Clarke’s “The Sentinel” vs. “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Kubrick

Subject: Art
Pages: 4
Words: 1095
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: Bachelor


Space exploration has provided fascinating and intriguing ideas for films, literary work, and real life. The existence of mysterious and intellectual life forms also intrigues readers and viewers alike. Both Arthur Clarke’s “the Sentinel” and Stanley Kubrick’s film “2001: A Space Odyssey” are also fascinating and intriguing art works. Arthur Clarke composed short stories titled “The Sentinel” in 1951 (Clarke, 1986). The artwork is largely science fiction. “The Sentinel” talks about a prehistoric monolith found on the moon and how its discovery alters the course of life. “2001: A Space Odyssey” is also a science fiction film directed by Stanley Kubrick. It is believed that “2001: A Space Odyssey” is Kubrick’s most significant works. “The Sentinel” and “2001” have continued to influence several successive works based on science fiction (Clarke, 2000). The works are full of imagery and representation. In addition, the film has a fusion of classical music used in storytelling. Their influence has surpassed the boundaries of ordinary science fiction because they had massive impact within the movie industry. This paper compares and contrasts the two artworks in order to reveal their similarities and differences.

The Sentinel

The short story uses the concept of a strange black monolith. The mysterious monolith also played a significant part in creating “2001”. Its relationship with “2001” remains a crucial literature for readers of science fiction. “The Sentinel” begins with a lunar expedition. Arthur Clarke informs readers about the discovery of a crystal pyramid deposited on the moon by a sophisticated extraterrestrial race long ago (Clarke, 1986). The crystal object notified its developers when explorers from the earth disturbed it. The force field prevents explorers from reaching the crystal pyramid. Original attempts to break the force field had been unsuccessful over years. However, an atomic explosion eventually worked (McAleer, 1992). Furthermore, the explosion halted signals conveyed by the object.

Apparently, the discovery of the object was only possible after humankind developed the technology to access the moon. Clarke’s point of view is that humankind could only access the object when they had enough power to penetrate the force field. Arthur Clarke believes that atomic energy is the final “choice between life and death” for humankind (Clarke, 1986). He argues that a race that conquers the expedition challenge without surrendering would be noticed by the aliens.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Today, “2001” is considered to be Stanley Kubrick’s work that defined his career. The movie created a reputation for itself among other models in the science fiction genre. “2001” was highly scientifically correct than previously produced science fiction films. It was also very representative nearly surrealistic. “2001: A Space Odyssey” was an excellent product in the science fiction world (Sturt, 2006). It used fine metaphors, representation, and classical music to tell stories deviating from the common narration. Stanley Kubrick vision for the movie was motivated by the fascination and possibilities of life in the outer space. Stanley sought the assistance of Arthur Clarke in order to identify the source of material for the movie (Clarke, 2000). They cooperated in developing the movie based on Clarke’s earlier literature.

Comparisons between “the Sentinel” and “2001: A Space Odyssey”

“The Sentinel” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” are both based on science fiction. “The Sentinel” provided the material for the movie (Clarke, 2000). In both cases, a monolith is used in developing the plot. The origin of both the monolith and the pyramid is unclear. However, their function in both cases is similar. They both act as sentinels whose purpose is to inform their creators that humankind has finally achieved travelling in space. The attempt by Clarke and Kubrick to imply that humankind were infants also shows similarities. Clarke’s works referred to the earth as their cradle. Conversely, in “2001,” the key character consumes his meal using straws the same way infants eat their food (Sturt, 2006). Gravitational force makes man to learn walking afresh. “In 2001,” a toddler is seen taking the initial steps.

They both depict a monolith that has been continuously conveying signals. They also show that signal transmission stops after the invention of atomic energy. The two works also have a simple plot that is understandable. The metaphors include the strange monolith discovered hidden under the moon’s surface (Martin, 2011). The ship used by the small crew also had a computer which is also metaphorical. The discovery, of HAL 9000 causes the death of the voyagers to the Jupiter. One astronaut eventually reached Jupiter. On his arrival, he experienced a strange form of space journey. When then travel ended, the astronaut is reborn a new person.

Contrasts in the “The Sentinel” and “2001: A Space Odyssey”

Although, “The Sentinel” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” are both based on science fiction, some of their aspects contrast each other (Clarke, 2000). The main theme employed by the two pieces of art work entails first interaction with a new life form and the importance the contact. How contact is made in the two works, where it occurred, and the consequence of the interaction are different between the two works. In “the sentinel,” it is not clear where the first contact occurred and is unknown to the life forms. The astronauts were looking for the proof of past life forms in the moon. In “2001,” the initial contact occurred exactly prior to the emergence of man. First contact also occurred in the moon (Clarke, 2000). A transmitter deposited on earth was never discovered. Conversely, the transmitter in the moon was discovered.

In the two works, the aliens never existed on earth to monitor the emergence of earth’s life forms. Instead, the aliens provided a means of relaying signals on the evolution of earth’s life forms into civilized beings. “The sentinel” was also abstract that made it appear as an art work than the movie (Martin, 2011). The movie contrasts the book because Stanley had personal vision regarding how he wanted the movie to look like. The novel seeks to explain different things deeply than the movie (Martin, 2011). Indeed, Kubrick agreed that the differences emerging between the book and the movie were fascinating.


“The Sentinel” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” are two artworks based on science fiction. “The Sentinel” is a short story composed by Arthur Clarke. “2001” on the other hand is a film developed using material from the short stories. The two artworks are about a monolith whose discovery in the moon provides the quest for learning more about it. The discussion has critically shown the aspects of the two artworks that are similar as well as different.


Clarke, A. (1986). The Sentinel. New York, NY: Berkley Publishing Group.

Clarke, A. (2000). 2001: A Space Odyssey. New York, NY: Little, Brown Book Group.

Martin, B. (2011). Stanley Kubrick: A Textual and Contextual Analysis. A Bachelors Thesis Presented to the Department of English and American Studies at the Masaryk University Faculty of Arts. Web.

McAleer. N. (1992). Odyssey. The Authorised Biography of Arthur C. Clarke. Victor Gollancz Ltd. Great Britain.

Sturt, C. (2006). 2001: A Space Odyssey, Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Web.