The Children of Men

by

P. D. James

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Theo’s Diary Symbol Analysis

Theo’s Diary Symbol Icon

At the start of the novel, Theo Faron has just begun keeping a diary—the first page of the book is his first entry. As it is both “the first day of a new year and [his] fiftieth birthday,” Theo believes it is a justified time to begin keeping a record of his thoughts. He says that if he cannot find anything to record, he “shall record the nothing.” However, he does not actually believe that there will be any interest at all in his “record of one man’s last years,” indicating both a compulsion to communicate his story and a revulsion at the thought of displaying any egoism. 

The narration of the novel switches between Theo’s diary entries, which are written in the first person, and a third-person narration that offers insights as to the thoughts and feelings that Theo does not record in his diary. Theo Faron comes to think of writing in his diary as a “task”—he is not recording the days of his “over-organized” life for any kind of “pleasure.” The diary is a burden and a liability—it contains Theo’s innermost secrets and thoughts, as well as a record of his activity with The Five Fishes, which becomes increasingly criminal. However, the diary is, for Theo, an “addiction,” and a way to “impose order and purpose on the shapelessness of existence.” Theo’s diary symbolizes his need—and humanity’s similar collective need—to record the events of his present for purposes of preservation for posterity, even at the height of despair over the mass infertility crisis facing the world.

After Theo joins up with the anarchist group The Five Fishes, he embarks on a road trip with them in hopes of finding shelter for the heavily-pregnant Julian. The Five Fishes are being hunted, and Theo’s car, the Fishes hope, will provide them with a little bit of anonymity and perhaps a head start on the authorities. When Theo and the Fishes become stranded on the side of the road, they take some time to rest, and Theo leans against a tree to write his “last entry,” in which he describes having become deeply “at ease with four strangers, one of whom I am learning to love.” As Theo and the Fishes prepare to depart once more, Theo, describing a kind of “euphoria,” completes his final entry, “no longer hav[ing] need” of the “self-regarding and solitary man” who marked its early pages. Theo’s progression—captured in his diary, and represented by his decision to stop writing in it—from his “obsessive self-sufficien[cy]” to welcome and grateful member of a group of individuals fighting for a cause larger than any one of them symbolizes his—and perhaps P.D. James’s—hope for a world in which isolationism and self-obsession give way to global thinking and collective action for a greater good.

Theo’s Diary Quotes in The Children of Men

The The Children of Men quotes below all refer to the symbol of Theo’s Diary. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Children of Men published in 2006.
Chapter 5 Quotes

[Helena] thought I cared less, and she was right. She thought I cared less because I loved less, and she was right about that too. I was glad to be a father. When Helena told me she was pregnant I felt what I presume are the usual emotions of pride, tenderness, and amazement. I did feel affection for my child, although I would have felt more had she been prettier, more affectionate, more responsive, less inclined to whine. I’m glad that no other eyes will read these words. She has been dead for almost twenty-seven years and I still think of her with complaint.

Related Characters: Theodore “Theo” Faron (speaker), Helena Faron
Related Symbols: Theo’s Diary, Natalie
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

The task of writing his journal—and Theo thought of it as a task, not a pleasure—had become part of his over-organized life, a nightly addiction to a weekly routine half imposed by circumstance, half deliberately devised in an attempt to impose order and purpose on the shapelessness of existence.

Related Characters: Theodore “Theo” Faron (speaker)
Related Symbols: Theo’s Diary
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 21 Quotes

He went upstairs to fetch his coat, and, mounting one more staircase to the small back room, slipped his diary into the large inner pocket. The action was instinctive; if asked, he would have had difficulty in explaining it even to himself. The diary wasn’t particularly incriminating; he had taken care over that. He had no premonition that he was leaving for more than a few hours the life which the diary chronicled and this echoing house enclosed. And even if the journey were the beginning of an odyssey, there were more useful, more valued, more relevant talismans which he could have slipped into his pocket.

Related Characters: Theodore “Theo” Faron (speaker)
Related Symbols: Theo’s Diary
Page Number: 143-44
Explanation and Analysis:
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Theo’s Diary Symbol Timeline in The Children of Men

The timeline below shows where the symbol Theo’s Diary appears in The Children of Men. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1 
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Globalism vs. Isolationism  Theme Icon
Theodore “Theo” Faron, writing in his diary on Friday, the first of January, 2021, describes the early-morning pub-brawl death of Joseph Ricardo,... (full context)
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
Theo has no plan to leave his diary behind as a record, believing there could be no possible interest in it. Theo is... (full context)
Chapter 2
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
Power and Ambition Theme Icon
A few days later, Theo returns to his diary to reflect upon his past. He describes the years during which he served as an... (full context)
Chapter 4
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
Apocalypse: Revelation, Renewal, and Redemption Theme Icon
It is now nearly the end of January. In a new diary entry, Theo reflects upon his childhood with his parents. His mother, he says, had “artistic... (full context)
Chapter 5
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
The following day is the 22nd of January. Theo writes in his diary that this “would have been [his] daughter [Natalie’s] birthday if [he] hadn’t run her over... (full context)
Chapter 6
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
...narrative switches to the third-person, and the narrator describes how, for Theo, writing in a diary has become a “task, not a pleasure, devised in an attempt to impose order and... (full context)
Chapter 11
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
Power and Ambition Theme Icon
Theo, writing in his diary, describes the events of his first time seeing Xan in three years. He had no... (full context)
Chapter 16
Apocalypse: Revelation, Renewal, and Redemption Theme Icon
Theo, writing in his diary, describes a visit to Helena’s. Mathilda, the cat the two of them once shared, and... (full context)
Chapter 17
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Power and Ambition Theme Icon
In his diary, Theo describes a visit from the State Security Police. Two officers—a young sergeant named Oliver... (full context)
Chapter 19
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Globalism vs. Isolationism  Theme Icon
Power and Ambition Theme Icon
In his diary, Theo describes having seen Julian at the market earlier that morning. As she exited, he... (full context)
Chapter 20
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Globalism vs. Isolationism  Theme Icon
...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.”... (full context)
Chapter 21
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 26
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Apocalypse: Revelation, Renewal, and Redemption Theme Icon
Writing in his diary, Theo describes the lovely, restful day he has spent with the Fishes. He has “never... (full context)
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Apocalypse: Revelation, Renewal, and Redemption Theme Icon
...out again—Rolf has repaired the tire. Theo writes that he has “no need” of his diary any longer, as he is not the “self-regarding, sardonic, solitary” man who began writing it.... (full context)
Chapter 31
History, Mythology, and Memory Theme Icon
Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope Theme Icon
Apocalypse: Revelation, Renewal, and Redemption Theme Icon
...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. (full context)