Childhood's End

One of the themes in Arthur Clarke's "Childhood's End" seems to be that humans need some struggle or goal to strive for in order to make live worth living. "When the Overlords had abolished war and hunger and disease, they had also abolished adventure." When the Overlords came to Earth and eliminated strife, they also eliminated striving. Although "the average man was grateful to them for what they had done to his world," that was because he did not realize or else no longer cared that the world was now living "on the glories of a past that could never return."

The Overlords were sent by their bosses to force humans to live in harmony to protect a future generation. Consequently, the Earth became a Utopia, where "men worked for the sake of the luxuries they desired: or they did not work at all." Sciences and creative arts were virtually destroyed at the same time, since there was no improvement that could be found without great effort. But humans did not "look beyond the pleasures of the present" to think about what might happen to them if this continued. Individuals simply became passive absorbers of entertainment, since they had nothing to struggle against or for.

When the new generation developed, humans' eyes were finally opened, and they saw that they had no future. Many people committed suicide, and the rest stopped having children and began to engage in mad activities, eventually destroying themselves. Now that society as a whole had no goals, nor were any possible in the future, life was not worth living. This story shows that the results upon individuals of having no struggles, and the results upon society of having no goals, are the same: life becomes meaningless.