Study Guide

Jason Dessen in Dark Matter

By Blake Crouch

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Jason Dessen

If theories featured in Dark Matter are any indication, then there are an infinite number of Shmoops out there, each with a different version of this character analysis. In one universe Jason might be the villain; in another he might be the romantic interest. In yet another, he might not even be in the book at all.


So why are we saying this? Well, due to the nature of the universe in Dark Matter, it's kind of difficult to see Jason as a single character: we meet, like, thirty different versions of him. So we think it's important not just to look at our Jason—the Jason whose story we're following—but also the infinite permutations of him we meet along the way.

Jason Prime

Let's look at the primary Jason first. In his twenties, Jason was a young research scientist with the potential to become one of his generation's greatest innovators. We're not even exaggerating. Look at how his buddy Ryan Holder describes him:

"Look, I've taught at MIT, Harvard, John Hopkins, the best schools on the planet [...] Jason, you would've changed the world if you'd decided to go that path. If you'd stuck with it. Instead, you're teaching undergrad physics to future doctors and patent lawyers." (1.139)

So what happened? Well, Jason's burgeoning career was cut short when his girlfriend, Daniela, got pregnant. Upon hearing this news, Jason put his career on the back burner and focused instead on building a family with her. He's happy about this decision, for the most part: he loves Daniela a great deal and gains fulfillment out of raising their son, Charlie.

We'd like to put an emphasis on "for the most part," however. Currently, Jason works as a community college professor—a respectable job by any estimation, but a far cry from being the next Einstein. As a result, Jason sometimes wonders if he made the wrong decision by choosing family over career. Was it right to be content with a life that's "'great'" but "'not exceptional'" (1.539)?

Seeing Double

But there's another Jason out there who made the complete opposite decision—and his name is Jason2. This parallel-universe version of our hero ends his relationship with Daniela after learning of her pregnancy, focusing his energies instead on his research career. The results are astounding: after winning the Pavia Prize for his work in quantum physics, Jason2 joins the big-wigs at Velocity Laboratories, where he creates a device capable of traversing the infinite dimensions of the multiverse. Now that's exceptional.

But here's the thing—Jason2 regrets not starting a family in the same way Jason1 regrets not focusing on his career. Jason2 even tells Daniela2 that "existence [is] all about choices," and he had never screwed one up "so badly as with [her]" (5.397). That's real. Of course, the most obvious display of Jason2's regret is his decision to kidnap Jason1 so that he might enjoy life with Daniela and Charlie. He wants to finally get the family life he had tossed aside in favor of science.

It Takes a Lot More Than Two to Make Things Go Right

Although it's easy to get caught up in this "either-or" proposition between Jason the Father and Jason the Scientist, Dark Matter shows us in that in the end, the situation is far from black and white. Jason, in fact, realizes just how much life is a big giant grey area when he starts traveling the multiverse and meeting different versions of himself. Which Jason is the real Jason?

Well, all of them. Each Jason in that army of Jasons was created each time he made a choice during his trip. Seriously: there's a Jason for every possible choice Jason has made. That shows Jason that there's a significant range between Jason the Scientist and Jason the Father that's filled with infinite variations of himself: "It all points to the fact that my identity isn't binary. It's multifaceted" (11.216-217).

In fact, the only thing that really makes our Jason special is the fact that he reunites with his family at the end of the book and comes to the realization that the only thing that really, truly matters in his life is his love for Daniela.

That doesn't mean things are back to normal, however. When we leave them, the Dessens are preparing to enter a parallel universe conjured up by Charlie, where they will start brand new lives for themselves. That sounds scary, but if there's one thing that Jason has learned over the course of his adventures, it's that there's nothing more important to him than being with his family.

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