Challenging J.D. Watson: Speculation and Manipulation

In The Double Helix, James D. Watson successfully remodels himself from the scientist who discovered the structure of DNA to a flamboyant character caught in the whirlwind of the drama-laden, action-packed account of his tumultuous journey through the inner workings of modern science. At first, this portrayal seems less than flattering for Watson – the character of James D. Watson, or Honest Jim as he would prefer, is an intellectual thief, a womanizer, fraudulent, lazy, and essentially doesn’t play well with others. So what advantage lies in showcasing all of his personal flaws?

My first instinct is to say Watson is challenging us to doubt the validity of his story. As discussed in class, a degree of bias is incorporated into any autobiographical work, but that fact that Watson’s bias is painfully obvious leads us to question the true intentions behind this literary move. I’m led to speculate that after the discovery of the DNA structure and prior to the publication of The Double Helix, Watson underwent scrupulous speculation of his ethics, morality, etc. Watson’s publication was his opportunity to comment on the subject.

By confirming and possibly even hyperbolizing public conjecture up front, Watson puts to rest any speculation the reader might have about his character. Honesty, on whatever the matter, works to foster a level of trust between author and reader. Coupled with his confidence, honesty, and somewhat arrogant personality, Watson takes control of his story and manipulates it in his favor once again, drawing the reader back to his side.

Who knows, it worked on me.


~ by lambertpaige on March 16, 2014.

One Response to “Challenging J.D. Watson: Speculation and Manipulation”

  1. Your theory that Watson encourages us to question him only to further convince us to be on his side is very interesting. I can completely see that and agree with it.

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