Childhood's End

Childhood's End Literary Elements


Science Fiction

Setting and Context

Earth, late 20th century; then, 50 years later

Narrator and Point of View

Third-person omniscient

Tone and Mood

Initially, practical, stoic, scientific, straightforward, and analytical; then, towards the end, elegiac.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Multiple possibilities. Protagonists include Stormgren, Jan, George, and even Karellen. Antagonists include Overlords initially, Wainwright, and perhaps even the Overmind.

Major Conflict

Why the Overlords are on Earth and what their intentions are with respect to the human race.


When Karellen finally reveals the Overlords' purpose for being on Earth: to protect the Children so they can complete their evolutionary leap.


-Stormgren notes that Karellen seems to consider his time on Earth temporary (16)
-Jean says she does not want Jennifer and Jeffrey to grow up a certain way, and George says he can promise they won't; the narrator says "He was right, though not in the way he intended" (134)
-Charles Yan Sen asks the Inspector if the Overlords would give up their "empire" (there is a comparison to the colonial empires of Europe), and he replies, "Without the slightest hesitation" (154).
-"They never guessed that that day would be here all too soon" (160)




-Rip Van Winkle, the character in Washington Irving's short story of the same name; he is used to comment on the passage of time (12)
-Karellen knows the Kalevala, the great (and long) work of Finnish literature (17)
-Stormgren compares the Welshman and his associates to Lenin and his revolutionaries (31)
-Stanley and Livingstone, the explorers of Africa, are mentioned in relation to Rupert working in Africa (70)
-Jonah and the Whale are alluded to in regards to Jan's journey


See the Imagery Section.


It is an apparent paradox that Jan will only be gone for two months on his journey, but forty years will have passed on Earth while he is gone.



Metonymy and Synecdoche

-"'Last month,' pointed out Stormgren, 'a hundred bishops, cardinals, and rabbis signed a joint declaration pledging their support for the Supervisor's policy. The world's religions are against you" (9).


-"High above, a meteor thrust its shining spear through the dome of the sky" (21).
-"For the last few weeks his conscience had been pricking him" (50).
-"Professor Sullivan's enemy was the sea, and it fought him with weapons of cold and darkness, and above all, pressure" (114).