Analyzing The Children of Men by P.D. James


A presentation by Ian Everbach, Kyle Floyd, Kara

McGee, and Caitlin Vanderwolf

General Information

 Year of Publication: 1992

 Genre: Dystopian Science Fiction

 Mood: Dystopian, transition from dismal to hopeful, redemptive, accepting

Main Characters

Protagonists Antagonists

Dr. Theodore (Theo) Faron: History professor at Oxford [divorced from

Helena, in love with Julian, cousin to

Xan, friend of Jasper]

 Jasper: Theo’s aged tutor [Married to


The Five Fishes:

Julian: [Married to Rolf, child by Luke, in love with Theo]

Rolf: aggressive and hostile husband

Miriam: former midwife [Has a brother]

Luke: lapsed priest

Gascoigne: experienced bomber

 Xan Lyppiatt: Warden of

England, Theo’s cousin

 Grenadiers: The

Warden’s secret service

Mass Infertility

Rolf: Turns traitor when he discovers his wife’s infidelity

Key Character Traits

 Theo: rational, cynical, defeated, determined, logical, proactive, knowledgeable

Julian: unfaithful yet also faithful, giving, sympathetic, loving, naïve

Xan: Machiavellian, cold, self-absorbed, powerful, power-hungry, negligent, intelligent, insecure

Luke: religious, naïve, steadfast, brave, martyr

Miriam: motherly, strong, committed, responsible, incorruptible

 Rolf: stupid, arrogant, aggressive, possessive, powerhungry, desperate, small-minded

Important Scenes


Meeting with the Counsel

Meeting in the church

Attack by the “Painted Faces”

Ending cabin scene

Seeing Julian in church 1 st time

Robbing elderly couple’s home

Jasper’s house (multiple scenes encompassing)



Visiting the Quietus

Expositional/Character Development

Running over daughter with car

Stroller scene: crazy cat/doll ladies

Major Conflicts

 Infertility

 Power vacuum

 Lack of democracy

 Atrocities of government


Penal colony

Porn shops/involuntary fertility testing

Deportation of Sojourners




Physical setting: London, areas of Great Britain

(Meta-setting: The conflict is global)

Time period: January 1, 2021 — October 15, 2021

Structure: Mixed objective description and diary entries

 Effect: Gives a broader perspective, develops Theo’s character, draws reader into the story

Point-of-View: Switches between first person and limited third

Characteristics of the 1 st -person narrator: Theo’s reliability is enhanced by his good memory, intellect, disinclination to distort fact (from being a historian), and lack of censorship (as this is his own diary).

Characteristics of the 3 rd -person narrator: The narration is presented objectively, removed from the action

Key Quotations about Religion

“The kneeling women, rich and poor, young and old, fixing their eyes on the Virgin’s face with an intensity of longing almost too painful to witness” (138).

“So I prayed that God would show me what I ought to do…and

He sent you. I always find, don’t you, that when you’re in real trouble…just ask, He does answer” (79).

“Or had Rolf, in that single and complete rejection of his childhood religion retained an unacknowledged vestige of superstition? Did he, with part of his mind see Luke as the miracle-worker who could turn dry crumbs into flesh… whose very presence among them could propitiate the dangerous gods of the forest” (175).

“It was like trying to take hold of a broken marionette” [of Luke]


More Quotations

“The four billion life forms which have existed on this planet, three billion, nine hundred and sixty million are now extinct… It really does seem unreasonable to suppose that Homo Sapiens should be exempt. Our species will have been one of the shortest lived of all, a mere blink, you may say, in the eye of time” (13-14).

“History, which interprets the past to understand the present and confront the future, is the least rewarding discipline for a dying species (11).

“The Attic gravestone of the young mother from the fourth century B.C., the servant holding the swaddled baby, the tombstone of a little girl with doves, grief speaking across nearly three thousand years” (82).

“It would take a force more powerful that sexual love to prise open the portcullis which defends the crenellated heart and mind (16).

Themes of Interest

 The arrogance of youth

 Death and decay

 Familial and romantic love

 The role of religion/people’s response to religion in hopeless situations

 The human spirit

 Nature’s indifference

 The growth and use of power

 The roles of women/gender roles

 Motherhood and maternity



Well-formed, poetic, descriptive phrases

Long and short sentences; Form mirrors content

Well-paced storytelling and sentences

Certain aspects underdeveloped

 Characters thrown away when no longer important

 General plot is lacking slightly; a few plot holes


Complex, but accessible

Narrator is reliable because he is writing a diary, meaning he would not skimp on embarrassing/unattractive details because no one else will read


 Symbols

 Water: life and purity yet also ominousness and death

 Religion

 Title taken from scripture

References to La Pieta

“Five Fish” using the fish as an early Christian symbol

Luke as a priest

Water as purity and renewal

Virgin Mary, birth of the Savior

Deer as a symbol of Christ

Movie Adaptation

 Directed by Alfonso Cuaron

 Praised for its screen-writing references

 Known for its tracking-shot action sequences

Children of Men Theme Statement

 When a rational Oxford history professor comes into conflict with a futuristic authoritarian regime in a situation which the powerful regime has preyed upon panic from an overwhelming, uncontrollable disaster, the results may elevate the ability of hope, faith, and love to bring people together to fight for a cause despite imminent destruction and preserve the essence of what it means to be human.