Childhood's End | Study Guide

Arthur C. Clarke

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Childhood's End | Chapter 13 | Summary

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Summary

The whale in which Jan is hiding is part of a larger display at Professor Sullivan's lab that shows the whale and a giant squid fighting. Karellen decides to observe the display before it is sent to the Overlords, and during his visit, he explains that their planet has no oceans. Professor Sullivan becomes anxious about their plan, and after Karellen leaves, he tells Jan that they do not have to go through with it. But Jan insists and enters the compartment as planned. With Jan inside, the display is loaded onto the Overlords' ship and taken out of the atmosphere.

Analysis

At this point in the novel, humanity has limited understanding of what the Overlords know and do not know, but the reader knows that the Overlords are able to observe anything they want. This means that although Jan and Professor Sullivan believe they are tricking the Overlords, it is more likely that Karellen is aware of their plans, and that Jan is only able to complete his "secret" mission because the Overlords allow it. This tension creates an important duality: Sullivan fears for his life as he does not know what the Overlords would do if they discover their scheme, but the reader knows that Karellen probably came to the shop with full awareness of Jan's plan. When Jan is able to get onto the ship, then, it is less as a stowaway and more as a welcome guest.

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