Childhood's End | Study Guide

Arthur C. Clarke

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Childhood's End | Chapter 11 | Summary



Jan is trying to learn more about the Overlords, so he visits with Rupert to try to find out why they are interested in the paranormal. Rupert believes it is an attempt to learn more about humanity, but Jan does not believe this. When he learns that Professor Sullivan, a scientist and taxidermist who works with sea creatures, is planning to send sea animals he has preserved to the Overlords via a supply ship, Jan goes to meet with Sullivan to hatch a plan to get Jan into space.


The question of human ambition is central to the novel, and it is one of the few things the Overlords seem unable to comprehend. While they have provided all of humanity with a great quality of life, they have not provided any means by which humanity can achieve tangible markers of success or progress. Jan, and with him Professor Sullivan, represent the innate ambition that drives some people. Sullivan expresses to Jan that he would be miserable if the Overlords barred him from the sea, and in his expertise has found a way to continue his career in a meaningful way by providing specimens to the Overlords. When Jan explains that such an opportunity has been taken from him, Sullivan is ready and willing to help Jan take a chance on achieving his passion.

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