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Childhood's End | Study Guide

Arthur C. Clarke

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Childhood's End | Chapter 23 | Summary



Karellen shows Jan what has taken place while he was away: the children who were taken have become more powerful than the Overlords and therefore are sequestered on a continent where they can test their psychic powers. Karellen shows Jan that the children have grown in their powers and are absorbing all organic matter to feed themselves, and that everyone else has died. Jan is the only person remaining on Earth; every other human has died. The Overlords remain on Earth only to observe the behavior of the children for the Overmind and will leave when it is no longer safe.


Karellen's explanation to Jan of what has taken place in recent years also informs the reader about the state of humanity. The Overlords consider this a fulfillment of their purpose, and they are only remaining on Earth for as long as it is safe to do so. The fact that the Overlords fear harm from the children underscores the fact that the Overlords are not the powerful beings that humanity once thought them to be. Jan, who once wanted to break away from the Overlords and their influence, is now left with only their company and falls into the way of life they had hoped he would before their mission was nearly complete. Interestingly, Jan's time away from Earth made clear to him that the Overlords were right about humankind not being ready to understand the cosmos, and as a result, he sees the destruction of Earth as an appropriate end for the planet.

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