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Literature Study GuidesJurassic ParkThird Iteration Chapters 17 22 Summary

Jurassic Park | Study Guide

Michael Crichton

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Jurassic Park | Third Iteration: Chapters 17–22 | Summary



Chapter 17: Jurassic Park

As the group walks to the visitor center, Alan Grant thinks about what living dinosaurs mean for paleontology, and how his field has developed since the first dinosaur remains were found 150 years ago.

When they pass a pool, Ed Regis points out the ancient plants growing near it. Ellie Sattler recognizes them as poisonous. Regis shows them to the "Safari Lodge." Grant finds a video system with themed names for the different channels, like "Triceratops Territory," which he finds overly cute. The channels only show static, though. Grant and Sattler notice some details of the lodge that differ from the plans, such as the steel bars covering the windows, tempered glass, and steel frames. The lodge now has a 12-foot-high protective fence around it, made of 1-inch-thick steel.

Chapter 18: When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth

The group meets at the visitor center. To focus the team of experts for their tour, Donald Gennaro poses two related questions: is the park safe for visitors, and are the dinosaurs adequately contained? He reviews the reasons for his inquiry: the apparent dinosaur activity in Costa Rica, and spikes in infant mortality. Ian Malcolm answers that the chart of infant mortality doesn't apply—the ups and downs make sense mathematically—but he is certain dinosaurs have escaped. He says the park is trying something so ambitious, it is impossible. It has to fail, and the dinosaurs have to escape.

John Hammond and Malcolm argue about this until Gennaro interrupts, because he hears the helicopter approach. Hammond's grandchildren get out to join the group. Hammond invited them because their parents are getting a divorce. He insists it is safe, but Gennaro is very angry. Tim Murphy appears to be 11, and his younger sister Alexis (Lex) Murphy appears to be 7 or 8.

Chapter 19: The Tour

Ed Regis introduces Hammond's grandchildren to the group and Tim is awed to meet Grant, who is one of his heroes. Lex teases Tim about having "dinosaurs on the brain," but Grant says he has the same problem. They talk about Tim's interest in dinosaurs.

The tour begins with several biohazard warnings. Regis dismisses these, saying the park is completely safe and designed to run with just 20 staff members. In the control room Regis points out John Arnold, the park's engineer, and Robert Muldoon, its game warden. In the lab he introduces Dr. Henry Wu, the park's geneticist. Wu explains that they get the DNA to clone the dinosaurs from fossilized insects trapped in amber. They take the blood from their stomachs and isolate the DNA. He shows the powerful computers and an image of the DNA sequencing they are doing.

After the lab they visit the hatchery. There's just one baby dinosaur there, a young velociraptor. It jumps on Tim, and snuggles close to his body. As part of a discussion on how dinosaurs get out of their eggs, Wu explains all dinosaurs on the island are genetically engineered to be female and irradiated for safety. When Grant examines the baby raptor it gets frustrated, then actively furious with him. As they leave it begins shredding a towel.

Chapter 20: Control

As the group heads back toward the control room, Malcolm asks Wu how many species they've cloned. Wu thinks it is 15. He walks them through some of the challenges involved in setting up the park. As he talks, Malcolm pressures him about how he can be sure the animals won't escape. Wu insists they can't, both because of the distance to the mainland and because he inserted a gene giving the dinosaurs a dependency on lysine, an amino acid found in certain foods. The dinosaurs can't manufacture it and must get it through the lysine-rich diet they're fed in the park. The dinosaurs would die if they left the island.

Regis sees a supply boat trying to dock, and describes how difficult docking is. While they wait, the paleontologists quiz Wu on things such as how they know the cloned animals are growing correctly. They ask to see the raptors, but they haven't been fully integrated into the park yet. As they walk over to see the raptors, they pass the power plant. Grant explains the raptors' intelligence, and once they reach the pen, the raptors demonstrate this by watching the humans from hiding places. Suddenly, the raptors charge the humans, moving very fast. They hit the electric fence and fall back.

After the attack, Malcolm and Grant discuss the velociraptors, whom Grant says move faster than any living reptile. He also explains how they can create a coordinated attack using just sign language. Malcolm directs his attention to another issue: how or when did they learn that humans were good to hunt?

Chapter 21: Version 4.4

Hammond questions Wu on how the tour is going. Wu says it is going well, but he still wants to replace the existing animals with "version 4.4," arguing people will be disappointed because the dinosaurs move too fast and don't match expectations. Hammond resists the idea: he wants the animals to be "real." Wu notes that they have already been modified.

Chapter 22: Control

The tour group has returned to the control room. Grant is less comfortable there because there are so many computers, but Malcolm is in his element. John Arnold and Donald Gennaro explain the park's tracking mechanisms. The sensors are motion-activated and accurate to within 5 feet. They track all 238 animals in the park, and update the tally every 30 seconds. The system does make mistakes, but only minor ones, such as identifying babies of one species as members of another species. The park has multiple methods of tracking animals, such as matching them against known species or through direct visual observation. Arnold assures them there is no way animals can get out of their enclosures. Gennaro presses on this point, asking what would happen if one did. Robert Muldoon says they'd go get it. Malcolm inquires as to how the animals are graphed. Arnold shows a standard bell curve distribution for the procompsognathids. Gennaro is reassured, concluding that there is no way the dinosaurs could get off the island. Malcolm counters that the graph shows there is a problem: there should not be a natural population curve in an unnatural situation like this.


Alan Grant's reflection on the history of paleontology in Chapter 17 provides a rich review of the field's complexity, and of how sciences develop by integrating techniques and approaches from other fields. His level-headed response to a revolution in his field models an appropriate scientific response to change: acceptance, humility, and an immediate search for methods and reflection on implications.

More generally, the distance between the naive pride Ed Regis shows in the ancient plants filling the park and Ellie Sattler's awareness of the danger they pose shows the difference between using science as a technology for profit, and Sattler's deeper, more nuanced understanding of botany and nature. Likewise, Grant's irritation with the cute names for the various video channels is more than a personal preference: the novel shows that it is a fundamental misrepresentation of the reality of dinosaurs.

Chapter 18 supports the themes of system complexity and hubris as it crystallizes the novel's core question and spells out why the tour group is visiting the park. Michael Crichton uses structure masterfully here, by asking questions about the park's safety and juxtaposing them with two other factors. The first is Ian Malcolm's certainty that the park is flawed and dangerous. Hammond's arrogance here is breathtaking. InGen has the money to pay for a celebrity consultant such as Malcolm, but they are planning to proceed as if he were wrong, regardless. The presence of Hammond's grandchildren is the second factor. Hammond invites them now, before the inspection, as if the question of the park's safety were already settled. He is choosing to put them at extreme risk.

Chapter 18 also fully establishes a visual element common in Crichton's novels: the use of illustrations. Here, he introduces his first graph. He will later follow with graphics of posters, DNA coding, computer screens, and other images. This was almost unique at the time Jurassic Park was published (1990) and is still rare. Including a vivid visual element to the novel also draws readers in by giving them a chance to interpret data alongside the narrative's characters.

Tim Murphy's story in Chapter 19 about visiting the Museum of Natural History establishes a connection between scientific passion and effective parenting, and underscores just how good a man Alan Grant is. Grant understands the importance of Tim's passion for dinosaurs, and does not minimize his interests the way Tim's father does. Grant's response to the story also shows a direct continuity between childhood passions and adult scientific curiosity. This attitude directly opposes both the instrumentalism of the park staff—who only care about science for what it can do for them—and the commercialism of biotechnology Crichton discusses in the Introduction.

The tour answers Grant's questions about where the park procured its dinosaur DNA. However, Dr. Henry Wu's explanation of how they know which DNA they've found—growing the animal rather than analyzing the DNA—is almost by definition acting without understanding. This may be economically efficient and good use of technology, but it is very bad science. The themes of hubris and system complexity and the motif of sight are supported in the chapter.

In Chapter 20 Crichton underscores the limits to Wu's understanding and the problem with his attitude: not only does he not know how many species the park has cloned, he is not concerned about it. Wu embodies the theme of hubris (overweening arrogance). Even though he hasn't analyzed the dinosaurs' DNA, and doesn't know the number of species cloned, he is absolutely certain he has rendered the dinosaurs unable to breed or escape. There is simply no way he can be right: the gap between his knowledge and his ambitions is too great, and he simply doesn't see it. Here, Wu strikingly portrays the motif of sight.

Though Malcolm and Grant are Crichton's two primary voices of caution and reality in the novel, Chapter 21 also shows which one's views will ultimately be proven correct: Malcolm's theory or Grant's experiential/empirical understanding. Crichton does this while showing how great a threat the raptors are. Malcolm reads their charge on the electric fence as a sign they aren't very smart.

In Chapter 22, when Crichton describes Jurassic Park's technological safeguards, they are genuinely impressive. The fact that the park has multiple methods of tracking the animals suggests just how seriously those in charge of the park take their responsibilities. However, when Malcolm shows they do not understand what those tools mean and reveal about the dinosaurs, he foreshadows the eventual demise of the park. Again, this is hubris, not science, and although Crichton uses it to create an action-packed thrill ride for his readers, it comes with a serious message. The best tools in the world won't save someone if they don't understand the real world (meaning, science and facts).

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