2001: A Space Odyssey | Study Guide

Arthur C. Clarke

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2001: A Space Odyssey | Part 5, Chapters 33–34 : The Moons of Saturn | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 33: Ambassador

Alone on Discovery, David Bowman settles into a routine, but he still finds time to think about the ultimate goal of his mission. He thinks of himself as an ambassador of the human race. To keep himself sane he listens to great works of literature and music.

Chapter 34: The Orbiting Ice

Discovery nears Saturn, surrounded by rings of rock and ice and can easily observe Japetus's unusual surface—one dark side and the other showing a large, white oval. The ship slows and prepares to rendezvous with the mysterious moon.

Analysis

As Bowman continues on his mission alone, he finds silence unappealing. His remedy is to listen first to plays, then to opera and vocal works, and then to instrumental music. These are powerful reminders of the humanity he has left behind, and although he craves their "companionship," he finds them unsatisfying as well. The plays fall short of being meaningful, since they involve situations now completely unimportant in light of the discovery of alien life. Vocal music is distressing for another reason—it brings out too many emotions. Instrumental music seems to be the balance between feeling connected to humanity and disconnected from humanity. This progression echoes the overall movement of Bowman away from corporeal reality toward a more abstract and thus pure form of existence.

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