot of the book. I love how this chapter ties bits and pieces together from almost every earlier, disparate chapter. A teenage Scarlett (chapter two) comes back to town, and finds her way to the graveyard and to Bod. She also meets Mr. Frost, a soft-spoken academic…who in a brilliant twist turns out to be the man Jack. I love that too–and you’d think I’d remember it! But I didn’t, so I got to be surprised again. This is why I enjoy rereading.
Meanwhile, Silas has disappeared from the graveyard on mysterious business. We find out that he’s with Miss Lupescu (chapter three) and other comrades in a desperate fight against a group of enemies. And I love that we have a last stand featuring a mummy, a werewolf and (though it’s never said, it’s pretty obvious) a vampire. I love that we get all the classic horror monsters, and in this case they get to band together and be the heroes. Love that. I do have to admit, though, that parts of this confused me. It eventually becomes clear they’re fighting the Jacks, but exactly where and how…I found that muddled.
Back at the graveyard, Bod finally has to confront not only the man Jack but several of his associates, the creepy men from that rather creepy convention we saw in the Interlude. I love their names: Jack Dandy, Jack Nimble, Jack Tar. I don’t get Jack Ketch–is that a reference I don’t know? I love that Bod has to use all his knowledge and friendships from growing up in the graveyard to protect himself and Scarlett–he makes use of the ghoul gate (chapter three), gets help from Liza the witch (chapter four) and ultimately uses his experience of the Sleer (chapter two) to defeat the man Jack.
I love that Bod has to really embrace who he is as a child of the graveyard–realizing that he doesn’t need to “learn” his name. He is Nobody Owens. He uses all that he’s learned to protect himself and his friend. And I love that Gaiman manages to handle all the men Jack without Bod actually killing any of them. As a writer, I know that requires much more creativity than just killing the villain.
I am desperately, desperately sad about Scarlett. Bod felt so drawn to her, and she was his only human friend…and then she becomes afraid of him…! It’s such a tragic twist, that in the process of embracing his own identity and vanquishing his enemy, Bod ends up losing his friend. He protected her, and then she rejects him for it. I love the emotional tug of it–brilliant storytelling–while being so sad for him, and so disappointed that Scarlett couldn’t make the leap to accept him.
Chapter eight is very bittersweet as well. Almost an epilogue chapter, Bod is growing up and that means leaving the graveyard. It’s so sad that he can no longer see this community that he’s grown up in, while at the same time it’s exciting that he’s going to go explore the world beyond the graveyard. The ghosts and the graveyard become a metaphor for childhood as he has to leave it behind to become an adult.
I get the metaphor, and it’s effective. But I do wish the graveyard could still be there for him to go back to, the way some of the joys and wonder of childhood can still be found by adults. And also, the idea of a sixteen year old boy with scarcely any experience of the world going out into the world alone–it sets off all kinds of screaming alarms in my head. Silas, this is not responsible guardianship! At least take him on a Grand Tour before sending him off by himself!
Though on the other hand…Bod set off into the world alone as a toddler, and made his way to the graveyard. Now, at sixteen, he’s continuing that journey.
And I love his last exchange with Silas. Love.
And I love to think that someday, after a long life full of lots of adventures and meeting people who won’t run away, I love to think that Bod comes back to the graveyard.
I’d also love to see a sequel about Bod’s adventures in the world. Such potential for so much more.
In the meantime, I have thoroughly enjoyed taking a leisurely trip through this book again, and loved all the thought-provoking discussion on everyone’s blogs. Big thank you to Carl for hosting, and to everyone for all your wonderful thoughts!