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Literature Study Guides2001 A Space OdysseyPart 5 Chapters 31 32 Summary

2001: A Space Odyssey | Study Guide

Arthur C. Clarke

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2001: A Space Odyssey | Part 5, Chapters 31–32 : The Moons of Saturn | Summary



Chapter 31: Survival

Part 5 is set at the Discovery mission's destination and is thus called "The Moons of Saturn."

Bowman works to restore Discovery's systems—with the life support system being the priority. He takes time to study carefully the briefings on TMA-1 that have come in from Earth. Of interest is the fact that its dimensions are exactly in the ratio 1 x 4 x 9—"the squares of the first three integers."

Bowman is aware there are political issues related to TMA-1 and the discovery of evidence of extraterrestrial life back home on Earth, but these tensions seem distant. He also gives some thought to Hal's dysfunction, considering Hal's behavior that of a "clumsy criminal caught in a thickening web of deception."

Chapter 32: Concerning E.T.'s

Bowman's briefings also include details of debates among scientists about the origin of TMA-1. Many do not think life could have originated on Saturn's moons, nor on Jupiter's, so it is possible the monolith is "not merely extraterrestrial, but extrasolar." Others point out that even with the most advanced human technology, it would take millions of years to travel a small distance in the galaxy. Some suggest the speed of light might not be an unbreakable barrier. Similar debates ensue among biologists as they speculate about the biology of extraterrestrials. Some suggest organic beings might eventually take on machine bodies, or evolve into beings of pure spirit rather than of matter.


As David Bowman travels farther and farther from Earth, his increasing distance is juxtaposed with the nature of the briefings he has received, which are full of the frantic analyses and speculations of scientists back on Earth and the moon. While the facts are fascinating, and of the utmost importance to humanity, Bowman does not share the urgency of his fellow humans. He goes about his days in a routine manner, making repairs and attending to tasks. In the same way Bowman feels the tensions between nations on Earth—which are, of course, extremely significant to those on the planet—are less significant to him. He is already gaining the emotional distance that will characterize his attitude toward Earth for the remainder of the novel.

Although Hal was an important presence in Bowman's life, he is gone. Bowman now looks back on Hal's demise with some sympathy, because he, too, has known panic and how dehumanizing its effects are. This line of thought shows that Bowman considers Hal to have been human, or nearly so. This assessment, emphasizing Hal's humanity, is in keeping with the ideas of some scientists, discussed in Chapter 32, that humans may someday replace their biological bodies with machines.

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