The Children of Men

by

P. D. James

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The Children of Men: Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Theo left for his trip in March. It is now the last day of September, and he has finally returned from his travels. He reads through the diary entries he recorded during his trip, though he wrote of his travels “joylessly [and] meticulously.” Unable to enjoy his time away and feeling that he left “the part of him from which he most needed to escape in Oxford,” he returned, but now finds the atmosphere “anxious, fretful, almost intimidating.”
Theo embarked on his selfish journey through Europe in order to escape the overwhelming fear, anxiety, and sense of impotence brought on by his desire to help Julian but his inability to act. Upon his return, nothing has improved—things are exactly as they were for Theo when he left.
Themes
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Globalism vs. Isolationism  Theme Icon
Theo calls Helena, and asks her whether anything has been happening in Oxford over the summer. She tells him nothing has, though there are “rumor[s]” of dissidents blowing up piers in an attempt to stop the Quietus. Theo asks if anyone knows who the dissidents are. Helena tells him she doesn’t think so.
The one positive is that the Fishes have not yet been located or really discovered by the government. Theo is relieved to at least find that there have not been any expressly negative developments in his absence.
Themes
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Globalism vs. Isolationism  Theme Icon
Theo has the nightmare in which his father is standing at the end of his bed. This time, though, it is Luke pointing at him, and Theo is not in bed but in a car. Rolf pounds on the windows of the car and screams “You’ve killed Julian!” over and over.
Theo cannot escape the feelings of guilt he has over abandoning Julian.
Themes
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
Theo feels uneasy for days after the dream, and is afraid that he is being surveilled, though he has received no communication from Xan or the Council. Theo is afraid Julian has been captured by the police, and longs to find a way to get in touch with her. He visits a couple of old churches, looking for The Five Fishes, but cannot find them, and his sense of “impending disaster” only grows. 
Theo’s guilt, depression, and paranoia reach a fever pitch. Just as he felt helpless and impotent back in March, his feelings of lack of control and fear of the future are creating an atmosphere of stress and anxiety.
Themes
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
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