2001: A Space Odyssey Essay Questions

Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What is, arguably, the single most important lesson that young speculative science fiction writers can take Clarke’s novel?

    The year 2001 was just a little more than three decades when Clarke’s novel and Kubrick’s film were released. While Kubrick missed making it to the most famous date in film history when it finally arrived, Clarke lived for another seven years. Admittedly, he exceeded the average life expectancy, but imagine how often he had to face questions about how his vision of what the world would like in 2001 missed the boat almost entirely. Lesson to be learned: if you plan on setting your speculative science fiction novel in the near future, set it at least a decade past the year you expect to live to see. Either that or make sure that your vision of the future looks a lot more reasonable to those who are actually going to be around.

  2. 2

    Clarke’s choice of point of view often seems to sacrifice the impact of surprise or revelation by informing the reader of things that the character do not know. What is gained by this sacrifice?

    Point of view is perhaps one of the most important literary elements that most readers underestimate. In fact, most wannabe writers don’t really even come to a full appreciation of the value and significance of choosing the right perspective until they begin writing their first novel. Point of view is more than mere pronoun choice; it is quite literally the perspective of the entire story. The characters in Clarke’s novel should be surprised and shocked and revealed to, but the reader needs to be put into the hand of God. Clarke is telling a story about the evolution of mankind and the reader doesn’t need to be still viewing things from the limited omniscience of an ape. By allowing the reader to know things that his character don’t, Clarke hands over the keys to the universe to the reader, allowing him to read from the perspective of an advanced intelligence.

  3. 3

    “Man didn’t invent tools so much as tools invented man.” Does Clarke’s novel support this evolutionary assertion?

    In a way, 2001: A Space Odyssey is really a novel about the invention of tools. The monolith which shows up to kickstart the evolution of intelligence among humans is a tool. The bones that Moon-Watcher picks up and uses as a weapon is a tool. And though it can be difficult to remember sometimes, HAL-9000 is really just as much a tool for the astronauts as the bone is to the ape. The novel is quite explicit in linking in an inextricable way the connection between the use of tools and the evolutionary process of human beings. So inextricable is this link that it raises a question that cannot be denied: would man have evolved at all with learning to invent the tools it needed?

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