User Friendly In Childhood
’s End Essay, Research Paper
Elliot D Nielsen
User Friendly in Childhood?s End
In Arthur C. Clarke?s novel Childhood?s End, people or beings use each other for
selfish reasons. Sometimes it is subtle, even subconscious; other times it is a blatant
usage. Three obvious examples occur and kind of chase each other around in a triangular
fashion. 1) The Overlords use humans/humanity. 2) The Overmind uses humans. 3)
The Overmind uses the Overlords. Humans also attempt to use the Overlords even
though the Overlords are omnipotent and seem to already have humanity?s fatal future
planned out. Other than these overlying uses, small examples exist between characters
throughout the novel. These will be cited and explained in a somewhat chronological
Earth and the Overlords
One of the first instances is Wainwright and the Freedom League using Stormgren
for information about the Overlords. ?Next time you speak with the Supervisor, Mr.
Stormgren, ask him that!? (17), says Wainwright referring to why Karellen won?t show
himself. Wainwright and the league want information like this so they can form their
revolt against the Overlords? takeover.
This brings about one of the bigger uses: The Overlords need a human mediator
to communicate with the rest of the world on a personal level. On page 36, Joe says,
?…but the Overlords have to use human agents.? Karellen uses Stormgren to speak to
In the chain of events surrounding Stormgren?s capture, Joe and the kidnappers
are holding Stormgren hostage. They use him to try and gain information. ?You know
what our motives are here…you are the only man who can tell us anything of the
Overlords,? (40) says one of the leaders. This turns into a reciprocal situation when from
Stormgren?s thoughts it is written, ?There were acute minds here, and perhaps they could
uncover something new? (41). Also, ?…he [Stormgren] was hoping that they might help
him unravel Karellen?s secret? (42-43). So, while this undercover organization seeks
information from Stormgren, he takes advantage of the circumstance in an attempt for the
?acute minds? to help him solve his puzzle. These little reciprocal use situations take
place many times throughout the novel.
While Stormgren is reminiscing the events of the kidnapping, he realizes that with
all of Karellen?s power, Karellen could have saved him at anytime. He thinks, ?It was
more than obvious now that Karellen had used him as bait? (49). Then, Karellen puts a
tracer on the terrorists and lets them go. He gives them their freedom, but uses this to his
advantage. ?I can trace their movements anywhere on Earth…far better than locking them
up,? (48) says Karellen.
Despite the small examples cited in the first section of the novel, the larger theme
is the Overlords getting the human race to conform to their ideas. The Overlords are
turning the inhabitants of Earth into a well-oiled machine. This process will allow them to
use the planet and people–whether it be for research and knowledge or the collection of
specimens–how they want before its future end.
The Golden Age
Right from the start, ?…with a human child resting on either arm,? (68) Karellen
uses children as an additional cover for his alarming body structure. This brilliant idea
helps present his harmlessness.
Rupert is a rich selfish prick who uses all the material goods he can to impress his
guests. He greets George and Jean with his image projector and George?s reply is, ?Have
you ever known Rupert not to get anything he wanted? (78)? The couple go on to discuss
how nice his new house is. Rupert refers to Rashaverak as ?Rashy? around his guests and
treats him as an equal at most. Concerning this, George states, ?…[Rupert] likes to show
off, and he?s got no tact? (84).
Rupert uses his guests for self-gratification. Clearly, the majority of the people in
attendance are mere acquaintances who get the opportunity to spend an elegant night at
Rupert?s. The narrator suggests, ?[a]bout three-quarters…[are] perfect strangers? (79).
On a reciprocal note, Rupert also uses the Overlords and the Overlords use
Rupert. Rashy gets to read from the ?psychic phenomena? library, and Rupert gets an
image projector for personal use. ?Just a bit of bargaining? (87), explains Rupert, to strike
his egotistic deal.
The other significant example from the second section of the book is Professor
Sullivan helping out Jan. Jan goes five kilometers deep in the ocean because he thinks he
can use Sullivan?s position and wisdom to get aboard an Overlord ship. After the initial
meeting and exchange of ideas, Jan thinks, ?Right into my hands? (120), referring to
The Last Generation
George uses Jean. He might have been in love with her once, or thought he
was–at least enough to live and raise a family together. Now, their partnership has
allowed them to move into Athens and appear to be upstanding citizens. It seems
George?s intent to move there was with disregard for Jean?s ideas or happiness. Granted,
she ends up being quite happy, but George?s push to move was so he could take part in
the fine arts offered in Athens.
Gene?s interest is for the children. ?[T]he children would love it. That…was all
that mattered? (142), she says. A kiss from George is described as ?perfunctory? (143).
He is busy with plans for the future, ?…too much occupied by his work and his children?
This passage from George sums up his thoughts for Gene and their partnership:
?George looked down at her with sympathy, but nothing more. He was
fond of her: she had borne his children and was part of his life. But, of the
love which…George Greggson had once known towards…Jean Morrel,
how much remained? His love was divided between Jeff and Jennifer…and
Carolle. He did not believe that Jean knew about Carolle.? (165)
Since the Overlords found out that Jean was special at Rupert?s party, they?ve
been monitoring her. They?ve waited for her offspring so they could observe them and
possibly further their understanding of the Overmind. This is quite possibly the entire
reason the Overlords use the human race. They appear to be helping humanity when all
along they were preparing the world for the Overmind. They were selfishly playing God
so that when the children started to mutate, the Overlords could examine them and maybe
gain more knowledge about their own masters. Why else would they have saved Jeff from
While the Overlords are carrying out their various side projects to gain knowledge,
the Overmind is using them. ?And you [Rashaverak] do not resent being used as a tool by
the Overmind,? (206) asks Jan. For whatever specific reason the Overmind needs the
Overlords, it is unclear, but it is evident that the Overmind must have the Overlords for the
implementation of their harvesting process.
In a similar way the Overmind uses the human race. In its higher power of
existence, it preys off of colonies of beings. The Overmind continues to search for more
overall power, maybe? Whatever its reasons are, with regard to human morals, the
Overmind uses humanity?s last offspring to further the development of its being.
Clarke, Arthur C. Childhood?s End. New York: Ballantine Books, 1953.