Neil Gaiman depicts the main character, Coraline, in a way that many children can relate to. In this book, Coraline’s curiosity is driven by her boredom, which then drives her to this fantasy world. This can be related back to Where the Wild Things Are, where Max goes on an adventure into a land of creatures like himself, and also to Alice and Wonderland, where Alice drifts off into a world of fantasy and challenges. However, the main character in this book is depicted differently than most other children’s novels with a female main character. Though Hunt’s assertion that literature should be thought of as “girls literature and boys literature,” the book, Coraline, does not fully follow the guidelines of socializing young girls. Coraline must show bravery, which she reminds herself of numerous times throughout the book (p. 61). She also sets out on an adventure to save her parents and faces a lot of adversity, which is traditionally characteristic of novels involving a boy’s adventure, such as Peter Pan. Charlotte’s Web, a children’s novel full of gendered messages teaching little girls about femininity, depicts the main character, Fern, as nurturing and maternal, unlike Coraline who loves to explore.
Gender is a very consistent theme in this novel. Coraline’s father is too busy working to play with her and the obsession her other mother has with making her a permanent addition to the family, by entertaining her, loving her, and caring for her represents traditional paternal and maternal characteristics. Though there are consistent instances depicting traditional gender roles, Coraline’s behavior and intent on being brave conflicts with these messages in a way that may make fantasy seem like a world where one can cross these gender lines if they wish.