The Children of Men

by

P. D. James

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The Children of Men: Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
One night while preparing dinner, Theo hears a knock at the door. He looks out the window and sees Miriam. He allows her in, and she immediately tells him that the police have captured Gascoigne, and the Fishes are going on the run. Julian needs Theo, Miriam says, and tells him that the group is waiting at a nearby chapel. They are in need of Theo’s car, and must get away before Gascoigne “breaks” and gives any information to the police.
The promise Theo made to Julian has finally come to fruition—she needs him, and she has called upon him for help. Though Gascoigne has not intentionally betrayed the group, Miriam seems to have no doubt that the powerful, nefarious authorities will eventually “break” him down with some kind of torture.
Themes
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Theo tells Miriam to get together a bag of food and supplies. He runs upstairs and collects his coat and his diary. He knows that leaving behind signs of having left in a hurry might incriminate him if the police should come looking for him, but he feels such an “anxiety to get to Julian” that his own safety is of minor concern. 
Theo is finally putting something—or at least someone—else before himself. Though leaving signs of a hasty exit is foolish, he seems to know that a major event is about to take place and that attempting to cover his own tracks is useless.
Themes
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Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Theo and Miriam get into Theo’s car and drive away. Theo asks Miriam how and when Gascoigne was captured. He was taken, she says, while placing explosives at the site of a Quietus. When Gascoigne did not call the group with a report of a successful mission, they knew he’d been taken.
Theo has confirmation now that the “dissidents” Helena spoke of were the Five Fishes—so it seems slightly miraculous that they have just now been found out.
Themes
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Power and Ambition Theme Icon
Theo tells Miriam that the Fishes have only lasted so long because Xan “wanted” them to—the presence of an “internal threat”, Theo says, is something that all tyrants need to “buttress authority.” Theo presses Miriam to tell him the group’s code names, but when she reveals them, Theo mocks her and the group for having chosen silly names. Miriam grows frustrated with Theo’s sarcasm and mockery and suggests they ride in silence.
Theo knows that the Fishes’ ability to fly under the radar was just another machination of the authoritarian regime, and that Xan’s behavior mirrors the behavior of other tyrants throughout history who have engineered the political atmosphere to make themselves appear savior-like.
Themes
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A few minutes later, Miriam tells Theo that Julian is pregnant. Theo feels “irritation” and “disgust” at the fact that both Julian and Miriam are “self-deceiving” enough to believe that pregnancy is possible. He tells Miriam that he doesn’t believe her, though he knows she and Julian must truly believe the pregnancy is real.
Just as Theo has disdain for animal christenings and those who push dolls around in strollers, he believes that Julian’s pregnancy is just another foolish, self-deluding coping mechanism born out of despair and sadness.
Themes
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
As Theo and Miriam approach the church in a village called Swinbrook, Theo remembers having visited it with Xan during their first year at Oxford. Miriam explains that this church is a “fall-back” meeting place, kept secret specifically for use in the event of one of the Fishes’ capture. Theo recalls having walked here many years ago with Xan, as Xan was about to join the army, where he would become the youngest colonel in 150 years. On their walk, Xan predicted Theo’s boring life unspooling almost exactly as, Theo realizes, it actually did.
Though Theo knows that his cousin is possibly evil, or at the very least exceptionally power-hungry and desperate, he can’t help but retreat into their shared memories in the face of conflict. Xan has always had a kind of power over Theo, and the uncanny way in which Theo’s life unfolded according to Xan’s predictions for him speaks to the reality of that power.
Themes
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The rest of the Fishes are waiting inside the chapel. Julian approaches Theo and right away lifts her shirt to reveal her swollen belly. He kneels before her and presses his ear against her stomach and at last believes that her pregnancy is true.
Julian, however impossibly, has now become the world’s hope for renewal and redemption. Theo is moved by the truth of her pregnancy—it seems like a real miracle. 
Themes
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Apocalypse: Revelation, Renewal, and Redemption Theme Icon
Theo suggests that the Fishes contact Xan, and tell him of the pregnancy. Xan will, Theo knows, make sure that Julian is safe, whereas if she goes on the run she risks her own life and the life of her unborn child. Julian tells Theo that she does not want to give her baby over to the state. She knows that if Xan is present for her child’s birth, he will be present “always.”
Theo wants Julian to have comfort and security, the things that the government allegedly provides. However, Julian knows the truth of the regime—her judgment is not clouded, as Theo’s is, by his personal memories of Xan.
Themes
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Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Apocalypse: Revelation, Renewal, and Redemption Theme Icon
Power and Ambition Theme Icon
Miriam and Rolf both agree that Julian should have the baby on her own, away from the Council’s clutches. Theo insists that the group is being ridiculous, and the child belongs not to any one or two people but to mankind. Luke counters that the child “belongs to God.”
Theo believes the group is not cohesive enough to successfully keep the baby from Xan’s clutches. Moreover, his humanist view of the baby’s role is in conflict with Luke and Julian’s religious one. 
Themes
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Apocalypse: Revelation, Renewal, and Redemption Theme Icon
Globalism vs. Isolationism  Theme Icon
Theo asks the group what their plan is. Rolf states that they want to find an empty cottage or shelter somewhere remote where Julian can carry her baby to term. Theo tells the group that their plan is “futile”—Gascoigne will soon talk, and everything will be ruined. Luke tells Theo that the rest of them never told Gascoigne about the pregnancy “for his own protection.” Nevertheless, they all need to get away, and soon. Luke asks to use Theo’s car, and insists that they can continue talking while they travel. Julian begs Theo to join them, and Theo reluctantly agrees.
Theo, reluctant to join the Fishes when they first came to him for help, is now faced with the choice of truly joining their group and surrendering to their mission—which now has the added layer of perhaps being the saviors of all of humanity. Theo is still hesitant and skeptical, but recognizes that the stakes are too high now to outright refuse to help the Fishes find safety, however improbable their fantasy of an idyllic refuge might be.
Themes
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Apocalypse: Revelation, Renewal, and Redemption Theme Icon
Globalism vs. Isolationism  Theme Icon