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Jurassic Park

Michael Crichton

Study Questions and Suggested Essay Topics

Key Facts

Quiz

Study Questions

The majority of Jurassic Park is written from Grant's perspective, but perspective changes so often throughout the novel that Grant is not necessarily the sole protagonist. Make a case for Tim as the protagonist of this novel. Why does Crichton sometimes given the perspective to Tim?

The protagonist is the main character of a novel, the character around whom the action and conflict unfold. Yet in Jurassic Park most of the action and conflict take place well into the middle of the novel. Tim, by that time, has already been established as a major character. Indeed, most of the park tour is narrated from his perspective, and once the dinosaurs start attacking, virtually all the tense scenes are depicted through Tim's eyes. In a sense, this centering of the action on Tim overshadows the rest of the narration that is given to Grant. After all, there is really only one brief, tense moment when Grant's life is in danger. Most of the trek back to headquarters by Grant and the kids is nerve-wracking because the children are almost snatched up and devoured several times.

Jurassic Park is really a story about dinosaurs attacking children. The idea of the hupia—the mythical Costa Rican ghosts that kidnap children—are connected the novel to the dinosaurs, implying that the dinosaurs instinctively attack children. Although Crichton never brings up the idea in the directly and offers no possible explanation, he uses this connectino with the hupia as a technique to vilify the dinosaurs. As the novel's major conflict is the threat of these dinosaurs attacking people, the dinosaurs appear especially vicious when they target defenseless kids.

This playing with the reader's heart-strings is the same reason Tim is given the narrator perspective during the book's most climactic events. A dinosaur attack is scary, but a dinosaur attacking children is simply mortifying. By focusing on Tim during the attacks, Crichton forces us to imagine these disasters as if we were an eleven-year-old boy.

Only a few characters make it off of Isla Nublar alive. Is there any thematic significance to this? Do any of the characters deserve to die?

Nedry, of course, by recklessly stealing fragile and dangerous genetic material, is Jurassic Park's most irresponsible character. As the novel ends, many of its main characters die at the hand of the dinosaurs, though not indiscriminately. For the most part, each character deserves his or her fate. Nedry's death is the most obviously appropriate fatality, and Muldoon even notes this when he finds Nedry's carcass: "Maybe there's justice in the world after all." Bearing in mind that Hammond created this whole mess in the first place, we see that his fate catches up with him as well. Ed Regis is a coward who abandons the children. Dr. Wu never intends any harm, but his ignorance and hunger for fame lead him to a similar fate. Arnold is so certain that he has everything under control that his confidence leads to carelessness and his own death. Gennaro has always been skeptical about Jurassic Park's safety, but nonetheless still schemes about making a fortune from the park. Though Gennaro does not die, Grant forces him to take responsibility, pay his dues in a sense, by helping scope out the raptor nest. Although the implications of Malcolm's chaos theory are dark—that there is no way of predicting the future and that disaster is imminent for those who rely too heavily on technology—Crichton undercuts this concept by giving each of his characters their just deserts. It gives the impression that, despite its chaotic appearance, there is an underlying order to the world.

Who is the real villain of Jurassic Park?

The first portion of the novel vilifies reckless bioengineering companies. Morris, the EPA investigator, is so suspicious of Hammond that we immediately assume that InGen is up to something awful. Before long, however, most of Morris' worries are explained by the revelation that InGen is building a dinosaur theme park on Isla Nublar. As this sounds like an intriguing idea at first, it does something to alleviate our worry. Rather, our worry turns to the Biosyn Corporation, which Morris has already mentioned as being a negligent company. Biosyn's enlistment of Nedry to steal dinosaur embryos epitomizes the recklessness that had so concerned Morris. As his computer jam-up sends Jurassic Park into turmoil, Nedry seems to become the embodiment of Biosyn's evil disregard of scientific ethics. Yet, later, after the island has been reduced to shambles and half his employees are dead, Hammond still thinks that he can and should build another dinosaur park. At this point in the novel, it is the vision-obsessed and greedy Hammond who emerges as the true abuser of scientific power.

Suggested Essay Topics

Much of the overt conflict in Jurassic Park comes from loose dinosaurs attacking people. Although it is difficult to think of the dinosaurs as characters, they are clearly the overwhelming "evil" force in the book. What else besides generic evil could these dinosaurs represent?

Using secondary sources if necessary, briefly explain chaos theory and Malcolm's use of it within the novel. Is there anything that Malcolm / Crichton gets wrong? What is the symbolic significance of chaos theory?

Hammond is, after all, the primary visionary behind Jurassic Park and the owner of the island. How do you think the novel might be different if it were written from his perspective?

For the most part it appears that the characters who die in Jurassic Park deserve their fate. Why, then, do you think Malcolm is among them?

Discuss Crichton's use of foreshadowing as a method of creating tension in the novel.

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