The Children of Men

by

P. D. James

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The Children of Men: Chapter 31 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Theo finds his way back to Miriam and Julian when he recognizes the blood-spattered road where Luke was killed. He offers them the meager supplies he was able to steal from the elderly couple, and Miriam and Julian, both parched, share the coffee Theo stole. Miriam tells Theo that Julian has gone into labor, and that there is no way to predict how long it will be before the baby is born.
Julian going into labor layers what’s left of the Fishes’ journey with a new sheen of urgency. There is no time for any delay, despair, or uncertainty—the future of the new world begins now.
Themes
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Apocalypse: Revelation, Renewal, and Redemption Theme Icon
Globalism vs. Isolationism  Theme Icon
Power and Ambition Theme Icon
Theo is suddenly full of “certainty and hope,” and decides that the three of them will go to Wychwood Forest—it is near to Oxford, but Theo thinks that it is an unlikely enough spot to buy them more time. He knows that there is a woodshed there where the three of them can take shelter. He instructs Miriam and Julian to get in the car, and begins driving quickly back the way they came.
Theo’s idyllic “fantasy” of a place where the three of them can be safe becomes a reality in the form of Theo’s memory of Wychwood. He must return to his past to begin his future, and visit a place of isolation to begin the renewal of the world.
Themes
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Apocalypse: Revelation, Renewal, and Redemption Theme Icon
Globalism vs. Isolationism  Theme Icon
Though there are no maps, Theo is able to navigate with the help of the stars and the occasional signpost. Julian’s labor slows down, introducing the fear that the labor is a false alarm, and that the three of them will have to outrun Xan for days or weeks more. By morning, Julian’s contractions have resumed.
The fear and despair that the group cycles through as they worry over whether or not their vision of comfort and safety will indeed become achievable threatens to derail their goals, but luckily they are able to escape from it.
Themes
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Miriam prepares a bit of food for the three of them, allowing Julian to eat more than herself and Theo combined. Theo reaches the edge of the forest, and Miriam and Julian decide to get out and walk a little ways as the terrain grows rough. A deer and her fawn crash through the bushes, narrowly missing the front of the car.
The symbolism of a mother deer with her baby fawn reflects Julian’s imminent motherhood. As the group retreats into nature, they near the pure center of life’s renewal.
Themes
Apocalypse: Revelation, Renewal, and Redemption Theme Icon
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As they move into the heart of the forest, Julian and Miriam get back into the car. Miriam spots a house, but Theo thinks that it is “too obvious.” Soon they come upon a lake, and all three get out to wash themselves. Theo wonders if they should dump the car in the lake, as it is nearly out of gas.
The refreshing waters of the lake can be seen as a sign of the group’s retreat into purity as they prepare for an almost holy event. It’s also a repository for the trappings of the past and the things earned through greed and ill means. 
Themes
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
Apocalypse: Revelation, Renewal, and Redemption Theme Icon
Power and Ambition Theme Icon
Before they dump the car, Theo wants to listen to the news. On the radio, there is an announcement that “a small group of dissidents, one man and two women, are traveling in a stolen blue car.” The announcement identifies Theo by name, and states that he is wanted for murder—the elderly woman Theo bound up with her husband has died in the night. Theo switches off the radio, unable to bear his guilt. Miriam deduces that Rolf has reached Xan, but states that their group’s “one comfort” is that he has no way of knowing that Julian is already in labor.
Though things begin to seem dire, and the weight of the charges against Theo and the arrival of Xan and his henchmen presses in, Miriam finds a bit of comfort for all of them in the power of their last secret: that Julian’s child is on its way into the world already, and will hopefully be born free of the clutches of any corruption.
Themes
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Power and Ambition Theme Icon
Theo, enraged and overwhelmed by his own guilt, berates himself for having actually “enjoyed” threatening the elderly couple on some level, and having found the mission exciting. He lashes out at Julian and Miriam, asking “how many lives will [the] child cost before [it’s even] born, and to what purpose.” He predicts a hellish life for the child, and while Julian acknowledges his point of view, she admits that she “can’t think of [her child] without joy.”
Theo knows that the power he wielded over the elderly couple, despite his attempts to counterbalance it and make them comfortable, was abusive. Theo, recognizing his own corruption, wonders whether hope in the child’s future is completely futile in the face of the corruption of the whole world. 
Themes
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Apocalypse: Revelation, Renewal, and Redemption Theme Icon
Globalism vs. Isolationism  Theme Icon
Power and Ambition Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Miriam tells Theo to get a hold of himself. He suggests they dump the car right away. Theo puts the car in gear, and he and Miriam shove it into the lake, where it sinks. Theo takes his diary from his pocket and throws that into the lake as well.
Theo, who had already emotionally abandoned his diary, now physically sheds the version of himself who lived within its pages. 
Themes
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Apocalypse: Revelation, Renewal, and Redemption Theme Icon
Theo asks Miriam and Julian if either of them continue to think of Luke. Julian responds that there will be a time to mourn. Theo suggests they head for the woodshed. They hear a helicopter overhead, and Theo realizes that once Xan knew about the stolen car, he could have easily determined a searchable radius and begun his hunt. Theo hopes that there will be enough time for the child to be born before Xan or his people arrive.
Even in nature, the group is threatened by the advance of the tyrannical forces that seek to interrupt the miracle of nature and life that is about to occur. Still, the group holds on to their hope, and retains faith in the purpose and promise that Julian and her child have come to represent. 
Themes
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Apocalypse: Revelation, Renewal, and Redemption Theme Icon
Globalism vs. Isolationism  Theme Icon
Julian points out a beautiful tree covered in berries, and Theo feels suddenly as if the forest has “transformed” from a place of darkness and fear into a kind of “sanctuary.” At that moment, an elated Miriam spots the woodshed.
Julian’s presence, as usual,  contributes to the melting away of Theo’s self-centeredness and his emerging openness to the possibilities of finding lasting happiness and true redemption.
Themes
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Apocalypse: Revelation, Renewal, and Redemption Theme Icon