In the year 2021, many current Hillsdale College students will be 27 or 28 years old. Our labored Hillsdale days will be a distant, happy memory.
We will be well on our way to successful careers or possibly married and pursuing the honored role of dedicated fathers and mothers nurturing the next generation of citizens. However, in the captivating futuristic novel “Children of Men,” by PD James, we are the last generation born of homo sapiens.
She write that “like a lecherous stud suddenly stricken with impotence, we are humiliated at the very heart of our faith in ourselves; for all our knowledge, our intelligence, our power, we can no longer do what the animals do without thought.”
In James’ book, has been 26 years since 1995 –– the year marking the last human birth. We are the Omega.
The thrilling dystopian plot in James’ “Children of Men” imagines human society when procreation is impossible. No doubt, James’ thirty-year past in the British Civil Service, which includes the Police and the Criminal Law Departments, contributes to the unnerving conclusions she imagines when looking into an empty Pandora’s box.
The complexity and depth imbued in every character is stunning, especially in the protagonist Theodore Faron. A 50-year-old Oxford Victorian History professor, Theo describes the world-scale societal decay evident in Great Britain with the “universal negativism” that infects mankind.
His cousin, Xan Lyppiatt, rules as dictator under the empty title of Warden of England, where he instituted national porn shops in an attempt to revitalize interest in sex.
In this haunting world, women proudly parade about with their dolls –– called Six-Monthlies –– cooing baby talk to the unblinking, glassy eyes of their six-month-old baby. They participate in pseudo-births and, when the dolls are broken, stage religious funeral ceremonies.
For Theo, books, wine, music, food, and nature were the sole consolations of his life but faded after Julian, a young female student, urged him to investigate the Quietus, the State-supported mass suicide of the elderly.
His experience triggers the second part of the book, “Alpha.” Thereafter, James reassesses her psycho-analysis when hope emerges in the climactic fight for the freedom of the human race. Julian conceiving a child.
Xan was alerted to the possibility of new human life by a traitor within Julian’s revolutionary band, The Five Fishes. The book concludes with Xan pursuing a very pregnant Julian, her midwife, and Theo.
I first learned of “Children of Men,” from Princeton jurisprudence Professor Robert P. George, in a recent interview I did with him for an article I was writing on natural law and marriage.
He commented that James’ book is a fascinating portrayal of human sexuality: “a kind of thought experiment played out brilliantly.”
George acknowledged the validity of James’ hypothesis regarding the disinterest in sex in the 2021 culture.
“It certainly rings true, and it might well happen that when children are no longer, people will actually not perceive this as creating a sexual utopia where, freed from the “risks” of pregnancy, people can just have fun and not have any moral concerns about sex,” he said.
“Children of Men” offers an eerily convincing prophetic warning about the effect on human psychology if mankind were barren.
Instead of an instantaneous reaction to a meteor hit or zombie attack marking the end of the world, James speculates on the moral and psychological disorder of man’s actions made when the end of the human race is in sight.
By juxtaposing the hope every new baby brings into the world with the meaninglessness of an existence when nature denies homosapiens life, James gives the book a unique pro-life message.
Masterfully written and suspenseful, “Children of Men” leaves the readers with a final thought-provoking scene. Only hours after the miracle enters the world and Theo deposes of the Warden of England:
“It was with a thumb wet with his own tears and stained with her blood that he made on the child’s forehead the sign of the cross.”