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The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton - ISU By Alex Court
Transcript of The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton - ISU By Alex Court
(aka the Wildfire Team) “A friend once said of him: “Jeremy knows everything, and is fascinated by the rest”” (pg. 48) Dr. Peter Leavitt is a clinical microbiologist. He has experience treating infectious diseases, and is very pessimistic. He works in parasitology and epidemiology. Unknown to the rest of the Wildfire Team, Leavitt has epilepsy, which will play a part in the climax of the novel. "He was an irritable, grumbling, heavyset man with a morose face and sad eyes, which seemed to peer ahead into a bleak and miserable future; but he was also thoughtful, imaginative, and not afraid to think daringly (pg. 63)" Dr. Charles Burton is a pathologist, but is not liked very well by Stone. He is a consultant for the NASA Manned Spaceflight Center in Houston, and has a professorship at Baylor Medical School. He is fifty-four, and studies the effects of bacteria on tissue. "Colleagues referred to Burton as “the Stumbler,” partly because of his tendency to trip over his untied shoelaces and baggy trouser cuffs and partly because of his talent for tumbling by error into one important discovery after another (pg. 64)" Dr. Mark Hall is a surgeon, chosen for the Wildfire Team based on the "Odd Man Hypothesis". He works quickly, but if things don't work the way he expects, he can become quick-tempered. "At the hospital, Hall was known as a swift, quick-tempered, and unpredictable surgeon (pg. 65)" Setting Piedmont, Arizona Wildfire Base, Flatrock, Nevada The Wildfire Team is a group of five scientists who, in the event of a biological crisis, are reponsible for the containment, research, and control of the biological disease, in an effort to prevent the outbreak of the disease and contamination of the rest of society. Secondary Characters Christian Kirke Major Arthur Manchek Lieutenant Roger Shawn & Private Lewis Crane ENG 1D-E Dr. Christian Kirke was supposed to be on the Wildfire Team, but was in hospital at the time of the crisis, so could not be part of the team. Nonetheless, he is an very intelligent person who thinks very logically. "Though he could not balance his own checkbook, mathematicians often came to him for help in resolving highly abstract problems (pg. 64)" Peter Jackson Plot Theme Tone "What you don't know could kill you" Peter Jackson is a sixty-nine year old man who survived the disease at Piedmont. He has a history of ulcer (internal bleeding from his stomach), and is relatively rash, making irresponsible decisions. He has been told by his doctors "none of that Mexican food, no liquor, no butts (pg. 224)", but he cannot resist, and continued to drink Sterno (alcohol and methanol) and took Aspirins to help with the pain. This made him alkalotic (meaning his blood was alkaline), which presumably protected him from the Andromeda Strain. Scoop VII lands in Piedmont, Arizona Scoop VII is a satellite that is part of the Scoop Satellite program. The Scoop Program involved "collecting organisms and bringing them back to the surface (pg. 60)". The purpose was for finding new ways to create bioweapons. Vandenburg Officers Discover Dead Bodies in Piedmont Lieutenant Shawn and Private Crane discover the bodies and radio back to Vandenburg base. Communication is then lost. "The next sound was a high-pitched scream, and a crunching noise. Transmission ended at this point, and the Vandenberg Scoop Mission Control was not able to raise the two men again (pg. 13)" Wildfire Team is Contacted and Assembled in Nevada The Wildifre Team, created to deal with biological crises, are contacted and assembled at the Wildfire base, specifically built for such an event.
"Once money was funded, construction proceeded rapidly. The eventual result, the Wildfire Laboratory, was built in 1966 in Flatrock, Nevada (pg. 55)" Burton and Stone Arrive in Piedmont The Odd Man Hypothesis Wildfire Team Begins Experiments on the Disease Plane Crash is Reported Near Wildfire Base Wildfire Team Discovers How the Andromeda Strain Operates Contamination Occurs in Base
and Leavitt has a Seizure Hall Successfully Disengages the Atomic Bomb Burton and Stone travel to Piedmont to retrieve Scoop VII and also to find out about the dead bodies in the town. They also discover two survivors of the outbreak: an old man and an infant. They also call in a Directiive 7-12, issuing the town to be destroyed by a nuke.
"Some of them died instantly, and the others…went quietly nuts (pg. 98)" At the Wildfire base, the other members explain to Mark Hall the Odd Man Hypothesis and his connection to it. He is responsible for disengaging the atomic self-destruct device in the event of contamination to the lab.
"That an unmarried male should carry out command decisions involving thermonuclear or chem-biol destruct contexts (pg. 138)" After the Wildfire team makes it to level V of the Wildfire base, they begin working on finding the organism on the satellite, then experimenting on it and determining how it works.
"They would be hoping like hell to come up with an organism that they could work with, experiment on, and identify (pg. 149)" Outside the base, a military jet flies past and crashes. The flight records are gathered, and there is an odd phenomena reported by the pilot prior to the crash: "everything made of rubber in the cockpit is dissolving (pg. 241)" While performing experiments, Burton's seals break, and his lab is contaminated. Surprisingly, Burton is still alive despite contact with the disease. Hall and Leavitt are going to help, but the flashing lights from the alarms send Leavitt into epileptic seizures. The Wildifre Team determines that the Andromeda Strain can only live in certain pH levels, which is why the old man (who was alkalotic) and the baby (who was acidotic) survived. Also, the strain mutates, to a form that only eats rubber (explaining the dissolving of rubber in the plane crash) and is not harmful to humans any more (explaining Burton's survival). The team also determines that the disease "consumed everything, wasted nothing (pg. 305)", and quickly call off the Directive 7-12, which would essentially spread the disease. Now that the disease eats rubber, the seals in the lab are destroyed, putting the lab at risk. The atomic self-destruct device activates, and Hall is caught in an area with no substations to deactivate it. He has to go through the central core and climb to the third level to reach a substation. He reaches the substation and deactivates the bomb, saving the lab and the Wildfire Team. The conflict seen in the Andromeda Strain is one between man and the unknown, in the sense that man is affected by an unknown disease, and the protagonists (the Wildfire Team) have to work quickly to find out what the unknown threat is and how to protect mankind from it. The conflict takes the Team through experiments and tests with the Andromeda Strain to determine how it works and how to beat it. Essentially, the conflict is all about learning about the unknown disease so mankind knows how to protect themselves from it now and in the future. Point of View The Andromeda Strain is told in third-person omniscient. As the reader, you know more than the characters do, and you also get to know, at times, what different characters are thinking or feeling. "This was a most unfortunate decision, for had they examined the media, they would have seen that their thinking had already gone astray, and that they were on the wrong track (pg. 309)" Many of the examples of good use of third-person omniscient point of view are seen in the foreshadowing, irony, and flashbacks. "It would be forty-eight hours before he realized his error (pg. 216)" "Stone noticed the flies, which buzzed softly in the room. He would, he thought, have to remember the flies (pg. 96)" ? Man vs. the Unknown Located near Flatrock, Nevada Disguised beneath U.S. Government Department of Agriculture Station Made up of five seperate levels "Nevada was the ideal site for Wildfire. The Silver State ranks seventh in size, but forty-ninth in population; it is the least-dense state in the Union after Alaska. Particularly when one considers that 85 percent of the state’s 440,000 people live in Las Vegas, Reno, or Carson City, the population density of 1.2 persons per square mile seems well suited for projects such as Wildfire, and indeed many have been located there (pg. 116)" The Wildfire base has five levels. Each one has a cafeteria, conference room, living quarters, and communications room (which are all linked to the main communications room on the first level). The Wildfire team has to undergo multiple tests and decontamination/sterilization procedures in order to descend to the next level, and they must stay for a set amount of time on each level. All laboratories are on the fifth level.
"The plan consisted of a conical underground structure with five floors. Each floor was circular, with a central service core of wiring, plumbing, and elevators. Each floor was more sterile than the one above; the first floor was nonsterile, the second moderately sterile, the third stringently sterile, and so on. Passage from one floor to another was not free; personnel had to undergo decontamination and quarantine procedures in passing either up or down (pg. 55-56)" Level I Level II Level III Level IV Level V "Hall noticed that all the walls were red. He mentioned this to Leavitt. "Yes," Leavitt said. "All levels are painted a different colour" (pg. 125)" Has a Built-in Atomic Self-Destruct Device at the Bottom of the Base At the bottom of the Wildfire base is an atomic bomb for use only in the event of contamination. If contamination were to occur within the base, the atomic self-destruct would automatcally activate. Once activated, there are only three minutes for the 'Odd Man' (see Odd Man Hypothesis) to insert his key into a substation and disarm the bomb. There are multiple substations on each level of the laboratory.
""At the lowest level of this laboratory is an automatic atomic self-destruct device," Stone said. "It is controlled from within the laboratory" (pg. 134) "The walls here were painted yellow, not red as they had been on Level I. The people wore yellow uniforms (pg. 143)" "At the end, he found blowers, which dried him, and then clothing. This time, the clothing was white (pg. 145)" "When he finally reached the dressing room, he found green uniforms (pg. 146)" "Level V was painted a quiet shade of blue, and they all wore blue uniforms (pg. 178)" Piedmont, Arizona is a "small Arizona town (pg. 3)". It has only 50 citizens, and all the buildings are wooden, based around a central main street. It is in an area known to the Indians as "the Country of Lost Borders (pg. 4)". When the town is first visited by Lieutenant Shawn and Private Crane, the town is completely dark, even the motel and gas station, which "represented the only gas station and motel for miles (pg. 7)". Upon further inspection, they find bodies of the townspeople strewn across the streets. Piedmont, Arizona is ground zero for the outbreak of the Andromeda Strain. Only two residents survive the disease: an old man and an infant. The Wildfire Base is a subterranean laboratory in Nevada. To keep it a top secret government installation, it is built under an agriculture station, so as not to arouse the suspicion of any people passing by. Time Period It is never specifically mentioned when, but the Andromeda Strain takes place towards the end of the 1960's. This can be said because at numerous points in the book, there are flashbacks, which mentioned occurances in the early 1960's. It also includes references to the United States uneasy relations with the Soviet Union, indicating the Cold War, and mentions the Moscow Treaty of 1963, which forbids "above-ground nuclear testing (pg. 107)". The book spans a total of five days, each day making up one part of the book. Time When Story Takes Place Major Manchek is an officer at Vandenberg Air Base. He does administrative work, but would prefer to be working as an engineer. Before Vandenberg, he worked on experiments on spacecraft landing devices. He can be irratble at times, and has labile hypertension (which is where your blood pressure can rise suddenly at random times during the day). He is also overweight.
"He was therefore considering abandoning the Army for a career as a scientist in private industry, where people did not care what your weight or blood pressure was (pg.18)" Lieutenant Shawn and Private Crane are the two Vandenberg Base officers who are sent to retrieve the fallen Scoop VII Satellite. They are relatively clueless as to the reason of Scoop, they are only told as much as they need to know. Crane is nervous as they enter Piedmont which is only made worse when they find the dead bodies. The two are supposedly killed by Peter Jackson.
"He knew Shawn personally, and he knew that Shawn, whatever other virtues he might have, utterly lacked an imagination. Shawn could fall asleep in a horror movie. He was that kind of man (pg. 11)" The Andromeda Strain has one prevailant theme in its storyline. Dangers that Humans Pose to Themselves The dangers that mankind poses to itself is the major theme of this book. It goes through numerous ways that humans present a threat to itself. The satellite, which was designed, constructed and launched by man, was what ultimately brought the Andromeda Strain to earth. The way the Wildfire Base was set up (constructed by man) also posed a danger to the Wildfire Team, because in the event of contamination, some locations did not have access to a nuclear substation. Also, during research, the scientists were making discoveries, but were also assuming things, which led to the errors in their results. The communication issues were also due to mankind and the nature of mankind. The misommunication between the communications centre and the Wildfire Team, in relation to the Directive 7-12 and the plane crash, was also a result of human error, where a glitch in the teleprinter lead to the miscommunications. Many aspects of the novel are based around human error and mistakes, which is why the theme of the book is about the dangers that mankind poses to itself. COLD UNEMOTIONAL SCIENTIFIC The tone of the Andromeda Strain is one that is very scientific. Throughout the book, you don't get attached to any characters, as the narration is cold and without feeling. It is scientific because of the nature of the content, which involves scientific research and experiments, so it makes sense that the tone of this novel is so cold and unemotional. Conflict Connections Character and Plot There is a connection between character and plot involving Mark Hall and the Odd Man Hypothesis. The reason why Mark Hall was chosen to be on the Wildfire Team was because of the Odd Man Hypothesis, which states that a single male should be put in charge of carrying out orders involving nuclear weapons. This plays into the plot towards the end, where Hall has to disengage the atomic bomb to save everyone in the Wildfire Base and to prevent the Andromeda Strain from being released into the environment. Plot and Theme The connection between plot and theme is about the occurances in the plot that relate to the theme of human error. In the novel, after the plane crash, a message was sent to the Wildfire Team about the plane crash, but because of human error and technological advances, the message wasn't recieved. As well, assumptions in the research of the Andromeda Strain meant that the Team wasn't getting accurate results about the disease. There are multiple examples of the plot/theme connection in the book. HUMAN ERROR MISCOMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES ASSUMPTIONS Plot and Setting The town of Piedmont is heavily influenced by the plot of the storyline. The biological crisis which the entire story revolves around takes place in Piedmont. Almost all of the residents of Piedmont are killed because of the Scoop VII Satellite with the Andromeda Strain on it. What happened in Piedmont starts off the cycle of events, and is therefore connected to the plot. Plot and Conflict The conflict involving the Wildfire Team trying to figure out the Andromeda Strain is a key factor in the plot line. What they do to figure out the mystery behind the disease is essentially what causes events in the plot, such as the contamination of the laboratory, the calling of Directive 7-12 (and the eventually calling off of Directive 7-12), as well as the self destruct device becoming armed. All these events are caused by the Wildfire Team and their research into the Andromeda Strain, and so are connected between the plot and the conflict. Character and Conflict Peter Jackson is a character who is connected to the conflict of the story. He is one of only two survivors of Piedmont, and he holds valuable information for the Wildfire Team. He is instrumental to the conflict because he survived the Andromeda Strain, so the Team knows that he is different, and they need to find out how he is different in order to find out how to beat the disease. Character and Conflict All of the members of the Wildfire Team are influenced by the conflict in the story. Once they assemble at the Wildfire Base, it is up to them to figure out the Andromeda Strain, and to solve the mystery behind it. They are the ones who have to find a solution to the conflcit, which they eventually are able to do. Point of View and Tone The point of view strongly influences the tone of the novel. Being in third person omniscient point of view, you, the reader, get to see everything that is going on, and therefore don't feel a connection to any specific character. This is only emphasized by the fact that it is written so scientifically and unemotionally that there is no opportunity to make any connection with the characters. If it were written in first person point of view, it would make it a bit easier to make a connection, but it would still feel cold because of the way the novel is written. Theme and Point of View The theme of dangers that humans pose to themselves is emphasized by the point of view of the narration. In the story, multiple events occur that the characters are unaware of, but you, as the reader, find out. Many of these points are based around the dangers that humans pose to themselves. These are mainly foreshadowings, which point out either an error or an incident that the characters do not know about at the time, but will learn about it when it is too late (or it appears to be too late, but then everything works out fine in the end). The third person omniscient point of view helps strengthen the theme. Sites Visited http://www.michaelcrichton.net/books-andromedastrain-history.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremy_Stone Crichton, Michael. The Andromeda Strain. New York: HarperCollins Publishing, 2007.