Study Guide

Childhood's End Power

By Arthur C. Clarke


Power is not an obvious force in Childhood's End. Reaching a certain power level—like, say, 9,000—won't let you fly, punch through walls, or develop the ability to shoot fireballs from your hands. Instead, power is a subtle thing, something you have to really look for to see.

Karellen holds power over humanity, but it's not his spaceship or a giant death laser that gives him that power—it's his ability to psychologically manipulate the people of earth. Likewise, artistic endeavors have a power the Overlords can never dream of, but artsy power can never be defined in terms like kilowatts or magnitudes or blast radius. In fact, the power of art might never be defined at all, but that doesn't mean it isn't a very powerful force. After all, humanity joins the Overmind and the Overlords do not.

Questions About Power

  1. How do the themes of power and technology relate to each other in Childhood's End?
  2. Do any human characters ever exhibit power? If so, who, and how do they come by this power? And do they keep it? And, if no humans ever exhibit power, then why not?
  3. The Overmind: powerful entity or not? Remember to explain what kind of power you see the Overmind demonstrating and why you read the Overmind as such.
  4. Can we all agree that Karellen's a powerful character? What's the source of his power and how does he wield it? Would you say he uses his powers toward positive ends? Please provide examples. Alternatively, if you don't agree that Karellen is a powerful character, please explain why.

Chew on This

Karellen is actually completely powerless.

Jan is able to counter Karellen's authority by using the same types of power as the Overlord: power and science.