2001: A Space Odyssey | Study Guide

Arthur C. Clarke

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2001: A Space Odyssey | Part 6, Chapters 45–46 : Through the Star Gate | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 45: Recapitulation

Bowman sleeps, and the hotel surroundings "dissolved back into the mind of its creator." This being then invades Bowman's mind and in a dreamlike state, he sees a vision of a network of "crystalline planes and lattices" more complex than the human brain. The vision fades, and he begins to relive his past, going backward from the present to his infancy. All his thoughts and memories drain from him and are stored in an immortal, newly born, David Bowman. "In an empty room, floating amid the fires of a double star twenty thousand light-years from Earth, a baby opened its eyes and began to cry."

Chapter 46: Transformation

The baby stops crying as a glowing rectangle appears before it. The rectangle solidifies and spoked, rotating patterns appear in it. The baby stares into it, transfixed just as Moon-Watcher had been transfixed so long ago. The crystal monolith begins to remake Bowman's consciousness, and when it is done, the new Bowman is released. Since Bowman sees himself as a baby form of this new type of being, he appears as a baby. His new self understands many of the secrets of the universe, enough that he can travel at will back into "the space that men called real."

Analysis

The alien race that intervened in human evolution so long ago in Earth's prehistory, that set up the solar alarm on Earth's moon, that placed the Sentinel on Japetus, now takes human development to another level. David Bowman's mind and memories are drained from his mortal body and placed in an immortal one. This immortal body is not a human baby, but it takes the shape of one, because the new David Bowman is like a newborn baby compared with what he will be in the future. Throughout the description of David Bowman's rebirth and first moments as a newborn, the alien presence is there as a parental figure. The alien mind gives the baby a chance at independence, but doesn't judge him when he falters from fear. Instead, the alien parent sets him upright again, like a toddler who has stumbled: "The crystal-clear perception of the universe was restored to him—not, he knew, wholly by his own efforts. When he needed guidance in his first faltering steps, it would be there."

The text makes perfectly clear the connection between David Bowman's transformation and the transformation of Moon-Watcher. The crystal monolith that changes Bowman is a replica of the one that appeared to Moon-Watcher. "It was a spectacle to grasp and hold the attention of any child—or of any man-ape. But, as it had been 3,000,000 years before, it was only the outward manifestation of forces too subtle to be consciously perceived." Here, the narrator reveals its workings even more thoroughly, explaining that the rotating spoked patterns are simply there to mesmerize, or "distract the senses" while the mind of the viewer is being reprogrammed "at far deeper levels of the mind." In this description, there is a faint echo of the programming of Hal by his human creators. As humans created and programmed Hal to be more like them, the alien entity creates and reprograms humans with its own characteristics.

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