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Literature Study Guides2001 A Space OdysseyPart 3 Chapters 19 20 Summary

2001: A Space Odyssey | Study Guide

Arthur C. Clarke

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2001: A Space Odyssey | Part 3, Chapters 19–20 : Between Planets | Summary



Chapter 19: Transit of Jupiter

Bowman uses the ship's instruments to observe Jupiter, though it is still far away. Discovery sends data about Jupiter and its moons back to Earth as the ship passes near the planet. Soon, the ship loses direct sunlight as well as radio communications as it travels to the far side of Jupiter. Then, Discovery emerges into both sunlight and radio communication with Earth. As a result of coming so close to Jupiter, the ship had gained speed by bouncing off Jupiter's gravitational field.

Chapter 20: The World of the Gods

A probe is deployed into Jupiter's atmosphere and sends back stunning images of the colorful layers of gases as they fall toward the planet. But Discovery will do no further exploration of this fantastical world—its goal is still half a billion miles further.


The approach and passage near to Jupiter demonstrates Clarke's tendency to present readers with detailed descriptions that slow down the action. But again, reading the novel as a textual companion to the movie, the description seems a reasonable in light of the film's sweeping imagery. In addition, it is important to note that while the novel's destination is Saturn, in the film, Jupiter is the goal. According to the author's Foreword, this decision was made because Kubrick and his team could not make the rings of Saturn look believable. So the understanding that reaching Jupiter is of great consequence is perhaps more appropriate for the movie than for the novel.

Regardless, the grandness and beauty of Jupiter do support the theme of the vastness of the universe, and Discovery's commitment to gathering information from it despite the fact that the real goal is Saturn is evidence of the theme of human curiosity. And, in an episode that foreshadows later events, the ship is briefly out of radio contact with Earth. The vague anxiety felt by the characters as the radio contact is interrupted heightens suspense and reminds the reader that these small humans are bravely taking on a very risky task.

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