Literature Study Guides2001 A Space OdysseyPart 5 Chapters 37 38 Summary

2001: A Space Odyssey | Study Guide

Arthur C. Clarke

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2001: A Space Odyssey | Part 5, Chapters 37–38 : The Moons of Saturn | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 37: Experiment

The narrator explains that the Japetus monolith was placed there 3,000,000 years ago by an intelligent race that had learned how to travel through space. This alien race had looked for signs of other intelligent life throughout the universe, and had sent out devices to foster intelligence where they detected its beginnings. Earth was one of many planets where they experimented in this way.

This alien race progressed to the point where they could transfer their thoughts into bodies of plastic and metal, then developed into beings of pure energy. They "learned to store knowledge in the structure of space itself, and to preserve their thoughts for eternity in frozen lattices of light."

Chapter 38: The Sentinel

Bowman decides he wants to explore the monolith more closely, so he will take a space pod and move toward it for a better look. The Star Gate, a "sentinel" set to watch over the aliens' Earth experiment, detects Bowman's pod coming toward it. It begins to awaken "its slumbering powers."

Analysis

In many ways Chapter 37 is the key to understanding the novel's action and its themes. The chapter explains how a life force not "even remotely human" but "flesh and blood" explored the galaxy and encouraged growth in the most "precious" form of life, "Mind." Humanity is not alone in the universe. Other intelligent life forces exist.

The chapter also describes how this alien life force came "to the limits of flesh and blood," eventually learning "to store knowledge in the structure of space itself, and to preserve their thoughts for eternity in frozen lattices of light. They could become creatures of radiation, free at last from the tyranny of matter."

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