Childhood's End | Study Guide

Arthur C. Clarke

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Childhood's End | Chapter 1 | Summary



The novel opens in the early 21st century with two people—a female Russian cosmonaut and a male American commander—preparing for separate trips to space. While the cosmonaut poses for photos, a large shadow obscures the moon. At the same time, the commander is standing on a volcano in Hawaii when he sees large spaceships moving past the clouds. He realizes that these are alien ships.


With this opening, Clarke references the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union, imagining a 21st century when both countries are actively exploring outer space. However, their efforts are halted by the arrival of the Overlords, an alien species that takes control of Earth and institutes a world government. By having the Overlords' ships arriving at the same time over Hawaii and Russia, Clarke demonstrates that their takeover occurs simultaneously around the world. These two people are also the last humans to take part in space exploration on behalf of Earth, as the Overlords end all space programs.

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