Study Guide

Alien Mortality

Mortality

Death and horror go hand-in-hand in movieland, since a big part of what makes horror movies scary is watching characters flee for their lives. That fear reminds us of our own mortality, and here's hoping we don't go out like the poor souls in Alien. As terrifying as the alien is, mortality brings the crew together in a desperate fight for their survival. It also reminds us that, no matter how fancy the Nostromo's technology, there's no technology that can conquer death—and no life-form, no matter how foreign, that can't die.

Questions About Mortality

  1. Kane is the only human character to perish on screen. Why do you suppose that is?
  2. How does the alien creature use the mortality of others to gain power and what kind of power is it?
  3. Why do you suppose the alien kills the crew in the first place? Can't we all just get along?
  4. What is it about Ripley that allows her to survive the ordeal? Does her survival tell you anything about the way mortality is viewed in the film?

Chew on This

The film links birth to mortality in its horrific vision of Kane's death. While modern technology and anatomical understanding have drastically cut down on maternal death rates, for much of human history, childbirth was deathly dangerous for the mother and the child, making it a source of mortal anxiety even today.

The concept of mortality is linked with life in Alien. When the facehugger successfully impregnates Kane and fulfills its life's purpose, it dies. Likewise, once Kane gives birth to the alien, he too perishes.

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