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Childhood's End

Arthur C. Clarke


Chapters 3–4

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Chapters 3–4

Chapters 3–4

Chapters 3–4

Chapters 3–4


Chapter 3

Stormgren is having trouble sleeping. He goes out on his balcony and contemplates over New York City. He is becoming obsessed with wondering what Karellen looks like. He is sure that there is no form he could not come to accept and perhaps even find beautiful. The next day, Stormgren's assistant, Van Ryberg, discovers that Stormgren has gone missing.

Stormgren awakes to find himself a prisoner in an underground bunker. His captor is "Joe," who claims that the bunker cannot be reached by the Overlords' spying devices. At first, Stormgren believes that Wainwright has planned this, but when he remembers Wainwright's opposition to violence, it dawns on him that his kidnapping is the work of a radical contingent of the Freedom League. Joe tells Stormgren that they will wait several days for some "visitors" to arrive. These "visitors" turn out to be a group of well-dressed gentlemen, lead by an old Welshman. They are interested in knowing as much as they can about Stormgren's trips to visit Karellen. Stormgren describes the small, egg-shaped ship that transports him up to Karellen's flagship and the room where he meets with Karellen. The room contains a blank viewscreen; Karellen can see Stormgren through it, but not vice versa. Stormgren tries to persuade the gentlemen that Karellen and has only good intentions, pointing out the ban on cruelty to animals. He also notes how hopeless their cause is, since the Overlords are near omnipotent. The gentlemen ignore this argument, but they suggest that perhaps a device could be used to examine the small room where Stormgren meets with Karellen.

Suddenly, the gentlemen freeze completely, as if time itself had stood still. Karellen's voice comes to Stormgren from a small floating device. Karellen has used Stormgren as "bait" so he could locate and track these gentlemen. As Karellen leads Stormgren to freedom, Stormgren decides that he might create a device himself to investigate the small room.

Chapter 4

Stormgren meets with a scientist friend, who agrees to make a tiny device that could investigate the conference room where Stormgren meets with Karellen. The scientist points out that the "blank screen" Karellen uses to see Stormgren may actually be no more than a piece of one-way glass. Several weeks later, Stormgren goes to his usual meeting, carrying the paperwork for the proposed world government, the World Federation. He also has a small scanning device built into his briefcase. At the meeting, Karellen tells him that the Overlords will reveal their physical appearance to the world in fifty years. This will satisfy many supporters of the Freedom League, if not the League itself.

Wainwright is not happy with the decision, believing that mankind will have lost all its independence and memory of independence within fifty years. Stormgren disagrees, but either way the Freedom League has lost some of their credibility. Stormgren then consults with his scientist friend. Their suspicions are confirmed: Karellen is standing directly behind the "viewscreen," or rather, the one-way glass. The scientist then arms Stormgren with a powerful flashlight that he can use to see Karellen.

Stormgren meets with Karellen for the last time, since he will be retiring from the position of Secretary-General soon. Karellen tells him that when the Overlords reveal themselves, the human race will suffer a brief "psychological discontinuity" but they will recover, since the humans of that age will be more stable and used to the Overlords. Karellen also admits that the Overlords have "had failures" in shepherding other races, but he won't say anything more. As he finishes speaking, Karellen suddenly cries "good-bye," and Stormgren barely has time to put the flashlight up to the glass. Years later, in an interview, a journalist asks Stormgren about the rumor that he once saw Karellen. Stormgren denies it, but the narrator tells the reader that Stormgren did see Karellen and understands why the Overlords must wait to reveal themselves.

Test Your Understanding with the Chapters 3–4 Quiz

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Test Your Understanding with the Chapters 3–4 Quiz



Where is Stormgren taken by “Joe”?
An abandoned hospital
A cave
Test Your Understanding with the Chapters 3–4 Quiz

Chapters 3–4 QUIZ

Test Your Understanding with the Chapters 3–4 Quiz

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My remembrance of reading the story in 1957

by AlofACC, December 17, 2015

Karellan comes from behind the screen to the shock of the main character and explains that their race has been visiting earth for centuries - sent whenever we are in danger of extinction to use their powers to alleviate the issue so are often seen, causing humans to mistakenly associate them with causing the problems - hence devils, but a bum rap.

At the end the children coalesce into a single life form and suck up the resources of the earth to be their energy source, and sail out into the universe as their new playground. The actual ... Read more


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