There are many memorable scenes and images in Jurassic Park, among them being the T-Rex chase, Newman’s brutal death via Dilophosaurus, and Jeff Goldbulm’s exposed hairy chest. However, time has proven one image to be the most baffling, academically-studied image of the iconic film.
Mr. Arnold’s severed arm.
Each time viewers return to JP, they become more amazed at the specific qualities of this makeshift Samuel L. Jackson arm, evidently severed due to a velociraptor or two. While the aesthetic of the arm accounts for much of the amazement, the true depths of the image unfold through its eternal mystery. Endless questions arise re: its Dasein, the predominant five of which will be recounted presently.
(NOTE: This is not an exhaustive list. Many more questions inevitably arise: Where did his glasses go? Did the raptors eat his cigarettes? Did he try to hold onto his butt mid attack? We will allow you to ponder these residual questions at will, listener.)
1) Why is the arm so shiny?
In preceding scenes with Mr. Arnold, it is very clear that he does not bear a shiny arm. His arm, in fact, is arguably less shiny than the arm of John Hammond, an arm that is much paler than that of Mr. Arnold. Some argue that the lighting is different in the chamber where he was killed. But a close study of Laura Dern’s face indicates little to no shine. Does an arm become shinier once severed from the body? The universe may never know. But probably.
2) Why does the arm remain?
We all know that velociraptors like to eat people. In fact, thanks to Dr. Grant’s explanation to the fat kid at the beginning, we know that they enjoy tearing apart humans’ stomachs until their intestines spew out. What we do not know until this scene is that they are also fond of eating an entire human being, clothes and all, with the sole exception of an arm and a ruffled sleeve. Was this particular arm simply less satisfying than, say, the face? Or the stache? Was it because this was the arm with which Mr. Arnold “held onto his butt”, and therefore it smelled?
3) How did the arm get in the wall?
Once it’s established that the arm inexplicably remains, we come to this question—how did it get in the wall? We learn that velociraptors can open doors. Can they also pick up severed arms and place them in a desired location? If so, why did they choose this crevasse in the wall? How did they place it so strategically that it would fall on a human’s shoulder at the perfectly tense moment? Was it all a vast plan of psychological manipulation/warfare? Or is it possible that two raptors were fighting over the arm (given its size, which will soon be explicated), and in their struggle the arm was simply flung into the wall to land in its perfectly upright, barely-stable position? Highly unlikely, but possible nonetheless.
4) Why is the arm so massive?
Just take a quick look at the picture. Clearly, the hand of Mr. Arnold’s severed arm is larger than Laura Dern’s face, and while Laura Dern doesn’t have a huge face, she certainly doesn’t have a small one, either. Once she walks away from the wall and the arm is revealed in all its shiny glory, we see that it is about four feet long as well. If we can penetrate the shininess, we see that the forearm is particularly jacked. We know Mr. Arnold works with computers (even though he “hates this hacker crap”), and so his forearms get much exercise. But in earlier scenes, Mr. Arnold’s forearm was not this veiny or muscular. If we were to put this arm on an equally-proportioned human, that human would probably be roughly the size of Michael Clarke Duncan. The only explanation we can think of is that there was a great struggle between Arnold and the raptors, a struggle that required much forearm use, therefore “pumping up” the muscles to far larger than their normal size.
5) Why is Laura Dern comforted by its falling?
Yes, there is a raptor trying to kill her. She is not safe down there. But why, we ask, does she suddenly feel safe when an arm fall on her shoulder? The giant hand clamps onto her, and she breathes a sigh of great relief. Doesn’t she realize that her back is against a wall, and human arms don’t usually fall from walls? Doesn’t she know that even if Mr. Arnold is living in this wall, there’s still a raptor trying to eat her? Might we assume that a sudden unannounced clasp on the shoulder from behind had been Mr. Arnold’s standard mode of greeting, and therefore this greeting would not be considered strange? Given Mr. Arnold’s ability to dangle a cigarette by the tip of his lips, we really shouldn’t be surprised that he has extraordinary behavioral capabilities.