Study Guide

Childhood's End Freedom and Confinement

By Arthur C. Clarke

Freedom and Confinement

In Childhood's End, it can be hard to tell which characters are free and which ones are confined. Check it out: The Overlords seem to be free agents until a twist at the end reveals that these alien masterminds are the workers for the alien master-mastermind, the Overmind.

On the other hand, humanity seems to be controlled by the Overlords until they learn they have the ability to break free of that confinement to join the Overlords' alien boss. But on the other-other hand, perhaps mankind's freedom from the Overlords is simply another form of confinement for humanity, a galactic jail sentence within the Overmind. And round and round we go—for all we know, the Overmind itself might have some form of control holding it back as well. Sigh.

Questions About Freedom and Confinement

  1. Is any character in the novel truly free? If so, who, and why is this important? If not, then why do you think this is the case?
  2. Based on your reading of the novel's end, do you think the Overlords will eventually break free of their servant status? Why or why not?
  3. Does the technology of the Overlords really create a World State of freedom and equality? Why or why not?
  4. When humanity joins the Overmind, do you think it is truly free or have humans just entered a different form of confinement?

Chew on This

Freedom and confinement aren't two sides of the same coin in Childhood's End. Instead, all the characters are both free and confined at the same time. It's simply a matter of being more one and less the other.

Karellen, grand master of humanity and manipulator of all, is actually the most confined character in the entire novel.