(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Several commentators have noted how Childhood's End opposes the intuitive to the rational, the immaterial to the material, and the community to the individual. The prohibition the aliens deliver, "The stars are not for Man," implies human impotence on the epistemological, sexual, and personal levels. Not only is technology unable to cope with the manifold appearances of the universe, its maker, the analytic mind, is unable. Several of the novel's questers are blind, actually or metaphorically; the insights of the novel are achieved by those characters willing to acquiesce or to sleep.

Most of the protagonists suffer some form of sexual isolation: Stormgren is a widower, Jan has been jilted, and George's marriage becomes a convention. Their condition is summarized by Rashaverak's description of the Overlords, "We are the midwives. But we ourselves are barren." The only permanent sexual relation is the semimaternal one between Maia and the childish Boyce. Nor is the sterility ended when George and Jean are reconciled over the loss of their children; their embrace is shattered by the atomic bomb that destroys their island: "The segments of uranium began to rush together, seeking the union they could never achieve." Only prepubescent children, no longer human, live through the explosive transcendence of the novel.

Nor can human society achieve a vision of the universe. Its destructive politics have to be controlled by outside forces, for...

(The entire section is 359 words.)