2001: A Space Odyssey | Study Guide

Arthur C. Clarke

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2001: A Space Odyssey | Part 6, Chapters 41–42 : Through the Star Gate | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 41: Grand Central

Part 6 is called "Through the Star Gate" because it tells of Bowman's experiences after passing through the monolith on Japetus, the "Star Gate."

Bowman has the sensation of moving downward, and soon observes that an "apparently inexhaustible" number of stars flow past him as he moves with incredible speed. He notices that the clock in his pod slows down and finally stops. He sees a light ahead and then seems to emerge from a tunnel. The surface of an enormous planet appears to be below him, covered in Star Gates, and he sees a strange, golden ship appear and plunge into one of the gates. The sky is white and glowing. As his pod moves toward another of the gates, Bowman realizes this place is a large intergalactic terminal, like Grand Central Station.

Chapter 42: The Alien Sky

Bowman emerges from the gate at a point in space far from Earth. He sees a large, red sun orbited by a white dwarf star and an ancient spaceport surrounded by a "parking lot" full of abandoned spaceships. He moves closer and closer to the red sun.

Analysis

Everything in these chapters is enormous and awe-inspiring, supporting the theme of vastness of the universe. Bowman sees planets and stars up close. He moves through huge distances in space at unbelievable speeds, far faster that the speed of light. As Einstein theorized, as the pod moves at or beyond the speed of light, time itself slows. So not only are time and space vast—perhaps infinite—they are interconnected, just as Einstein's Theory of Relativity proposed.

Much of the imagery in these chapters is based on science, such as showing "up close" what scientists have only seen from a distance or theorized about. Yet some is fantastical, putting the fiction into science fiction. In particular, the appearance of the sky is the reverse of what the sky in real space looks like. Instead of black with white points of light, it is white with points of black. This reversed image is similar to the way the opening of the Star Gate is described, as something turning inside out.

Bowman continues to describe what he sees in figures of speech that call upon common Earth images: the spaceport has a "parking lot" full of spaceships; the planet's surface is "like a jigsaw puzzle; the sky is just like a "photographic negative of the Milky Way." Bowman feels he is "inside a Ping-Pong ball."

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