Childhood's End | Study Guide

Arthur C. Clarke

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Childhood's End | Chapter 2 | Summary

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Summary

It is many years later, and the Overlords have taken over Earth. They began by blocking out the sun for half an hour over South Africa when the country refuses to end apartheid. Since then, the Overlords have been quietly ruling Earth. They have ended war and raised the standard of living for humanity, with little regard for the type of government in a country. Their leader Karellen has asked Secretary-General of the United Nations Rikki Stormgren to meet with the leader of the Freedom League, a protest group led by Alexander Wainwright. Wainwright lodges a formal protest against the Overlords' plans to form a one-world government, but Stormgren, who supports the Overlords, claims they have made Earth safer. After their meeting, Stormgren meets with Karellen, who suggests that the Freedom League fears that the Overlords will make religion obsolete.

Analysis

Clarke moves between several periods of time in the novel, this being the first time jump. The reader is dropped into the first decade of Overlord rule, which has been largely noninvasive after the Overlords established their authority. Most notable of their accomplishments is ending conflict and beginning to raise standards of living, meaning that the Overlords are not causing harm in any measurable way. Nonetheless, the Freedom League stands against them; they do not agree with plans to create a one-world government, and they appeal to the United Nations secretary-general to stop it. This indicates that although it is not official, the one-world government has effectively been created; the Freedom League knows they have to appeal to the Overlords through the United Nations as a conduit, rather than appealing to their own governments. Meanwhile, the Overlords' representative, Karellen, shows interest in humanity when he shares his views with Stormgren, suggesting that he is actively considering the motivations of the humans he and his people are currently ruling.

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