Good Omens Summary

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Good Omens

  • Plot overview and analysis written by an experienced literary critic.
  • Full study guide for this title currently under development.
  • To be notified when we launch a full study guide, please contact us.

Good Omens Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett is a novel about an angel and a demon named Aziraphale and Crowley. They should be enemies, but after thousands of years together, they are friends, and they are both trying to do their part in the Great Plan. However, they also do not want to step on one another’s toes. The antichrist is born. They determine they need to influence the child, so they get jobs as the nanny and gardener in order to be with the child as it grows up. Eleven years later, they discover they have been with the wrong child. The babies were switched at birth, so they have to scramble to find the real antichrist. By the time they find the antichrist, Armageddon is right around the corner and they are faced with trying to save the world together.

Elsewhere, eleven-year-old Adam, who is the real Antichrist, meets Anathema, his neighbor. Anathema is a witch, and gives magazines to Adam. At night, he reads them, which causes events to unfold in the real world. Newt Pulsifer catches wind of these events and is intrigued. He is a Witchfinder Detective in Sergeant Shadwell’s Witchfinder Army. Newt begins to investigate Tadfield, where Adam and Anathema live. He meets Anathema, who draws him further into the supernatural world around them, and explains Agnes Nutter’s Prophesies. She tells Newt how the end of the world will be.

The hub of activity is the air base in Tadfield, so Adam, his friends, Anathema, Newt, Crowley, Aziraphale and Sergeant Shadwell all meet up there, where Adam tells them that he does not see the point in blowing the whole world up only to have it follow the same cycle once more. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who are bikers, leave disappointed with Metatron and Beezelbub. Anathema also leaves, and everyone else feels relieved that the end of the world will not happen. Everyone’s memories are erased, and no one recalls that the world almost ended. Crowley and Aziraphale continue working toward the Great Plan; it is as though the Antichrist never existed.

Good Omens contains several allusions to the Bible. The coming of the Antichrist kick-starting Armageddon, which will be put into effect by the Four Horsemen (Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death), all appear in the Book of Revelations, the last portion of the New Testament in the Bible. Gaiman, in particular, is known for using allusion and allegory in his works of fiction; another example is the short story The Monarch of the Glen, which is the author’s take on the characters from Beowulf.

In Good Omens, there are a number of themes. One is how we view good and evil. Through the characters of Aziraphale, the angel, and Crawley, the demon, Pratchett and Gaiman question the reader’s presuppositions about what is good and what is evil. Aziraphale does not always do good things, and Crawley seems to draw a line that involves tempting people, but preventing utter harm and destruction. Both of them act together to prevent Armageddon, but it is left up to the reader to decide whether this is a good act or an evil act.

Another theme in Good Omens is questioning if there is a divine plan. The nature of such a plan suggests that it can only be understood by the divine, meaning that none of the characters in Good Omens can comprehend what the plan is. They think that Armageddon is meant to occur and that Adam is supposed to start it, but he ultimately decides not to start Armageddon. As their memories are wiped, and they all go back to what they were doing before they knew Adam was the Antichrist, the reader is left to question whether the divine plan includes Armageddon, whether Adam is meant to decide not to start it, or whether there is a divine plan at all. The reader may draw comparisons between this and the episode wherein Crawley decides that he is going to replace paintball guns with real guns and live ammunition. He assures Aziraphale that he will not let any of the players get hurt—that they will escape harm miraculously.

The third major theme in Good Omens is the impact the threat of an apocalypse has on life. Characters like Adam continue on as they were before, but with more knowledge. Adam is aware of his ability, despite everyone’s memories having been wiped. Anathema, who followed prophesies, has to adapt to life without them. She has to live like other people, with no knowledge of what the future will hold. Newt changes too—before the upcoming Armageddon, he had no direction in his life. When he joins the Witchfinder Army, he meets Anathema, and his life is forever changed and given purpose.