Childhood's End | Study Guide

Arthur C. Clarke

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Childhood's End | Chapter 16 | Summary

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Summary

One day a tsunami strikes New Athens. George and Jean's son Jeffrey tells his parents that he had been playing near where it hit, but he was guided to safety by a voice in his head. He also says that a force melted a large stone that had been blocking his path to higher ground. George visits the spot weeks after the tsunami and finds a patch that appears to be melted stone on the path. George believes the Overlords saved his son, but he does not know why they would do so.

Analysis

The tsunami shifts some focus away from the adults and toward the next generation of humanity. When Jeffrey hears a voice in his head, George believes it is the Overlords protecting him, suggesting that for some, the Overlords are beginning to take on a near-religious importance. In place of the voice of God saving a child, George believes it is the voice of an omniscient Overlord doing so. The melting of a stone is also reminiscent of miracles performed in the Christian Bible. This creates a juxtaposition between the way the Overlords look—like devils—and the god-like miracles they seem capable of performing. It also suggests humankind is predisposed to looking for a god-like force in the universe, given that religion has ceased to exist.

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