2001: A Space Odyssey | Study Guide

Arthur C. Clarke

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2001: A Space Odyssey | Part 6, Chapter 47 : Through the Star Gate (Star-Child) | Summary



Floating above Earth, Bowman—the Star-Child—notices that a nuclear bomb orbiting Earth has been activated. He reaches out and with his will detonates it. This causes a light to flare in Earth's sky: a "false dawn." The Star-Child thinks about what he will do next with his great powers.


As the novel ends readers are left with food for thought on the theme of humanity, but few conclusive answers. Many readers have chosen to interpret the ending positively. Bowman is an earnest, persevering character who has demonstrated no malice, not even toward Hal when he was forced to disconnect him. The alien force that first set humanity on its path toward evolution and now encourages Bowman to take the next step is described in terms so vast and magnificent that it seems difficult to believe it could be anything other than benevolent. Finally, Bowman's decision to destroy the nuclear device is made casually. He knows "The feeble energies it contained were no possible menace to him; but he preferred a cleaner sky."

On the other hand, the novel's two earlier "evolutions" both resulted in murder. Moon-Watcher learned to use tools at the direction of the alien's monolith, and after becoming omnivorous decided to defend his territory from One-Ear and his tribe. As a sentient being, Hal developed a neurosis from being forced to lie, and out of self-defense destroyed one of his passengers. Bowman has moved out of time, but he has not lost corporal form, and the question remains how much of humanity's nature, whatever that may be, continues to reside in him.

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