Study Guide

2001: A Space Odyssey Part 1, Chapter 1

By Arthur C. Clarke

Part 1, Chapter 1

The Road To Extinction

  • The book opens way, way, way back, when men were ape-things and women were too.
  • The setting is Africa, the Equator, prehistory, and the man-apes are having a bad time of it because there's a nasty drought.
  • No water means no food; no food means lots of starving man-apes.
  • Moon-Watcher (your man-ape protagonist for this first bit of the novel) finds that his father has died.
  • Moon-Watcher is smarter than your average ape, the book says. Still, he's got to drag his dad (the Old One) out to bury him.
  • Moon-Watcher checks to see if the enemy tribe/group, the Others, is around. They're not.
  • He forgets them. He can't think of more than one thing at a time.
  • 2001 presents its man-apes as being almost dumber than house cats. Remember, Shmoopers, this is science-fiction, not science. Don't write "apes are dumber than house cats" on your science exam, or you will do poorly.
  • He leaves his dad's body under a bush, where hyenas and scavengers will eat it.
  • Not much room for sentimentality there among the man-apes.
  • He goes to pick some berries with other members of his group. It's a pretty good day for picking berries; they get enough food so that they're not actually starving.
  • They run into the Others at the stream. They yell and beat their chests at each other, then all go about their business.
  • They get back to the cave and Moon-Watcher gives an injured female some berries.
  • They go to bed in their cave on the mountainside.
  • They are woken up by some predator killing and eating someone further down the mountain.
  • It sucks to be a man-ape.
  • The man-apes are the first creatures to look at the moon, the novel says, and Moon-Watcher used to try to grab it when he was little.
  • And while he's dozing something very bright passes across the sky.
  • That's foreshadowing, Shmoopers. (Hint: it's a spaceship.)