Study Guide

The House of the Scorpion Science

By Nancy Farmer


A dull, red light shown on the faces of the workers as they watched their own arrays of little glass dishes. Each one contained a drop of life. (1.2)

The start of the novel contrasts wonderfully with the subsequent chapters. After kicking things off in a futuristic lab, we go to the time-warp of Opium.

Perhaps the cows were aware of what had been done to them, because they certainly rejected the embryos. (1.13)

The experiments done in this novel are pretty disturbing, and nothing is as disturbing as the fact that they use cows to grow clones. That's gotta have some nasty side effects.

"You idiot! You need a vet for the little beast!" the man roared. "How dare you defile this house?" (3.108)

Matt may be a marvel of modern science, but Mr. Alacrán sees him as a beast and something subhuman. Perhaps that's actually because Matt is a marvel of modern science, and wasn't created the old school way.

"You're a clone," he murmured. "Know what that is? A kind of puke. You were puked up by a cow." (7.19)

We hate Tom. Tom's hatred and cruel descriptions here definitely emphasize just how prejudiced people are against clones. Plus it reminds us just how unsavory science can be.

He was in a rage to learn. He would excel, and then everyone would love him and forget he was a clone. (9.52)

Why do Matt's scientific beginnings put him at such a disadvantage? And why will excelling at learning help him overcome that disadvantage?

"This unbaptized limb of Satan has no right to make a mockery of this rite! Would you bring a dog to church?" (9.53)

Of course at this point, we're used to other's mistreatment of Matt for his clone status. But even the priest? Can't the kid catch a break? Maybe the priest is just worried about that age-old clash between religion and science. In El Patrón's world, the two are as much at odds as ever.

"You were grown in that poor cow for nine months, and then you were cut out of her. You were harvested. She was sacrificed." (10.27)

Contrast Tam Lin's horror about science with Tom's commentary on clones and cows. Tam Lin is upset by what was done to produce Matt, not at Matt himself.

Now, for the hundredth time, Matt thought about why anyone would create a monster. (10.39)

The cloning process and modern science definitely lack compassion. No one thinks about how the creation will feel once it's been created.

It didn't matter how intelligent he was. In the end the only thing that mattered was how strong his heart was. (22.6)

María raised her head. "Matt's human?"

"He always was," her mother replied. "The law is a wicked fiction to make it possible to use clones for transplants." (37.41-2)

The only thing that prevents others from viewing Matt as human is a stupid law? Why hasn't anyone questioned it before?

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