Skip over navigation

Childhood's End

Arthur C. Clarke

Chapters 7–8

Chapters 5–6

Chapters 7–8, page 2

page 1 of 2

Chapter 7

George Greggson and Jean Morrel, a couple, attend a party hosted by Rupert Boyce. They are greeted at Boyce's door by a holographic projection of Boyce himself. The device allows Boyce, a "superveterinarian," to investigate all the animals over a vast area of jungle without getting too close to them. Boyce has just recently remarried, and the party is a chance for his new wife to become acquainted with his friends. The new wife is gorgeous, and George is clearly attracted to her, but Jean pulls him away to explore the rest of the house.

They make their way to the library, where Boyce keeps the world's largest library on paranormal research--phenomena such as telepathy, telekinesis, contact with the spirit world, and other such things. They are shocked to discover an Overlord in the library, swiftly reading a book. His name is Rashaverak, and he claims to be doing psychological research. Soon, all three of them head back down to the party, where Rashaverak causes quite a sensation and is subjected to endless conversation. George decides to take a break and goes out onto the roof of the house. There he meets Jan Rodricks, the brother of Boyce's new wife. George quickly retreats back to the party, but Rodricks remains outside.

Chapter 8

Jan Rodricks is a young man of twenty-seven. He has spent most of his life studying physics and astronomy. He is a restless man, not willing to be content under the utopian rule of the Overlords. He feels it is no coincidence that the Overlords arrived at the very moment mankind was about to step into space. He believes the Overlords, whatever their reasons, are deliberately preventing man from ever conquering space as they have done. Jan has watched many Overlord supply ships come and go from Earth, but neither he nor any other scientists have been able to decipher the technology the Overlords use.

Boyce's party ends. Jan heads back inside, and Greg and Jean are still there, as well as Rashaverak. Boyce decides to have a little fun by holding a séance and having the group use a Ouija board. Jean is particularly excited at this prospect, but George is very skeptical. The responses from the board are very cryptic: when asked "Who are you?" it responds, "I am all." The board gives a surprising number of accurate answers, and to George's surprise, he finds it is difficult to consciously alter the progress of the board's needle. Finally, Jan asks, "Which star is the Overlords' sun?" and the board responds with: "NGS 549672"--an identification number for a star. This answer confuses most of the participants, but it is quickly forgotten when Jean faints.


These chapters represent a departure from the previous direction of the novel. Until this point, the novel has followed author Arthur C. Clarke's short story, "Guardian Angel" almost word-for-word. Clarke wrote "Guardian Angel" first, then later expanded it into Childhood's End. "Guardian Angel" ends when the Overlords reveal themselves and turn out to look exactly like the Devil. The most important question in "Guardian Angel" is, "What do the Overlords look like?" But Childhood's End takes the story further, asking the question, "What are the Overlords doing on Earth?" In a broader sense, Childhood's End examines the question of whether humanity has a purpose or direction, whether humans are "evolving" to a higher life form--in short, the novel is searching for the meaning of life in a world without religion.

In Chapter 7, the reader gets the first few hints of what the Overlords' plans for humanity are. Rashaverak has an odd interest in the paranormal, the study of superhuman abilities such as telepathy, telekinesis, and other powers. It is not clear exactly why the Overlords have this interest, but apparently it is strong enough for an Overlord to leave his ship and spend time at a human's house.

More Help

Previous Next

Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!