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The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book

by Neil Gaiman

Analysis: Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Initial Situation

Murder. A bunch of it.

Yep, The Graveyard Book starts off with some pretty horrible violence. A one-and-a-half-year-old baby, who will soon become Nobody Owens, escapes from a man named Jack, who murders his father, mother, and older sister with a sharp knife. Jack wants to find and kill the baby too.

Conflict

How will dead people raise a live kid?

When the baby arrives in the graveyard, the three hundred or so ghosts of the graveyard argue about whether or not they can raise the baby. Thanks to the Lady on the Grey, who seems to have the last word in the graveyard, it’s decided that the baby can stay. Mr. and Mrs. Owens will be his mom and dad, and Silas will be his guardian and take care of his food and clothing needs. Mrs. Owens names the baby Nobody Owens because “He looks like Nobody but himself” (1.121). Most people call him Bod.

Complication

Silas tells Bod that his family was murdered, and that the murderer is still out there and wants Bod dead.

This makes things complicated for Bod – now not only must he struggle with being a live boy raised by dead people, but also his need for revenge.

Climax

Bod meets Jack, the man who murdered his family.

When Bod meets back up with Scarlett (now fifteen years old), she accidentally brings him face-to-face with Jack. Now, Jack’s trying to finish what he started thirteen years before – the murder of Bod.

Suspense

Will Bod defeat the Jacks of All Trades, or will he be killed like his sister and parents were?

Chapter 7 describes a battle of smarts and strength between Bod and the Jacks of all Trades. It gets really hairy when Jack Frost is holding Scarlett at knife-point.

Denouement

Bod defeats the Jacks, Scarlett turns against Bod, and Silas takes her memories.

Bod tricks Jack Frost into giving himself to the Sleer, but Scarlett thinks that was horribly cruel. She calls Bod a “monster” (7.772). Then Silas makes Scarlett forget the whole incident, including her friendship with Bod.

Conclusion

Bod leaves the graveyard.

Now that Bod is fifteen years old, and nobody’s trying to kill him, it’s time for him to join the world of the living. Silas gives Bod money, clothes, and a passport, and Bod leaves the graveyard to explore the world.

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