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User Friendly In Childhood

’s End Essay, Research Paper

Elliot D Nielsen

ENGL 330

Prof. Huff


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

the tsunami?

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.