Study Guide

Close Encounters of the Third Kind Fear

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By the end of Close Encounters, we learn that we've got nothing to fear from these extraterrestrials. They're kinda cute, they love music, and they've just borrowed—not abducted—a few dozen or so of us humans and a couple of our primitive aircraft and ships. They're just curious, is all.

But when the windows start rattling and the electrical grid goes out and toddlers are sucked out of their homes—well, there's reason to be afraid. Those initial drive-bys have a sinister quality, even if some of the youngsters just see them as wondrous.

Ronnie's afraid, too. Her husband seems to be cracking up before her eyes, trashing the house and talking nonsense. Even the government's afraid. Up until the final moments of the encounter, there's still the possibility that the aliens will incinerate everyone on the spot, Independence Day style. Those folks were looking on in wonder, too. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

CE3K suggests that knowledge is the antidote to fear. As soon as the scientists get to know their alien counterparts, they stop being afraid of them. Hmmm…there's a bigger moral in there somewhere.

Questions About Fear

  1. Who would you say is the most fearful character in Close Encounters? What are they afraid of? Is it justified?
  2. Who are the least fearful characters? Why are they so fearless?
  3. The extraterrestrials ultimately prove peaceful, but there are many scenes where they scare the heck out of people. What's the purpose of these scenes?

Chew on This

Ronnie is truly terrified of Roy, and she thinks he might lose control and hurt her or the kids. She was justified in getting out.

If Ronnie had only listened to Roy, she wouldn't have been afraid of his behavior.

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