Explore the role of religion in The Children of Men.
The Children of Men is a dystopian novel written by P.D. James in 1992. The plot centres around the struggle of a dissident group to help one of their number give birth to a child in a society suffering from mass infertility and a tyrannical leader. The idea of religion features prominently in the novel, and a religious reading of this tale echoes that of the nativity tale and the birth of Christ: that the hope for society is a child born to an unwed mother in a shack, reflecting the birth of Jesus in a stable.
While religion as we know it is an idea repressed by the despot warden, Xan Lypiatt, early on in the novel the dissident group meets Theo in an isolated church, immediately linking them with the notion that spirituality could provide the hope for the seemingly doomed society. However it is clear that their struggle will be an extremely difficult one as the “religion” of the year 2021 is a truly haunting one for the reader. Due to the lack of babies being born, kittens are christened in their place; dolls are wheeled about in prams and buried in consecrated ground when they are broken. Churches are now mostly abandoned or used for animal sacrifices and Black Masses, while ageing people who can no longer “contribute to the well-being of society” either take their own life with a suicidal drug called Quietus or are drugged and sent to sea to be drowned. The most revered people on Earth are the “Omegas” who are the most recently born humans, but they are only interested in their own well-being. As Theodore points out in the first chapter, “If from infancy you treat children as gods, they are liable in adulthood to act like devils.” Faith in God as the reader knows it no longer exists in the majority of society, but the dissidents provide a small shade of hope.
The first sign to indicate that there are some religious undertones to the story is the title of the book. The Children of Men comes from a biblical...