Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.

Technological Malfunctions

As Hal begins to malfunction, his action becomes less predictable and a lot more human. At first, this involves something relatively minor—reporting a part to be malfunctioning when it is, in fact, working fine. It is intriguing that Hal's malfunction causes him to incorrectly say that other things have malfunctioned. Hal's breaking down occurs against the backdrop of an otherwise immaculately crafted mission—this makes his malfunction stand out even more. This malfunction serves to warn against the perils of technology over which we do not have full control.

The Accouterments of Space Travel

Like any good science fiction novel, 2001 provides a detailed look at the scientific world it chronicles. Great care is taken to ensure that the reader gets a sense of the experience of the technology described in the book. Dr. Floyd's journey to Space Shuttle One is described with attention to details such as the experience of a high-acceleration liftoff, the adhesive sauces used to keep chops firmly in place on one's plate, and even the rotating bathroom that allows for the effect of gravity on the spaceship.

Omniscient Narration

The narrator of this book is omniscient—we see into everyone's head, are told their innermost thoughts and motivations. Events occurring millions of years apart and, even before humans existed, are reported to us in immaculate detail. This narration plays a key role in providing the varied and non-linear plot that composes the story of 2001. Without an omniscient narrator, it would seem quite difficult, for instance, to tell the tale of part one, in which moon watcher encounters the slab, or to fully reveal the inner psychology of Hal.