Literature Study GuidesJurassic ParkFirst Iteration Chapters 1 5 Summary

Jurassic Park | Study Guide

Michael Crichton

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Jurassic Park | First Iteration: Chapters 1–5 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 1: Almost Paradise

American tourist Mike Bowman is driving through the Cabo Blanco Biological Reserve in western Costa Rica with his wife Ellen and daughter Tina. Tina sees something moving in the trees, which Ellen tentatively identifies as a spider monkey. Eventually, they reach a beautiful and deserted beach.

Tina runs off by herself and sits on the sand near a mangrove thicket. A lizard emerges from the thicket and approaches Tina slowly. Fascinated, Tina coaxes it to come closer. When the lizard reaches her, it suddenly runs up her arm toward her face. Her parents hear her scream.

Chapter 2: Puntarenas

When Mike Bowman reaches Tina, she is screaming and her arm is covered with bloody bites. He and Ellen Bowman take her to the Clínica Santa María in Puntarenas. It is clean and modern, and Dr. Cruz, the doctor who examines Tina Bowman, speaks English well. He can't identify the bites, but sends a sample of the beast's saliva to the lab for analysis. He also asks a researcher at the Reserva Biológica de Carara if he can identify the animal from Tina's sketch. An American trained at Yale, Dr. Marty Guitierrez, examines Tina, measures the bites, and quizzes the Bowmans about Tina's description of the lizard. Guitierrez reassures Tina's parents that she'll be fine, and identifies the animal that bit her as a basilisk lizard. Guitierrez points out a few "errors" in Tina's drawing of the lizard, among them the fact that she's drawn the lizard with three toes, when basilisks have five.

When the hospital's lab gets word that Guitierrez has identified the lizard, they halt the tests on the saliva, leaving them incomplete. However, one clerk notices a red tag on one of the test tubes, and sends it on to the lab at the university in San José.

As Tina thanks Dr. Cruz for taking care of her, Cruz asks her again about the lizard, specifically reviewing how many toes it has. Tina insists it had three toes, like a bird, and that it moved like a bird. Cruz confers with Guitierrez, who admits he's no longer sure it was a basilisk lizard.

Chapter 3: The Beach

Dr. Guitierrez visits the beach where Tina was bitten. He is troubled by the fact that he's never heard of a basilisk attacking someone, and by the fact that Tina's bites are a little too big. He checks with regional medical officers and learns of a lizard attacking a child in a crib. Near the spot he believes Tina was attacked, he sees a howler monkey chewing on a lizard. He shoots the monkey with a tranquilizing dart, collects the lizard, and sends it for analysis to a zoology expert at Columbia University, Dr. Edward Simpson.

Chapter 4: New York

Dr. Simpson is not available, so his lab has forwarded the lizard carcass to the head of the university's Tropical Diseases Laboratory, Dr. Richard Stone. He isn't qualified to check the species, but does check the lizard for contagious diseases and finds the animal's blood is "mildly reactive" to that of the Indian king cobra. Because that sort of reactivity is common, he doesn't bother noting it. When the report gets sent back to Dr. Marty Guitierrez, he assumes the species has been confirmed based on the labeling. Guitierrez also concludes the lizard presents no health hazards based on the note stating it isn't linked to communicable diseases.

Back in Costa Rica, Elena Morales (the midwife Dr. Roberta Carter consulted) finds three lizards attacking an infant.

Chapter 5: The Shape of the Data

Elena Morales calms down and decides not to report the attack on the infant. She fears she'll be accused of being negligent and responsible for the baby's death. Meanwhile, the lab in San José finds that the saliva sample from Tina's arm contains what seems to be a neurotoxic poison related to cobra venom. The lab also finds a chemical associated with genetic engineering, which they assume is an accidental contaminant.

At the Columbia University lab, when technician Alice Levin sees Tina Bowman's sketch and asks whose child drew the dinosaur, Dr. Richard Stone says it's a lizard. Based on experience with her dinosaur-obsessed sons, Levin insists it is a dinosaur, which Stone claims is impossible. Levin proposes it might be an evolutionary remnant or leftover. Stone rejects this suggestion, and refuses to send it elsewhere for identification.

Analysis

Chapter 1 sets the central plot of the novel in action. Building on the tension created in the Prologue, the lizard attack on Tina Bowman foreshadows the discovery that this creature is actually a dinosaur. Because the Bowmans are on the mainland of Costa Rica, this means that dinosaurs have escaped Jurassic Park. It also shows they present a potential threat to humans.

Though they are minor characters, the Bowmans also demonstrate two other common aspects of the novel: incomplete information flow and mixed motivations. Before the trip, Mike Bowman is unaware his wife's real motive for visiting Costa Rica is to visit a plastic surgeon.

Chapter 2 reinforces the theme of hubris. The dismissive attitudes that Dr. Cruz and Dr. Marty Guitierrez initially hold toward Tina's description and sketch of the lizard are eventually overcome as Cruz realizes the child seems to be a reliable witness. Guitierrez has enough integrity to reframe his initial judgment, making him an honest researcher. The lab clerk who forwards the saliva sample for analysis, despite Tina's discharge from the clinic, will provide further data and help identify the lizard.

Chapter 3 moves the plot along with a focus on Dr. Guitierrez's curiosity. Driven by Tina's dogged insistence on the physical and behavioral characteristics of the animal that attacked her, Guitierrez is concerned that what he knows about the basilisk lizard does not correlate with the girl's description. Seeking information from the regional medical officers means Guitierrez is willing to ask for help beyond his disciplinary boundaries. This chapter also shows scientific thinking in process, as Guitierrez checks details against one another, and returns to the location where Tina was bitten to review it for contextual clues.

Chapter 4 stops Guitierrez's investigation in its tracks. He is counting on a species identification from Dr. Edward Simpson of Columbia University. When he receives a reply from Dr. Richard Stone of Columbia saying the lizard specimen tested negative for communicable disease, he assumes Dr. Stone is also confirming the animal to be a basilisk lizard, as Guitierrez originally believed. However, as Stone isn't a zoologist, he neither attempted to check the animal's species nor informed Guitierrez that the species had not been identified.

The attack on a newborn in the Bahía Anasco clinic by three lizards leaves experienced midwife Elena Morales shaking and hysterical over the crib of the slain infant. The incident has affected her practical judgment, as will be seen in Chapter 5.

Chapter 5 continues to develop a key symbolic element of the plot: the poison found in Tina's wounds shows how dangerous dinosaurs are. The chapter also develops the theme of hubris in striking ways. When the midwife chooses not to report the lizard attack, it demonstrates how social factors shape knowledge sharing (something Michael Crichton would have learned when taking patient histories in medical school). The lab's assumption that the chemical associated with genetic engineering is there by mistake is a classic case of unfounded assumptions. As Dr. Stone rejects Alice Levin's accurate recognition of the drawing as being a dinosaur, he falls prey to a hierarchy of arrogance in science: he rejects her observations because she lacks formal credentials.

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