Analysis

This section begins to reveal the secret that the Overlords have been hiding for more than a century. By shepherding humans into a "golden age," they have allowed mankind to prepare itself for an important developmental step. Jeff and Jennifer are the vanguard of an entirely new type of creature, something beyond normal humans. There is some question as to the nature of this change. Many critics have called this an evolutionary step, but this may not be an accurate description. Evolution is based on the idea of natural selection; animals evolve through mutations that allow them to survive and flourish where their non- mutated companions do not. On Earth, there is no natural selection, because no one is dying. Everyone has been raised to the same level; even lazy people are allowed to live normal, easy lives. Furthermore, the change in Jeffrey, his sister and, later, all the other children their age occurs very rapidly and throughout the world. If this is an evolutionary change, it requires redefining what the word evolution means. In fact, the change that occurs in Jeffrey and the other children makes hardly any scientific sense at all. Here we begin to see the major cracks in Childhood's End. For an author that values science and reason over mysticism, Childhood's End has taken a decidedly mystical turn. The idea of ESP--extra-sensory perception--suddenly occurring in children all over Earth is not an example of evolution. It almost seems more like an example of magic.

This opens up a whole new interpretation of Childhood's End. Several critics, such as David N. Samuelson, believe that the novel weaves Christian myth and folklore with science fiction clichés, thus creating a story that is unique among all of Clarke's other works. There is an entity directing the Overlords: they call it the Overmind. It is this Overmind that the children will eventually join. Looking at the roles of the Overlords, the Overmind, and humanity, Childhood's End can almost be read as an intergalactic morality play—a play depicting the roles of God, the Devil and humans. The Overmind is like God, an omnipotent force that roves through the cosmos searching for races to incorporate into itself. But the Overlords, for whatever reason, have been denied this great honor—much like Satan and his fellow rebel angels are denied the Divine Presence of God. So what do the Overlords do? They go and interfere with humans, just as Satan tried to get revenge on God by meddling in humanity. There is a difference between the rebel angels and the Overlords, of course: the Overlords do what the Overmind tells them to do. But the Overlords are also watching the process of how races enter the Overmind and hoping to figure out the Overmind's secrets. Perhaps Karellen hopes to one day challenge the Overmind. In the meantime, humanity is brought to a kind of Armageddon—as we shall see in the final chapters.