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Jurassic Park | Study Guide

Michael Crichton

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Jurassic Park | Third Iteration: Chapters 23–29 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 23: The Tour

Ed Regis leads the group to a line of driverless cars coming out of a garage. The group is too big to fit into just one car, so Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, Ian Malcolm, and Donald Gennaro get into one car and everyone else climbs into the other. The cars are electric, and are linked through an intercom. As they drive on, they listen to a recorded tour narrated by a famous actor.

Chapter 24: Control

John Hammond and John Arnold monitor the tour from the control room. Arnold is frustrated by the grinding of gears in the automatic cars. He's very experienced in theme park design and reviews the challenges involved in Jurassic Park for Hammond: all the challenges of a theme park plus all the challenges of a zoo plus dinosaurs. Hammond dismisses his concerns, but Arnold continues to worry, and he's also concerned about the computer system, which is full of bugs.

On the tour the recorded narrator directs their attention to the aviary, which isn't finished, and then to the dilophosaur, a poisonous carnivore. Next, they catch sight of the triceratops.

Chapter 25: Big Rex

The tour arrives at the park's Tyrannosaurus rex (T. rex) territory. Regis explains they have a juvenile and a mature T. rex. He insists they can't escape their enclosures. From the control room, Robert Muldoon observes the group. Before coming to the park, Muldoon had been an experienced big game hunter, then an expert in designing zoos. Muldoon believes some of the dinosaurs are too dangerous to be kept in captivity, such as the dilophosaurs (because of their venom) and the velociraptors (because of their speed and intelligence). He insisted on the park buying advanced weapons in case there is an escape. At first, management refused, then compromised by buying them but insisted they be kept in a locked room.

On the tour the groups wait in their cars, watching a goat that has been staked out in the T. rex's territory. Eventually, the T. rex kills the goat with one bite. She then positions herself to defend her kill from any competing T. rex.

Chapter 26: Control

Dr. Henry Wu and Hammond eavesdrop on the tour group's conversation from the control room. Both find the conversation overly negative. Wu believes the park is functional and secure. Hammond blames Malcolm, saying the mathematician has been against the park from the beginning. Muldoon goes down to the locked room and retrieves a rocket launcher, which he puts in a Jeep.

The weather begins to change as the cars reach the apatosaur (commonly called brontosaur) area. The group can also see the much smaller hadrosaurs. Tim spots a raptor moving among the hadrosaurs. Regis dismisses the claim, but other members of the party want to go back and look. However, the cars are preprogrammed to move forward only and turn back. In the control room, Arnold and Wu discuss what kind of animal Tim Murphy might have seen. Wu says it was likely an othnielia (or othy). As the weather gets worse, the captain of the cargo ship gets permission to leave for the mainland, as the island's pier isn't safe in a storm.

Chapter 27: Stegosaur

The tour group stops to watch the park vet, Dr. Gerald Harding, work on a sick stegosaur. When Ellie Sattler is briefed on the dinosaur's six-week illness cycle, she attributes it to the animal accidentally poisoning herself by ingesting lilac berries along with the "gizzard stones" Sattler notices nearby.

While Grant and Sattler are helping the stegosaur, Gennaro and Malcolm argue about the park. Malcolm insists that chaos theory and the history of evolution both show that the park is not stable: the dinosaurs will escape. Grant and Sattler interrupt the argument. They found the shell of a dinosaur egg (specifically, a velociraptor egg). Harding rejects this, saying it must be a bird egg, but Grant is certain this is evidence dinosaurs are breeding in the wild.

Chapter 28: Control

Hammond receives the report over the control room radio and rejects it as absurd. He has Arnold do a count, and all 238 dinosaurs are located. Malcolm suggests trying a search for a different number, like 239. When they do, 239 are found (an extra compy). Malcolm then suggests searching for 300. When they do, the system finds 292 dinosaurs. Five species show unexpectedly high tallies, including velociraptors. Wu rejects this as impossible and a mistake, claiming there must be something wrong with the system. Grant argues, in turn, that it means the dinosaurs are breeding.

Chapter 29: Breeding Sites

Grant argues there are seven breeding sites: the raptors and compys have two nests each, and the other species one. The park staff disagree, but Grant leads them through his reasoning. He argues the lack of monitoring at night allows the nocturnal dinosaurs to act without being observed. He believes they are eating rats—a source of lysine—and so can survive without being fed. Gennaro moves the discussion to the next topic: have they escaped the island? Grant can't tell yet. The group splits up: Sattler stays with the vet to inspect the stegosaurus. Gennaro stays because he's attracted to Sattler. Malcolm wants a private talk with Grant, so they get in one car. Regis and the kids get in the other.

After a short drive, the cars suddenly stop. Regis says Tim and Lex claim they've seen dinosaurs on the boat headed to the mainland. Grant grabs the binoculars and confirms it: there are raptors on the boat. They try to radio a warning, but there's only static. They've got 18 hours until the boat reaches the mainland. Regis tells them they'll be able to contact the boat once they get back to base in less than 20 minutes. Abruptly, the cars stop and everything goes dark.

In the control room, Arnold doesn't know what happened. He looks for Dennis Nedry, but the computer expert isn't there. As Arnold tries to get the system going again, he realizes Nedry has turned off the security system: no doors are locked, and the electric fences are off. Arnold doesn't think anything will happen, but Muldoon is worried. He goes to get a Jeep and weapons to bring the tour in safely. However, when he gets to the garage, the Jeep is gone.

Analysis

Chapter 23 is exceptionally efficient. Readers might see the chapter as merely functional: groups can easily be too large for one car, and electric cars with a recorded narration fits very well with the theme park design John Hammond and his staff are applying to Jurassic Park. On the other hand, it is hard not to read the details of this chapter as symbolic. The party is divided into two cars, and there are ideological divisions among the tour group. The park's advanced technology permits the cars to be driverless, so no one is "at the wheel." This foreshadows Alan Grant's comments at the end of the novel about no one being in charge. Having a famous actor narrate the tour is the sort of hook the entertainment industry practices, but it also means there is a massive disconnect between what the supposedly knowledgeable voice says and what the tour group sees.

Though Ian Malcolm will later dismiss John Arnold and all engineers for the limits of their engineering mindset, in Chapter 24 Arnold seems very aware of the challenges Jurassic Park poses. His idea that Jurassic Park is a theme park plus zoo plus dinosaurs seems very realistic and would give any serious listener reason to worry. Arnold's exchange with Hammond also foreshadows the looming trouble with the computer system, though it puts a brave (if naive) face on that trouble. Arnold attributes the computer troubles to glitches rather than the outright sabotage Nedry has engaged in.

Chapter 25 provides yet another example of Michael Crichton's masterful efficiency as a writer. There is no doubt as to where his sympathies lie in the conflict over the park's safety—Grant and Malcolm are clearly right, or there would be no novel. However, he does a fine job of stacking the deck, so the park appears to at least be trying to take all necessary precautions. Robert Muldoon is as experienced a voice of reason and caution as anyone could ever want: a hunter and zoo designer who thinks some of the dinosaurs are too dangerous to be kept in captivity. When he voices his complaints, the results also demonstrate the limits of reason in a corporate environment: they buy him the weaponry he needs to keep the park safe, but lock them away.

The Tyrannosaurus rex may be the prime example of a celebrity dinosaur: the thunder lizard is used in countless posters, movies, and stories. Crichton brings the T. rex on stage in this chapter and shows that it is every bit as impressive as past portrayals have suggested. Because the T. rex feeding follows Muldoon's concerns, it foreshadows disaster.

Three elements of Chapter 26 deserve particular attention. First, Tim Murphy accurately identifies a dinosaur as out of place. An 11-year-old boy's direct observation answers the question this group of experts was hired to solve. The dinosaurs are loose. If they had listened to him, the body count would have been much lower. And the group wants to, but the second element stops them: because the cars are preprogrammed, they can move only in a single direction. This is appropriate for a theme park—no one would want a roller coaster going backward, when another car might be moving forward—but is insanely dangerous for a dinosaur park. It also provides a clear example of technology impeding vision rather than augmenting it. Everyone except Ed Regis is willing to investigate Tim's sighting, but the park itself won't allow it. This supports the theme of system complexity and introduces the third element of the chapter: systems have their own momentum. Once they are in motion, as Malcolm repeatedly explains, they are hard to stop.

Throughout the novel, scientists and other highly trained professionals exhibit hubris. In Chapter 27 Dr. Gerald Harding joins their ranks. None of these professionals are uncaring. Indeed, Harding seems committed to helping the sick stegosaur. However, they regularly dismiss the observations and insights of nonprofessionals or of those outside their field. In this case that includes rejecting Grant and Ellie Sattler's identification of the shell fragment as a dinosaur shell, although it's clear the two paleontologists understand dinosaurs better than Harding does.

Grant and Sattler finding the raptor egg is another example of Crichton's masterful structure. The find aligns with the argument between Gennaro and Malcolm and helps demonstrate that Malcolm is right and Gennaro wrong. It also develops characterization: for Gennaro to hold to his position after this find is stubborn at best, and blind at worst. It is the opposite of science.

Chapter 28 displays Crichton's craft as a writer, based on the dramatic simplicity of the chapter's events. First, Hammond, like Harding, rejects Grant's expert testimony on the dinosaur egg. Hammond also dismisses Grant's conclusion that dinosaurs are breeding on the island. Second, Malcolm's suggestion that they set the computers to count a different number seems quite trivial, but it upends all their certainties (or it should). It demonstrates that for all their resources, technology, and planning, the park's creators have been engaged in circular reasoning. Just as they find 238 dinosaurs because they are looking for 238 dinosaurs, they find the park safe because they are looking for reasons for the park to be safe. If they widened their conceptual focus, as Malcolm suggests, they would find something very different. The themes of hubris and system complexity are supported in the chapter.

Chapter 29 provides one of the novel's touches of humor, with Gennaro staying to care for a sick stegosaur in hopes of making a romantic connection with Sattler. However, although amusing, the chapter also underscores a more serious point: all living things want to reproduce. They're driven to do so, even in captivity (like the raptors) or under threat (like Gennaro).

Chapter 29 also supports the motif of time, as it sets another of the thriller genre's ticking clocks in motion. Seeing raptors on the boat gives Grant and the rest of the tour group an added incentive, and raises the stakes for their success. They'd always wanted to solve the questions about Jurassic Park. Now, they're trying to solve a bigger query: how can they prevent raptors from getting loose among the unprotected civilian population of Costa Rica? What had been a way for Grant and Sattler to raise money to fund their research is now a way to save innocent lives.

Crichton utilizes the motif of sight when he has the children spot the dinosaurs on the boat first, thus praising the clear vision of youth. This superior vision is literal (children have sharper eyesight than mature adults), but it is also figurative. Scientists and children are the ones able to see the truth. Couple this with Grant's earlier statement in support of Tim having dinosaurs on the brain, and Crichton is drawing a direct line between childhood passions and scientific passions. In Crichton's world, both children and scientists seek knowledge for its own sake.

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