The Children of Men

by

P. D. James

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The Children of Men: Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In his diary, Theo describes a visit from the State Security Police. Two officers—a young sergeant named Oliver Cathcart, an Omega, and an older man named George Rawlings, a Chief Inspector—arrive at Theo’s house and, after a bit of small talk about Victorian history, the Chief Inspector explains to Theo that the Council is “concerned about the activities of certain people.”
The SSP turns to Theo in pursuit of answers and information, placing him on high alert. The Fishes have clearly spread their message to all of Oxford and beyond, though whether the police know that Theo has been involved with them is at this moment unclear.
Themes
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Power and Ambition Theme Icon
Theo offers to let the officers search his house, telling them he needs to leave for class in just over half an hour. Rawlings tells Theo that they do not plan to search his house, and then confides that some “small incidents” have upset the Council. Two Quietus have been interrupted—the ramps that the elderly use to descend into the sea were blown up. Also of concern, Rawlings says, are the pamphlets.
The Fishes’ actions are becoming more frequent and more serious, and though Theo is in no way linked to their activities, he feels a defensiveness and perhaps a fear of being implicated with a group that could be increasingly described as rebels or even terrorists.
Themes
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Power and Ambition Theme Icon
Rawlings shows Theo one of the pamphlets and asks if he has seen them before; Theo admits to having read one when it was pushed through his mail slot. When Rawlings asks if Theo knows of anyone else who has received one, Theo denies it. Rawlings asks why Theo didn’t report the pamphlet. Theo counters that he treated it as junk mail. He asks what “precisely” is disturbing the council, since a “few bored malcontents” hardly pose a “real opposition to the Warden of England.” Rawlings tells Theo that it is the business of the SSP to ensure that there isn’t.
Theo is now fishing for information, straddling the tenuous line of lying to the authorities while attempting to convince them that he is neutral, completely innocent, and deserving of what they know about the dissidents. The SSP’s threatening answer, an admission of the fact that their priority is quelling any discontent or opposition, reveals the regime’s intensifying oppression as well as its mounting fear.
Themes
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Power and Ambition Theme Icon
Theo tells the officers that, since he is Xan’s cousin, any information he acquires regarding a potential threat against Xan’s seat of power will be relayed directly to Xan by Theo himself. The officers, satisfied with Theo’s answer and his allegiance to his powerful cousin, leave.
Once again, Theo’s connection to Xan comes into play—this time, as a proof of innocence and show of authority. Theo wants the officer to think that someone so close to Xan could not possibly be plotting against him.
Themes
Power and Ambition Theme Icon
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