Saturday, March 17, 2012

2001 analysis - part 30: Mann: The 'Jonah and the whale' allegory


Discovery One's pod bay doors open while Bowman waits to exit the spaceship in his EVA pod. This is an 'allegory' for the biblical whale vomiting out the prophet, Jonah, after he spent three days in the animal's belly.

In the analysis of Michael Mann's Manhunter, it was observed that there are quite a few mentions of the number three in Mann's movie, and it was determined that they are all references to the three days the biblical prophet, Jonah, spent in the belly of the whale. We will look at the story of Jonah below, but first, what needs to be realized is that Mann, in his use of the number three, is giving us a hint that Kubrick was doing the same thing in A Space Odyssey: Kubrick uses the number three to refer to Jonah and the whale, for example, when Elena mentions during the meeting in the space station that she and her colleagues have "just spent three months calibrating the new antennae at Tchalinko", and then later, during the Jupiter mission, when Frank Poole tells Mr. Amor that the bodies of the astronauts in hibernation on Discovery One are at a temperature of three degrees centigrade, and that their hearts beat three times per minute. Also, recall that when HAL announces the impending breakdown of the AE-35 unit, he states that the unit will go to one hundred percent failure within 72 hours. Since there are 72 hours in 3 days, this too is a reference to Jonah and the whale. The point is that part of Bowman's voyage on Discovery One, can be interpreted as being an allegory for the three days the biblical prophet, Jonah, spent in the whale's belly. A portion of the story of Jonah appears below, and is followed by a part of one interpretation of the story.


Jonah is the name given in the Hebrew bible to a prophet of the northern kingdom of Israel in about the 8th century BC, the eponymous central character in the book of Jonah, famous for being swallowed by a fish or a whale, depending on translation. The biblical story of Jonah is repeated in the Qur'an. The first part of the Story of Jonah runs as follows:

Jonah is ordered by God to go to the city of Nineveh to prophesy against it "for their great wickedness is come up before me."[Jonah 1:2, King James Version] Jonah seeks instead to flee from "the presence of the Lord" by going to Jaffa and sailing to Tarshish, which, geographically, is in the opposite direction. A huge storm arises and the sailors, realizing this is no ordinary storm, cast lots and learn that Jonah is to blame. Jonah admits this and states that if he is thrown overboard the storm will cease. The sailors try to dump as much cargo as possible before giving up, but feel forced to throw him overboard, at which point the sea calms. The inspired sailors then offer sacrifices to God. Jonah is miraculously saved by being swallowed by a large fish specially prepared by God where he spent three days and three nights. In chapter two, while in the great fish, Jonah prays to God in his affliction and commits to thanksgiving and to paying what he has vowed. God commands the fish to vomit Jonah out.

God again orders Jonah to visit Nineveh...(see here for the complete story).

Part of one early Christian interpretation of the story says that Jesus compares his generation to the people of Nineveh. Jesus fulfills his role as a type of Jonah, however his generation fails to fulfill its role as a type of Nineveh. Nineveh repented, but Jesus' generation, which has seen and heard one even greater than Jonah, fails to repent. Through his typological interpretation of the story of Jonah, Jesus has weighed his generation and found it wanting.

In the New Testament, Jonah is mentioned in Matthew and Luke. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus makes a reference to Jonah when he was asked for a miraculous sign by the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. Jonah's restoration after three days inside the great whale is said to prefigure the Resurrection of Jesus Christ after three days:[a]

But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas [is] here.
[Matthew 12:39-41, King James Version; material inside square brackets in original source (]

a. Wikipedia, 'Jonah'. Web, n.d. URL =


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