Childhood's End | Study Guide

Arthur C. Clarke

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Childhood's End | Chapter 12 | Summary

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Summary

Fully aware of the risks involved, the two men devise a plan to get Jan to the Overlords' home planet. The journey will take Jan around 40 human years but will age him only a few months because of the distortions of space travel. Sullivan will include a secret compartment in a sperm whale being sent to the Overlords, in which Jan will stow away. He will sleep for the entire journey to the planet where the Overlords came from, where he will let the Overlords do what they want with him. Jan details this plan in a letter to his sister Maia, whom he does not believe he will ever see again after leaving Earth.

Analysis

Jan's plan is risky and marks the first time a human has truly resisted against the Overlords. His desire to simply go to space is also telling; it suggests that humankind's ambition has been so repressed that just the act of going into space and seeing something—anything—is a major achievement. With no preparation, Jan is willing to challenge the Overlords on his own, leaving behind everyone and everything he has known. Jan is cast as single-minded in his goal, but this also speaks to the way the Overlords are seen by humanity. Jan does not seem to fear them, and he is willing to let them do whatever they wish when they find him. However, his assumption is that they will send him back to Earth, which shows that even Jan assumes the Overlords are fundamentally benevolent toward humans.

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