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What is the Knife?

This forum is for all the stuff related to the second book in the trilogy: The Subtle Knife.

What is the Knife?

Postby tearsintheearth » Wed Sep 14, 2011 11:00 am

I thought about this while discussing something to do with the knife in another topic, what is it actually? what does it symbolise? not sure if its been discussed before or whether it's just obvious.
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Re: What is the Knife?

Postby Makarov » Fri Sep 16, 2011 6:36 am

Looking at the trilogy as a whole, to me the subtle knife is the most important object in the entire story. I don't find it a metaphor for anything other than it represents dangerous tempting technology that can be used for good or evil. In The Subtle Knife, it's nature is still a mystery.

It's also a defining aspect of Will's personality, like Lee Scoresby and his balloon.


*The Amber Spyglass spoilers*


We know in the end that the existence of the knife has caused suffering for the entire Cittagazze world. It's nature is evil... which is why I think Iorek dislikes it instinctively.

Just a theory but I like to think that Will is a knife bearer for life and the subtle knife will find a way back to him again over time. The same way the alethiometer will be readable by Lyra after years of hard work. Maybe in Will's world a similar knife would be invented and he would be called to it.
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Re: What is the Knife?

Postby tearsintheearth » Wed Sep 21, 2011 11:57 am

Sorry to disagree with you but i don't think the knife will come back to will, it is the same sort of thing as Lyra with the alethiometer but it represents something different i think, an aspect of self sacrifice, only in ignorance can you use it and still remain innocent. As soon as you know what it does you must bear it broken and everything its linked to, for it causes more damage than good when used casually.
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Re: What is the Knife?

Postby Into-Dust » Sat Sep 24, 2011 12:41 pm

Nope, Will never uses the knife again. He puts it away so he can concentrate on his own life and his own world, and re-creating Dust. Although, I wonder if he kept the pieces.

I don't know what it symbolises, although that's an interesting question that i'll have to think about. Cutting ways between the worlds makes Dust leak out. Since knowledge creates Dust you'd think, symbolism wise, that it'd be the opposite, if people use to knife to explore and gain wisdom.
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Re: What is the Knife?

Postby tearsintheearth » Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:38 pm

I guess its where you use it in innocence and break it in experience, there might be some deeper meaning but its beyond me.
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Re: What is the Knife?

Postby pantalaimon74 » Tue Nov 08, 2011 3:08 pm

The knife is just a knife that cuts through pretty much everything. What's hard to understand about that?
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Re: What is the Knife?

Postby owen_thornton » Wed Nov 09, 2011 9:57 am

pantalaimon74 wrote:The knife is just a knife that cuts through pretty much everything. What's hard to understand about that?


i think its more to do with the fact that most of the objects mentioned in the book have significance and meaning to them, but i dont think the knife has any other purpose than as a plot object, but it still doesnt hurt the cleverness of pullman
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Re: What is the Knife?

Postby pantalaimon74 » Wed Nov 09, 2011 2:54 pm

Well the alethiometer isn't very hard to understand either. An item that answers any question. And the spyglass is just a spyglass that lets you see dust., Again, not hard. I don't think there's any hidden message or anything.
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Re: What is the Knife?

Postby ArcT » Wed Nov 09, 2011 3:24 pm

There are various different interpretations of knives in stories, dreams, films and so on. Maybe it's because an object that is used in an aggressive way will always be subconsciously matched up with these things or whether it's simple coincidence is a lot harder.

Dreaming you are carrying a knife, for example, signifies anger, aggression or separation. All things we can align Will with very easily - angry at his father's death, aggressive in the face of a threat and separation is all over him as a character. There's a suggestion in various places that a knife would signify the need to cut out or get rid of something - while the only thing I can really think of here is the vodka he promises never to drink again, knives also signify the severance of ties or relationships - again, all over him.

Knives, and their nature as a stabbing instrument and also due to their being sharp (especially in this one's case), are also a signification of sexual tension, confrontation or aggression. Looking at Will in a purely Freudian way, he is very much an Oedipus complex personified with both his mother and, in some respects, Mary, and then there's his and Lyra's fall. Another indication that the knife is very much more important pops up here, too - to be wounded by a knife is significant of aggression, masculine or animalistic - both of which Will has demonstrated on more than one occasion.

Knives that are dull in texts, dreams and so on are commonly associated with hard work for little gain - and here again we can see a big association with Will as a character. The knife blade itself is sharp enough to cut a universe, and this blade carries out the assumed impossible by killing the Authority. Yet the metal is dull and smokey. He and Lyra go through hell and back for that one moment they share together during the Fall, and what do they get for it? A lifetime forced apart.

Interestingly, and to jump to Lyra and the intercession machine just very quickly, to see an electric knife in a dream indicates your power to get down to the truth of a situation quickly.


So make of it what you will (or Will? :P ). The knife could just be a plot device, or it could be more. You have to admit, though, that's a very neat plot device if it is just so.
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Re: What is the Knife?

Postby pantalaimon74 » Fri Nov 11, 2011 2:51 pm

Arc, you have really long posts
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Re: What is the Knife?

Postby ArcT » Sat Nov 12, 2011 6:07 pm

Well researched :P
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Re: What is the Knife?

Postby owen_thornton » Thu Nov 17, 2011 1:49 pm

it could just be a case of us putting meaning to what the author wrote XD and really, pullman just wrote a story, asnd thought a knife to cut between worlds and a compass that points to the truth, and and a spy glass that shows the hidden was just clever, but we have associated all the meanings to them
----edit----
i do hope not, because if he wrote it with all the meaning for us to find, then he is definitely a genius and worthy of worship
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Re: What is the Knife?

Postby tearsintheearth » Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:14 am

I don't think its just a plot device, he must of attributed some meaning to it, but I doubt all of the ones we've come up with. That's what reading is all about though isn't it? Interpreting things in your own way.
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