Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park


Michael Crichton

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Jurassic Park Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Michael Crichton

John Michael Crichton was born in 1942 in Chicago, Illinois, but he spent most of his childhood on Long Island in New York. He showed early promise as a writer when an essay he’d written about a trip to Arizona was published in the New York Times. In 1960, he began his college career at Harvard University. Although he initially pursued an English major, he switched to biological anthropology after concluding that at least some of his literature professors were more interested in grading harshly than nurturing their students’ talents. Crichton graduated in 1964 and was accepted into Harvard Medical School in 1965. Despite hating medical school, he completed his MD degree in 1969. He made no attempt to gain licensure or practice medicine; instead, after a brief fellowship at the Salk Institute, he turned full time to his literary career. This had begun during medical school, with the publication of several pseudonymous novels. In 1969, he published The Andromeda Strain—his first novel under his own name, and the one that established his career as a bestselling author. By 1971, it had been adapted into a movie. Throughout the 1970s, Crichton wrote a series of historical novels and began directing film adaptations of his works. In the 1980s and 1990s, his work turned to speculative and science fiction topics with increasing frequency, including Jurassic Park, its sequel The Lost WorldPrey (a book about nanotechnology and artificial intelligence), and State of Fear (which follows the attempts of a band of eco terrorists to bring attention to the danger of global warming). Crichton was married five times, with four of his marriages ending in divorce. He had two children: a daughter with his fourth wife, and a son born to his fifth wife shortly after his untimely death. In early 2008, Crichton was diagnosed with lymphoma. He continued to work until his death at the age of 66.
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Historical Context of Jurassic Park

The premise of Jurassic Park—that dinosaurs could be resurrected from extinction after millennia through the application of genetic sequencing and engineering—rests on an explosion of bioresearch in academia and the private sector in the 1970s and 1980s. The novel’s introduction explicitly cites the discovery of DNA by Watson and Crick in the 1950s; their work opened up a new world of opportunity for understanding, preventing, and treating diseases. Geneticist Rudolf Jaenisch successfully made the first transgenic animal (an animal whose genetic code includes foreign genes deliberately inserted by scientists) in 1974, and by the early 1980s, biotech companies were introducing the first genetically engineered crops. To even imagine applying genetic engineering techniques being pioneered in plants and animals required a thorough understanding of human genetic code, and to that end, the United States government launched the Human Genome Project in 1990, the same year Jurassic Park was published. Hammond and Wu’s fictitious process for making dinosaurs required cloning, a technology that hadn’t been successful by the time of Jurassic Park’s publication, but which came to fruition in 1996 with the birth of Dolly the Sheep, the world’s first cloned animal.

Other Books Related to Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park revisits some of the themes of Michael Crichton’s 1973 film Westworld, in which the computer systems and androids of a futuristic theme park go haywire, causing guest deaths. What’s more, in Jurassic Park, having created life, the park’s creators find to their dismay that they can’t control it—in this way, the book has an affinity with Mary Shelley’s 1818 Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, one of the earliest examples of science fiction in the western literary cannon. Victor Frankenstein makes a “Creature” out of reanimated, stitched-together body parts. Much to his surprise, he discovers (like Hammond and Wu) that he can’t control his creation. Furthermore, published a little more than a decade after Jurassic Park, Margaret Atwood’s 2003 Oryx and Crake considers many of the same themes surrounding the development and use of technology and the ability of nature to evade human control. Its scientists and engineers, driven by greed and an overconfident belief in their ability to exercise control over nature, alter nature in dangerous ways (for instance, generating viruses to infect people so they can turn around and make money from selling cures). And in the end, the book imagines humanity destroying itself through greed and a disrespect of nature. But the park’s dinosaurs are perhaps the most compelling part of Jurassic Park. The novel draws inspiration from two other early science fiction novels featuring dinosaurs: Jules Verne’s 1865 Journey to the Center of the Earth and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 The Lost World.
Key Facts about Jurassic Park
  • Full Title: Jurassic Park
  • When Written: 1980s
  • Where Written: United States
  • When Published: 1990
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Novel, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction
  • Setting: Isla Nublar, a fictional private island off the coast of Costa Rica
  • Climax: The survivors of Jurassic Park restart the generators and regain control of the Park’s computer systems.
  • Antagonist: John Hammond and nature itself
  • Point of View: Third Person

Extra Credit for Jurassic Park

Clean Up Your Act. In an interview with the British Independent newspaper, Michael Crichton told fans that he found it nearly impossible to write in a completely clean room. His inner muse required some cast-off clothing flung on the floor or a chair, and if his writing area was too clean, he would purposely toss some shoes or gym clothes into the corner.

Catch of the Day. One of the ways Michael Crichton cultivated focus while working on a draft was by eating the same thing for most of his meals. While writing Jurassic Park, his meal of choice was sushi.