P.D. James’ dystopian novel of a world without children was prescient. In The Children of Men, written in 1992 and set in the future year of 2021, there are no children, not by choice but by physiology. Infertility plaques the world, the last human baby having been born some 25 years, 2 months and 12 days prior to the novels’ open. James paints a world of dark despair in the absence of the sounds of children. To placate maternal instincts women have taken to wheeling prams with true-to-life china dolls as replacements for babies, “some cheap and tawdry but some of remarkable craftsmanship and beauty.” They came in different sizes: newborn, the six-month-old baby, the year-old, the eighteen-month-old child able to stand and walk. New dolls are welcomed with “pseudo-births” and broken dolls are buried in consecrated ground.
Not only dolls, but also kittens fulfilled the “whole range of frustrated maternal desire,” dressed in christening gowns “handled, caressed and carried like babies” off to the church where a priest awaited them for the ritual baptizing. Animals and dolls replaced human children in the hearts and affections of men and women.
This isn’t the stuff of futuristic, dystopian novels. The future is now. Can the dystopia be far behind? Consider this story from Orlando, Florida where pet owners consider their dogs “the children of the new millennium” and insist on taking them out for a night on the town at their favorite restaurant where the fare includes chicken-and-kibble served on a Frisbee and “bow-wow pizza.”
The most telling line of the story: “A proliferation of couples without children, divorcees and singles has made dining with dogs increasingly important, pet owners say.”
Again, P.D. James was prescient. Her future was one where childlessness was forced on humanity by a fluke of nature. Could she have known that the future would be one of childlessness by choice because of the selfishness of humanity?