The Golden Compass

Old Versus New: Ignorance is Progress

During a discussion regarding Lyra’s future and well-being, the Librarian of Jordan College makes an interesting observation of human nature to the Master.  He says, with regard to Lyra’s apparent disinterest in any serious matter, “That’s the duty of the old. . . to be anxious on behalf of the young. And the duty of the young is to scorn the anxiety of the old” (Pullman 32).

The Librarian makes this observation in response to the Master’s comment that giving Lyra more information would ease his anxiety for her. In responding thus, the Librarian expresses his feeling that no matter what steps they take to ensure Lyra’s safety, they will still worry for her, and she will still scorn their worry, brushing it aside as unnecessary. There is a parallel between this relationship of the young and old that the Librarian describes and that of Harry Potter and Dumbledore. Throughout the series, Dumbledore worries on Harry’s behalf while Harry either dismisses the worry, feeling that it is unproductive or unneeded, or resents it. Many a time in the books does Harry end up shouting at Dumbledore for just such a reason.

However, the disregard of the young for the worries of the old is perfectly natural. The old are the wise for a reason as they  have had much more time to see the world than the young have. Their age gives them perspective and allows them to recognize the folly of youth. Of course, with all this in mind, it is perfectly natural for the old to worry about the young who are so often ignorant of the ways of the world. In the eyes of the old, the young are naïve, open to change (for better or for worse), and therefore in need of guidance—for if they will not worry themselves, someone must do it for them. Nonetheless, the young continue to be open-minded in their naïveté, and, really, it is better for the human race that they are. Without the continuous cycle between the anxiety of the old and amenability of the young, their would be no progress. The old have seen too much of the world to be open to new ideas and therefore the concept of change scares them. Without the daring and reckless youth of the young, few revolutionary ideas would be tested or used and the world would have no chance at advancement.

Proposition: Without the inherent conflict between the old and the young, there would be no progress in the world.