Study Guide

Childhood's End Morality and Ethics

By Arthur C. Clarke

Morality and Ethics

When you ponder sources for morality, what do you think of? The Bible? The Buddha? Your parents? Those PSA messages tacked to the end of afterschool cartoons? Most people probably don't think of science as a source of morality, but Childhood's End sure does.

In this book, characters that make ethical judgments based on scientific traits—reason, exploration, fascination and, above all, education—are generally held up as more morally sound than those who do not. Take Stormgren and Wainwright. Wainwright's use of religion as a moral compass means he distrusts the Overlords without even talking with one, while Stormgren's interactions with Karellen are based on a desire to learn and reason the best course of action.

Questions About Morality and Ethics

  1. Which human character would you say is the most moral in the story? Provide support for your answer.
  2. Which human character would you say is the least moral in the story? Again, please give examples from the text for support.
  3. Based on these two characters, what do you think the novel is ultimately trying to say about human ethics?
  4. Is Karellen a moral character? Why or why not?

Chew on This

The conflict between Stormgren and Wainwright sets the moral tone for the rest of the novel.

The Overmind is above morality or, at least, anything humans would recognize as ethics.