The Children of Men


P. D. James

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Children of Men, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

History, Mythology, and Memory

The world of The Children of Men is one obsessed with the past. Humans have been stricken by mass infertility, and no one has been born on Earth in twenty-five years. As the world faces the absence of a future and an inability to see beyond the present moment, the past has become either a place of refuge or a no-man’s-land, a place which people are reluctant to consider or return to. One of the…

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Fatalism and Despair vs. Action and Hope

In the dystopic world of The Children of Men, hope—for a future, for contentment, for survival—seems impossible. The “humiliation” of the “ultimate failure” of mass infertility has driven human society to the brink, and new kinds of ennui, cruelty, and cultural malaise have seeped into all aspects of daily life. The journey of the novel is the journey from fatalism and despair toward action spurred by hope. As the text unfolds, even the skeptical…

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Apocalypse: Revelation, Renewal, and Redemption

Though the word “apocalypse” has, in popular imagination, come to symbolize a cataclysmic, world-ending event, its true meaning is “an uncovering,” or “a disclosure of knowledge or revelation.” The word “apocalypse” does not appear once within the text of The Children of Men and though there is no one large, cataclysmic revelation, the creeping realization that humanity would be unable to reproduce was, in a sense, the moment of apocalypse, and the revelation that has…

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Globalism vs. Isolationism

Though the action of the novel is set in Great Britain, P.D. James imbues the text with hints of the effect of mass infertility on the world as a whole, and mass infertility’s status as a global issue. Despite the fact that the entire planet suffers from infertility, there is a palpable lack of globally united thinking or action. The British government has become, essentially, a dictatorship operating under the guise of democracy, and is…

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Power and Ambition

In the bleak, futureless world of The Children of Men, the desire to use power in order to create form, order, and structure is one that rules, or at the very least tempts, several of James’s characters. The sly, “self-obsessed” Xan Lyppiatt has appointed himself the dictator and Warden of England. His cousin Theo Faron struggles to assert authority over his history students at Oxford. Rolf, the leader of the anarchist group The…

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