The Children of Men

by

P. D. James

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Children of Men can help.

The Children of Men: Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Theo, writing in his diary, describes a visit to Helena’s. Mathilda, the cat the two of them once shared, and which now lives with Helena and Rupert, has just had kittens. He speculates on whether or not Helena and Rupert held a “birthing party,” a joyous event punctuated with champagne toasts and a celebratory feast. Theo knows that birthing parties too, though, are “tinged with sadness”—there are regulations regarding the breeding of animals, and now that her cat has had kittens, Helena will be forced to sterilize Mathilda and keep only one female kitten.
Though Theo has largely abandoned the Christian rituals of the past and does not participate in society’s reinvented rituals (like animal christenings or birthing parties), he recognizes the importance of the event in Helena’s life. Theo is continually spurred by his guilt over Natalie’s death and his inability to give Helena any happiness when the two of them were still together.
Themes
Apocalypse: Revelation, Renewal, and Redemption Theme Icon
Theo realizes that it has been one year to the day since Helena left him for Rupert, and believes it is an “appropriate” day to make his first visit to their new home. He wonders what Helena and Rupert’s life together is like: whether they talk about Theo often, and whether they are in the “fortunate minority” of couples who still enjoy their sex lives in the wake of Omega.
Theo is attempting to be selfless by visiting Helena and Rupert, but still retains some of his self-obsession—he cannot stop thinking about how the specter of his and Helena’s relationship might or might not affect Helena’s new partnership with Rupert.
Themes
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
When Theo arrives at Helena and Rupert’s, the two of them are trying to decide which of two kittens to keep. Theo joins Rupert and Helena for a “lavish” tea, and once the three are done eating Rupert retrieves one of The Five Fishes’ pamphlets and shows it to Theo. Rupert says that no one will take the pamphlets “seriously,” though he did wonder, when he called in to register the kittens with the Local Council, whether or not he should report the list of demands.
The fact that Helena and Rupert also received a pamphlet shows Theo that the Five Fishes have cast a wide net in an attempt to reach as many people as possible. Rupert’s instinct to alert the police, like Theo’s fear of keeping the pamphlet in his possession, is a byproduct of living under the surveillance state of an authoritarian regime.
Themes
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Globalism vs. Isolationism  Theme Icon
Power and Ambition Theme Icon
Theo points out the danger of speaking out—the SSP might arrest citizens “for possession of seditious material.” The three of them debate the points of the pamphlet for a moment before Helena becomes frustrated with Theo’s apparent sympathies for the group, and implores Rupert to tear the paper up.
Theo does not reveal anything about his involvement with the Fishes to Helena or Rupert, but the fact that he sympathizes with the points of their pamphlet alone is enough to set Helena on edge. Any resistance in this world is risky.
Themes
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Power and Ambition Theme Icon
Get the entire The Children of Men LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Children of Men PDF
Theo says goodbye to Mathilda the cat and leaves, content to know that while Helena is happy, he is no longer the one “responsible” for her happiness. He reflects upon a moment during the visit in which Helena and Rupert pulled their hands apart when Theo entered the room. He feels a pang of “envy and regret, not for something lost but for something never achieved.”
Theo’s self-centeredness and lack of desire to take responsibility for anyone else is a double-edged sword. It protects him, but it also makes certain feelings and experiences impossible for him, and he is beginning to envy those who can find happiness and true human connection.
Themes
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
Globalism vs. Isolationism  Theme Icon