Book 2, Chapter 28

Summary:

When Theo wakes up the next day, Rolf is already up. He tells them that there is a nearby ditch where they can bury Luke, though he does not help them bury the body. For Julian’s sake, they take as much care with his burial as is possible. Despite this, Julian frets that he is not being buried in consecrated ground and requests that Theo say the burial service. Theo notices Rolf watching him and privately thinks that Rolf is very strong to be still standing after such an enormous disappointment. As Theo speaks the service, he begins to feel that he knows the words by heart. Despite the reverence of the moment, Theo cannot help but be reminded of a defecating animal when Julian awkwardly squats to throw earth into the grave. As soon as the service is finished, Rolf turns away and says he is going to sleep. Theo and the others gorge themselves on nearby blackberries before falling into a deep sleep.

Analysis:

In this chapter we see Theo stepping into the void left by Luke. His increasingly close relationship with Julian is demonstrated when she asks him to read the burial service. Theo does so and, in the process, taps into his own religious past. Though he begins the service awkwardly, by the end he is speaking with confidence, seeming to know the words by heart. The psalm Theo recites is significant in itself, and the line “come again, ye children of men” is the source of the book’s title. This psalm speaks to the temporality of man’s existence when compared to the eternal nature of God: God alone has the power to both destroy and renew mankind. The ideas in the psalm echo the destructive power of the Omega and the potential for renewal that Julian’s pregnancy represents. Though Theo has become more tolerant over the course of the novel, we still see flashes of his former personality through his interactions with Julian. He cannot help but be irritated with her when she suggests that they bury Luke in consecrated ground, just as he cannot help but spoil the solemnity of Luke’s funeral by unkindly likening the unwieldy movements of her pregnant body to those of a defecating animal.