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Themes and Characters

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Reginald Rivers is the teller of this tale; he spins the yarn for a prospective customer who wishes to hunt dinosaurs in the Cretaceous epoch. But Rivers cautions the man that he is too light to hunt dinosaurs safely; the gun a small man can safely handle is too small in caliber to knock down the predators of the Cretaceous and Jurassic— and being able to knock one down is very important. Rivers, an engaging and clever character, matches perfectly with the time-honored steriotype of the unflappable big game hunter who had once tracked and brought down lions and tigers and other now almost extinct exotic animals. Throughout "A Gun for Dinosaur," he maintains a relaxed, humorous, and mellow tone even when people are being mauled; he conveys with his understated diction the sense that he is a thorough professional—he wants to make money, but there are limits to what he will do to earn it.

Both Courtney James and Holtzinger are themselves close to being stereotypes. Courtney James is a spoiled rich kid grown a little too fat; like a pampered child he does what he pleases while ignoring the rules of the hunt. Rivers takes pains to point out the few good qualities of Courtney James—he has many dirty stories to tell, sings fairly well, and sometimes helps around camp—but Rivers plainly does not like him and regrets needing the money badly enough to take the overgrown brat on a hunt.

The unfortunate Holtzinger, a man with low self-esteem, hopes to find out something good about himself on the hunt, and he does: he proves his courage and saves James's life by valiantly stepping up to a tyrannosaur and pumping shots into it. Holtzinger's large courage is tragically not matched by his stature. He is too small to safely wield a heavy .600 or .500 caliber rifle, essential for stunning or knocking down a gigantic dinosaur; shooting a large-bore rifle could damage his shoulder and most likely incapacitate him. Holtzinger's .375 rifle only stings the tyrannosaur, and the creature snaps him up in its jaws, a courageous but unnecessary victim.

Thus Holtzinger and James provide two cautionary lessons for Rivers and Aiyar. The partners learn to be much more careful in judging whether a person is emotionally stable...

(The entire section is 582 words.)