Dragon Teeth Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 36 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Dragon Teeth.
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Dragon Teeth Summary & Study Guide Description

Dragon Teeth Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Crichton, Michael. Dragon Teeth. Harper Collins, 2017.

The novel opens at Yale College in the year 1876. William Johnson is a freshman at Yale. He comes from a very wealthy family, but he is generally lazy and reckless. One day, his rival, a freshman named Harold Marlin, bets $1,000 that Johnson will not spend the summer on the yearly paleontological dig led by Professor Othniel Marsh. Johnson then joins the expedition as a photographer. Despite the fact that he does not know the art of photography. He takes photography lessons until the end of the school year, and he finds that the hard work and patience required to learn the art are rewarding. In the summer, Johnson travels west with Marsh and the other Yale students, but Marsh becomes suspicious of the Philadelphia-born Johnson, thinking that he might be a spy for Marsh’s rival, a Philadelphia-born paleontologist named Edward Cope. In the city of Cheyenne in the Wyoming Territory, Marsh leaves Johnson behind and continues on with his expedition. Marsh is then approached by Edward Cope, who offers Johnson a place on his own expedition, and Johnson accepts.

Johnson continues west with Cope’s expedition, which is also largely comprised of college students. Cope appears to be a far more reasonable man than the paranoid and aggressive Marsh. In Utah, a sheriff approaches Cope and says that he is under arrest for murder. Cope correctly realizes that Marsh must have bribed the sheriff to arrest him so as to sabotage his expedition. Cope accuses the sheriff of this, and the sheriff lets him go. Cope’s destination for the expedition is the Judith Badlands by the Judith River in the Montana Territory. A United States military officer warns them that there will likely be aggressive activity of Native American tribes in that area, but Cope remains undeterred. When they reach the Judith Badlands, they encounter an encampment of the Crow tribe of Native Americans. They reach a peaceful understanding with the Crows before beginning to dig for fossils. They realize that they have been followed by the Marsh expedition, and one night, Cope invites the Marsh expedition to their camp for dinner. Beforehand, Cope constructs a fake animal skeleton so as to entice marsh to attempt to steal it, and when the Marsh expedition does try to steal it later that night, Cope orders his expedition to fire their guns at the Marsh expedition. No one is injured in the fight.

The Cope expedition continues the hard and exhausting work of digging for fossils, and one day, Cope and Johnson discover several enormous fossilized teeth. Cope concludes that they are the teeth of an extinct reptilian creature of incredible size. In late August, the Cope expedition begins to make its way back to the eastern part of the country. Johnson leads an expedition ahead with the crates of fossils and three members of Cope’s group. Johnson and the people with him are attacked by Native Americans of the Sioux tribe. One of the people with Johnson escapes and rides to Cope to tell him of the attack. Cope assumes that Johnson has been killed, so he writes a letter with this information to Johnson’s parents. However, Johnson escapes with the fossils to the lawless town of Deadwood in the South Dakota Territory.

In Deadwood, his wallet is stolen, so he works as a photographer to raise money for his passage home, as well as the passage of the fossils. By chance, one of his photographs serves as evidence proving that a local gunfighter named Black Dick Curry is guilty of strangling a man to death in the man’s hotel room. Curry escapes the local criminal inquest but forms a grudge against Johnson. This grudge deepens when Johnson captures the affection of Emily Williams, a beautiful young woman to whom Curry was attracted. Johnson eventually challenges Curry to a gun duel, and although Johnson wins, he does not kill Curry. He then pays for his passage out of Deadwood. He also hires famous gunfighter Wyatt Earp to accompany him as a guard. Emily Williams chooses to accompany Johnson as well, so Johnson, Earp, Williams, and the fossils ride out of Deadwood on a stagecoach. They are attacked twice by the Curry Gang, but Earp repels both attacks. They reach the town of Fort Laramie, where Marsh finds them. Earp convinces Marsh that the fossils are still in Deadwood, so Marsh rides to Deadwood while Johnson and Emily ride with the fossils to the town of Cheyenne in the Wyoming Territory.

In Cheyenne, Johnson sends a telegram to his parents asking for money, and he is arrested for killing and impersonating William Johnson, as his parents believe their son to be dead. Johnson then sends another telegram with details that only the real William Johnson would know, and his father then sends a telegram to the sheriff to free Johnson. Johnson then discovers that Emily is a con artist who was trying to sell his fossils for profit, but she failed because no one wanted them. She parts ways with Johnson, and Johnson returns to Philadelphia where he reunites with his family and gives the fossils to Cope. Johnson then returns to Yale, where he confronts Marlin and Marsh, both of whom he now views as rather pitiable people.

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