Analyzing The Children of Men by P.D. James

A presentation by Ian Everbach, Kyle Floyd, Kara
McGee, and Caitlin Vanderwolf
General Information
 Year of Publication: 1992
 Genre: Dystopian Science Fiction
 Mood: Dystopian, transition from dismal to hopeful,
redemptive, accepting
Main Characters
 Dr. Theodore (Theo) Faron: History
professor at Oxford [divorced from
Helena, in love with Julian, cousin to
Xan, friend of Jasper]
 Jasper: Theo’s aged tutor [Married to
 Xan Lyppiatt: Warden of
England, Theo’s cousin
 Grenadiers: The
Warden’s secret service
 Mass Infertility
 The Five Fishes:
 Julian: [Married to Rolf, child by Luke,  Rolf: Turns traitor when
in love with Theo]
he discovers his wife’s
 Rolf: aggressive and hostile husband
 Miriam: former midwife [Has a
 Luke: lapsed priest
 Gascoigne: experienced bomber
Key Character Traits
 Theo: rational, cynical, defeated, determined, logical,
proactive, knowledgeable
Julian: unfaithful yet also faithful, giving, sympathetic,
loving, naïve
Xan: Machiavellian, cold, self-absorbed, powerful,
power-hungry, negligent, intelligent, insecure
Luke: religious, naïve, steadfast, brave, martyr
Miriam: motherly, strong, committed, responsible,
Rolf: stupid, arrogant, aggressive, possessive, powerhungry, desperate, small-minded
Important Scenes
 Plot-Driving
 Meeting with the Counsel
 Meeting in the church
 Attack by the “Painted Faces”
 Ending cabin scene
 Seeing Julian in church 1st time
 Robbing elderly couple’s home
 Jasper’s house (multiple scenes encompassing)
 Theme-Advancing
 Birth
 Visiting the Quietus
 Expositional/Character Development
 Running over daughter with car
 Stroller scene: crazy cat/doll ladies
Major Conflicts
 Infertility
 Power vacuum
Lack of democracy
 Atrocities of government
Penal colony
Porn shops/involuntary fertility testing
Deportation of Sojourners
 Setting:
 Physical setting: London, areas of Great Britain
 (Meta-setting: The conflict is global)
 Time period: January 1, 2021 — October 15, 2021
 Structure: Mixed objective description and diary entries
 Effect: Gives a broader perspective, develops Theo’s character, draws
reader into the story
 Point-of-View: Switches between first person and limited third
 Characteristics of the 1st-person narrator: Theo’s reliability is
enhanced by his good memory, intellect, disinclination to distort
fact (from being a historian), and lack of censorship (as this is his
own diary).
 Characteristics of the 3rd-person narrator: The narration is
presented objectively, removed from the action
Key Quotations about Religion
 “The kneeling women, rich and poor, young and old, fixing their
eyes on the Virgin’s face with an intensity of longing almost too
painful to witness” (138).
 “So I prayed that God would show me what I ought to do…and
He sent you. I always find, don’t you, that when you’re in real
trouble…just ask, He does answer” (79).
 “Or had Rolf, in that single and complete rejection of his
childhood religion retained an unacknowledged vestige of
superstition? Did he, with part of his mind see Luke as the
miracle-worker who could turn dry crumbs into flesh… whose
very presence among them could propitiate the dangerous gods
of the forest” (175).
 “It was like trying to take hold of a broken marionette” [of Luke]
More Quotations
 “The four billion life forms which have existed on this planet,
three billion, nine hundred and sixty million are now extinct… It
really does seem unreasonable to suppose that Homo Sapiens
should be exempt. Our species will have been one of the shortest
lived of all, a mere blink, you may say, in the eye of time” (13-14).
 “History, which interprets the past to understand the present
and confront the future, is the least rewarding discipline for a
dying species (11).
 “The Attic gravestone of the young mother from the fourth
century B.C., the servant holding the swaddled baby, the
tombstone of a little girl with doves, grief speaking across nearly
three thousand years” (82).
 “It would take a force more powerful that sexual love to prise
open the portcullis which defends the crenellated heart and
mind (16).
Themes of Interest
 The arrogance of youth
 Death and decay
 Familial and romantic love
 The role of religion/people’s response to religion in
hopeless situations
The human spirit
Nature’s indifference
The growth and use of power
The roles of women/gender roles
Motherhood and maternity
 Syntax
 Well-formed, poetic, descriptive phrases
 Long and short sentences; Form mirrors content
 Well-paced storytelling and sentences
 Certain aspects underdeveloped
Characters thrown away when no longer important
General plot is lacking slightly; a few plot holes
 Diction
 Complex, but accessible
 Narrator is reliable because he is writing a diary, meaning he
would not skimp on embarrassing/unattractive details
because no one else will read
 Symbols
 Water: life and purity yet also ominousness and death
 Religion
 Title taken from scripture
 References to La Pieta
 “Five Fish” using the fish as an early Christian symbol
 Luke as a priest
 Water as purity and renewal
 Virgin Mary, birth of the Savior
 Deer as a symbol of Christ
Movie Adaptation
 Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
 Praised for its screen-writing references
 Known for its tracking-shot action sequences
Children of Men Theme Statement
 When a rational Oxford history professor comes into
conflict with a futuristic authoritarian regime in a
situation which the powerful regime has preyed upon
panic from an overwhelming, uncontrollable disaster,
the results may elevate the ability of hope, faith, and
love to bring people together to fight for a cause
despite imminent destruction and preserve the
essence of what it means to be human.

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