Allegory and Idealism in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park And The Lost World
This paper presents a detailed discussion on the use of allegory and idealism in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park and The Lost World. The writer draws several examples from the story to illustrate the use of allegory and then discusses its effectiveness. There were three sources used to complete this paper.
In many literary works the authors use methods that might be considered metaphoric to make their point. In the case of science fiction the author is given a lot of freedom to use things such as metaphors and allegory characters to present an underlying message to the readers. The ability to use allegory in science fiction is strengthened and enhanced because of the very nature of the genre. Aliens, monsters and man made creatures often grace the stories, allowing the allegory effect to be utilized.
Before one can fully understand the way allegory was used in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park one must have an understanding of the story itself. The plot of Jurassic Park lends itself to the use of allegory because of the type of genre that it is. The plot centers on the idea a Palo Alto California company had to create a fantasy park that allowed people to roam with the dinosaurs and know how they lived.
The groundbreaking technique used for the park involved the cloning of DNA from dinosaur samples taken from insects that bit the dinosaurs then died and were preserved as fossils (Crichton, 1992). The company found a way to extract the blood of the dinosaur and use the DNA to create the creatures for the park. The park is a dream of John Hammond who buys an island 100 miles off the coast of Costa Rica (Jurassic Park, or, Sympathy for the Dinosaur Joe Sartelle Bad Subjects, Issue # 5, May 1993 (http://eserver.org/bs/06/Sartelle.html).
When a scientist named Malcolm warns Hammond that the park is becoming increasingly unstable due to the rush to create these creatures without proper research to verify its reactions, the warnings are ignored because there are Japanese investors coming to the park that weekend to see how their investment was coming. In addition Hammond’s grandchildren were spending the weekend at the park (Jurassic Park, or, Sympathy for the Dinosaur Joe Sartelle Bad Subjects, Issue # 5, May 1993 (http://eserver.org/bs/06/Sartelle.html).Thatweekend the dinosaurs become monsters and the people on the island spend the entire trip trying to survive and getting eaten alive, injured and otherwise attacked by the manmade creatures.
The use of dinosaurs to stand in for human beings is not unheard of and at times is actually a popular literary and film making fad. In the case of this story however, it had been awhile so the concept was relatively new. The dinosaur species represents human society. They have many different races and cultures by virtue of their meat eating or vegetarian eating habits as well as their refusal to mingle with other types of dinosaurs. They separated their types in the same manner that humans have often separated their types. This allegory is further explained by one of the novel’s characters when it is said that one type of the park’s creatures are tiny and cute and others in the park are massive and scary. It parallels the human tradition of division by cultures.
Some of them see well, and some of them don’t. Some of them are stupid, and some of them are very, very intelligent.’ Just like people (Jurassic Park, or, Sympathy for the Dinosaur Joe Sartelle Bad Subjects, Issue # 5, May 1993 (http://eserver.org/bs/06/Sartelle.html)!”
While this might seem to be an overly simplistic explanation it is accurate. If the novel had been about monkeys, or dogs or cats there would not have been as clear cut a picture of the parallels between the creatures and the humans.
Dinosaurs in this novel are not only used to differentiate between races but also to determine class distinctions (Crichton, 1992). “In Crichton’s novel the dinosaurs are literally a class of beings created by capital in order to serve capital: they are genetically-engineered, their DNA sequences altered just enough to make them patentable and thus private property; then they are held in captivity, where they must perform the labor of acting out their dinosaur identities for the benefit of wealthy tourists. Moreover, they are altered so that they are completely dependent upon their owners, the island’s literal ruling class: they have been deprived of the ability to manufacture a particular amino acid and must receive it regularly in their food. ‘These animals are genetically engineered to be unable to survive in the real world,’ the dinosaurs’ designer tells the visitors. ‘They can only live here in Jurassic Park. They are not free at all. They are essentially our prisoners (Jurassic Park, or, Sympathy for the Dinosaur Joe Sartelle Bad Subjects, Issue # 5, May 1993 (http://eserver.org/bs/06/Sartelle.html).'”
Because of the use of the dinosaurs to illustrate the political structure of humans the allegoric use lends itself to one central idea. Jurassic Park itself represents ethnicities and the dinosaurs are representative of the creations of America’s capitalist way of life. The dinosaurs present themselves in the novel in a manner that speaks to the cultural society that America has developed. Through the use of money and power there are class distinctions though they are not addressed as such in polite society.
Furthermore, Jurassic Park also suggests that the fortunes of ethnicities, like those of the dinosaurs, are inextricably tied to the fortunes of the capitalist system that brought them into being: once summoned into existence, they must earn their keep to survive. Thus the politics of identities and ‘multiculturalism’ are completely compatible with capitalism, being themselves the product of capitalist exploitation: imperial domination yields to domination by the ‘free market,’ in which all identities are just so many laborers and consumers with particular qualities and interests to target and exploit. Like the various dinosaurs on Jurassic Park’s island, each identity is given its own contained space, within which it is ‘free’ to be itself. What creates and holds together the ‘diversity’ of identities is an elaborate system of regulation, control and commodification (Jurassic Park, or, Sympathy for the Dinosaur Joe Sartelle Bad Subjects, Issue # 5, May 1993 (http://eserver.org/bs/06/Sartelle.html).”
The novel’s subtle use of allegoric symbolism is evidenced in many of the book’s scenes and events. The island itself represents the earth. It is an island that is one hundred miles from anywhere else, just as earth is a many mile trip to the nearest planet. It is cut off from the rest of the world in the same manner that the earth is alone in the universe and must maintain its ability to be self-sustained. In the case of Jurassic park the self-sustaining mandate presents itself the weekend that security goes out and there is no way to notify the world for help. “This distinction between science and capitalism — science is the resource, capitalism the corrupting agency — is occluded over the course of the novel, so that science finally takes the blame (Jurassic Park, or, Sympathy for the Dinosaur Joe Sartelle Bad Subjects, Issue # 5, May 1993 (http://eserver.org/bs/06/Sartelle.html).”
The Lost World is another creation by the same author that uses allegoric symbolism to make its message clear.
In the Lost World, which was the sequel work following the success of Jurassic Park, allegoric symbolism is again employed to underscore the moral and value flaws of society today. In the work Malcolm returns, after a four-year avoidance of the island. When he had tried to tell the world about what had happened that fateful weekend four years earlier he had been subjected to public ridicule and humiliation for his story. The investors as well as the company who backed the park denied any knowledge of what Malcolm had claimed had happened though the children tried to back him to no avail. When he finds out that his girlfriend is already there on business he has no choice but to return and try and rescue her. Once there he sees the park is rebuilt and the destruction of four years earlier is gone forever. However, it is not long before the dinosaurs again go crazy and begin attacking and murdering those humans who dared set foot on the island. This time however, there are other allegoric symbols to guide the reader to the understanding that the island actually represents the world and the dinosaurs represent humans who live in the world.
Even the types of creatures are representative of the humans on earth. The large mean and nasty ones are similar to people who hurt others and bully their way through the world. It was shown in both movies and both novels that the large and violent creatures chase down those that they believe are weaker and they do them in. Humans who are bullies act in much the same manner (Jurassic Park, or, Sympathy for the Dinosaur Joe Sartelle Bad Subjects, Issue # 5, May 1993 (http://eserver.org/bs/06/Sartelle.html).
The fact that the stronger creatures overpower the weaker ones illustrates the perfect allegoric symbolism for the business world. Those who are large and strong merge, sometimes by force, with the smaller businesses of the world.
The dinosaurs had not hurt anybody for the four years before the weekend of The Lost World. This might be because they had not had any human confront them. Why they had not is not clearly defined or explored but when it does happen the actions are extremely similar to the previous attacks. In this particular novel the allegoric symbolism had more to do with racism and hatred than with finances and capitalist attitudes. The dinosaurs were fine as long as they got to keep to themselves but the first time they were forced to share the island with humans, even humans who were only there to observe them, they began a rampage to rid the neighborhood of those kinds. This is symbolic of the racism that is still existent in modern times. The dinosaurs are content to be with like creatures and they do not appear capable of violence and rages. However, when mankind enters the picture the dinosaurs suddenly turn violent to rid the area of what they consider to be interlopers. This happens in the human world as well. Humans of one race live peacefully in an area for many years without trouble or violence. Then when another race moves in there is tension that often leads to violence. The dinosaurs in the novel serve as allegoric symbols of human behavior and the pattern that the world has seen since the beginning of time when it comes to the mixing of races or class levels.
The humans in Jurassic Park also allegorically represented several things. Dr. Hammond is a study in contrasts because his character represents two different ends of the spectrum. On one hand he represents blind idealism and on the other hand he represents greed. The blind idealism his character allegorically represents is evidenced throughout the novel. He believes with all of his heart that he will be able to make the park work. He refuses to give up, he refuses to listen to reason and he refuses to see the truth for what it is if it gets in the way of his understanding of right. Hammond so fully believes in his ability regarding the park that he sends his own grandchildren out to investigate the park without him being present. Blind idealism works in much the same manner. It allows for the refusal to accept anything short of the idea that is being entertained. It is an idealism that can harm those who suffer from the blindness of it because they will not see obstacles or the beginning of failings. Blind idealism is a trait that masks rationality and the character of Hammond in the novel underscores the reality of having that trait. The second allegoric symbol the character presents is greed. Even when he realized the park was failing and that his creatures were violent and dangerous he refused to go for help. He did not want the problems getting to the outside world and he wanted to maintain the appearance that all was well. Greed does not allow for rationale thoughts anymore than blind idealism does. The greed he felt overrode his logic and it almost cost him his grandchildren’s lives.
The character of Grant provides the reader with an allegoric reality as well. Grant takes on the allegoric undertone of pure science. The park is designed to run completely automated. The park can be handled with nothing more than a control room. Grant is the person who can make it all happen because he has such a scientific mind. However, while he is obviously brilliant he seems to lack any type of compassion and is only a representative of pure science. Science is devoid of emotion and compassion. It is a field that is purely facts and figures. It is easy to draw the correlation between the character of Grant and the field of science when the reader gets to know Grant’s character and traits. The cold attitude that the reader encounters every time Grant is the focus of the plot allows for the easy transition to the allegoric idea of representing science. The science is what has designed and maintained the park and in his pride of doing so, Grant shows the reader he is nothing more than a scientific equation in his personal thoughts as well. This causes the character to easily represent pure science in the real world and to spend the entire book displaying the proper traits to fit with that image.
The allegoric representation within these two works is evident and honest. The reader can pick out the symbolism much more easily in this work than in other genres because the science fiction angle of the story allows for flexibility in the use of allegoric symbols. The novel not only uses the dinosaurs to underscore the symbolism but also uses the human characters as well. In other genres the evidence is not always as clear as it is in the case of these two works. The dinosaurs are treated to a world of their own until they are invaded, which begins the entire allegoric representation the reader is presented with for the remainder of the book. Often time’s literature represents real life. In the science fiction genre it is even easier to underscore the habits mf mankind by the use of animals or creatures by virtue of the genre itself. Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park and The Lost World provide illustrative examples of the way allegoric symbols can underscore the realities of the life man has created here on earth. The dinosaurs represented classes, ethnicities and capitalism while providing the reader with a basic view of how those things can break down into total chaos if allowed to stew without guidance.
The two works leave the reader with a better understanding of the way the world at large works. The reader can come away with a better understanding of blind idealism, greed, and pure science and how those things can relate to real life after reading these stories.
Crichton, Michael. Jurassic Park Mass Market Paperback 1992
Crichton, Michael, The Lost World. Mass Market Paperback 1996
Jurassic Park, or, Sympathy for the Dinosaur Joe Sartelle Bad Subjects, Issue # 5, May 1993(accessed 5-4-2002) (http://eserver.org/bs/06/Sartelle.html)
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