Study Guide

2001: A Space Odyssey Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

By Arthur C. Clarke

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Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

Part 1, Chapter 3

He was looking at a peaceful family group, differing in only one respect from the scenes he knew. The male, female, and two infants that had mysteriously appeared before him were gorged and replete with sleek and glossy pelts—and this was a condition of life that Moon-Watcher had never imagined. (3.7)

The slab shows Moon-Watcher a vision of luxury. He's basically watching Cribs or The Fabulous Life of…but for prehistoric cave-folks. Who would have thought that television would be so important in getting those lazy ape-critters to get out of the house and make something of themselves?

…it was longer still before Moon-Watcher, despite all that he had been shown, really understood that he need never be hungry again. (3.23)

This line echoes Scarlett O'Hara's famous vow in Gone With the Wind that she will "never go hungry again." It's not clear that this is an intentional shout-out—and intentional or unintentional, it seems to undermine the novel's point. After all, tens of thousands of years later, folks are still worried about going hungry. Hunting didn't change that, and neither did the agricultural revolution. Moon-Watcher sees a dream of permanent progress, and Clarke seems to see it too—but that dream isn't quite reality, whatever the novel says.

Part 3, Chapter 16

Yet he had no regrets for those lost beauties. He had enjoyed them all, in his thirty-five years of life; and he was determined to enjoy them again, when he returned rich and famous. (16.6)

This is one of the few glimpses we get into what makes Bowman tick, or what he wants out of his trip. It seems fairly banal—he just wants to be rich and famous. Rather than making him more specific, his dreams just make him more generic. He wants what everyone else wants. You're boring, David.

Part 3, Chapter 20

Their goal was a still stranger world, almost twice as far from the Sun—across another half billion miles of comet-haunted emptiness. (20.15)

Hopes and plans here are like the signal TMA-1 sent out—they point out to the stars, in order to make you see the vast immensity of space. 2001 likes big dreams.

Part 4, Chapter 24

"You know that I have the greatest possible enthusiasm for this mission." (24.43)

Plans and goals tend to be seen as good things in 2001. The aliens' plans lead to the emergence of the humans we are today, and ultimately move us up the evolutionary ladder. Hal's enthusiasm for the mission, his single-minded devotion to the hopes and plans of Discovery, are a bit of a contrast. They don't end up leading anywhere good. (Trust aliens, not robots.)

Part 5, Chapter 31

It was even possible —though he had not yet looked into the supply position carefully —that by rigorous rationing he might remain alive, without resort to hibernation, until rescue came. (31.7)

Bowman is hoping he can manage to survive even after Hal has killed everyone else. Later, you learn that he won't be able to. You never see the process by which his hopes are dashed, but his impending death doesn't seem to disturb him that much. Bowman's hopes and dreams always seem oddly disconnected from his actual inner life; it's like the aliens have dreamed so much for him that he doesn't have any hopes left for himself.

Part 5, Chapter 35

Perhaps indeed he was [suffering from delusions]; for he had half convinced himself that the bright ellipse set against the dark background of the satellite was a huge empty eye, staring at him as he approached. (35.3)

Again, a moment of cosmic dream spookiness. There's an eye out there looking at him: the aliens are watching—and of course we're watching too. If Bowman is a dream or hope of humanity, then he's your dream and hope as well. You can see why having all those dreams and hopes focused on him would make him nervous.

Part 5, Chapter 37

They tinkered with the destiny of many species, on land and in the ocean. But which of their experiments would succeed they could not know for at least a million years. (37.8)

The aliens plan across millennia. We have trouble planning what we're gonna eat for dinner this evening. That's the difference between being us and an all-powerful alien species, we suppose.

Part 6, Chapter 47

He had missed its builders by ages, and with that realization Bowman felt a sudden sinking of his heart...
Well, it was unreasonable to expect more. Already he had seen wonders for which many men would have sacrificed their lives. (42.22-23)

Bowman figures he's going to die out in space all alone and is upset…but then he immediately chastises himself for getting depressed and figures he should look on the bright side. Talk about weirdly cheerful. It's annoying.

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