One of the most enigmatic great books ever made 2001 brought us to our
"Has been a lifesaver so many times!"
- Catherine Rampell, student @ University of Washington
"Exactly the help I needed."
- Jennifer Hawes, student @ San Jose State
"The best place for brainstorming ideas."
- Michael Majchrowicz, student @ University of Kentucky
One of the most enigmatic great books ever made, 2001 brought us to our knees with of
the most fertile and original mind ever to have graced the genre of science fiction, Arthur C.
Clarke. There are three movements to 2001 that all involve manís struggle with his own
inferiority's and ingnorances to achieve the highest form of evolution , but they are not the
conventional three acts that critics and audiences expect to find in typical science fiction books.
Each of the acts involve carefully selected examples to represent multiple ideas. The connection of
the three movements of 2001 is not immediately apparent, but it is nonetheless logical (Quote from
Stanley Kubrick from HBO interview).
The first movement concerns itself with the black monolith, that enigmatic geometric shape
placed on both the earth and the moon some four million years ago. The "Dawn of Man" sequence,
in which, according to Arthur C. Clarke, incredibly advanced extraterrestrial beings give our
anthropoid ancestors the concept of tools, ends with one of the most brilliant matched cuts in
literary history. Clarke keeps this part of the book open to any interpretation possible by which lets
the reader decide what to believe instead of spoon feeding them.
The second movement, at one of the longest periods in the book, deals with the central
conflict between HAL, the Discovery's supercomputer, and Dave Bowman, captain of the
exploration team. This act represents life and its struggle to survive. HAL is represented as the
transcendation of our definition of ultimate conciousness. We are left to wonder and question when
the teacher becomes the student. Not surprisingly, many readers find HAL the most interesting
character in the film. That which has the power to save also has the power to destroy, and since
both of these are HAL's powers, he will inevitably be more memorable. But if HAL is the more
interesting character, the fact remains that it is Dave Bowman who is the hero of 2001. He proves
himself superior to HAL by doing something quintessentially human -- he innovates, blowing
himself through Discovery's hatch even though he's without a space suit. Thus proving that true
test of intelligence is the concept of innovation. it is innovation that lets life strive to survive. By
creating a unique response that HAL could not foresee and therefore cannot cope with, Dave
proves himself worthy of transcending his present state of existence into the next stage of human
In the third movement of the book, Dave moves on to the next stage of his human
development with the help of the unseen extraterrestrials. Those humanoid vocalizations we read
about as Dave wanders around his "Cosmic Bedroom," Clarke tells us in other writings, are the
extraterrestrials observing their specimen and commenting on his behavior. These beings set up the
black monoliths millions of years ago, yet they are still around; we don't see them because they
have evolved to such a high state of purity and existence that they no longer need material form
(Aurthur C. Clarke, Sci Fi magazine 8-87). By transcending the physical, these beings move the
film out of the realm of the scientific, into that of the spiritual. It is not the death of the physical
that we fear but yet rather the uncertainty of what may lie across the line physical existence.
The paradox of 2001 is that this work, whose story and whose actual writing were so
dependent upon human technology, itself a concrete manifestation of human logic, should ask us to
move beyond logic, beyond concrete realities altogether, that it should take us into the domain
hitherto reserved for theology: speculation on human destiny. Like all great books, 2001 takes hold,
not merely of the eyes, but also of the mind. It is concerned not with the evolution of man's body,
but with the evolution of man's mind and spirit. It is remarkable not only for its awesome visual
descriptions and ideas presented, which have never been surpassed, but also for the fact that it is,
at its core and its conclusion, a sacred drama for a secular society. For, we earthlings may not be
masters of our fate, but fate promises to be grander than anything
View Full Essay
Space Odyssey series, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Monolith, Arthur C. Clarke
More Free Essays Like This