What bioethical choices did the society in Margaret Atwood's novel Oryx and Crake make that opened the way for Crake’s actions? Were they justified?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The man who becomes known as Crake, formerly called Glenn, moved into genetic engineering from a science background. Crake’s work in the “Paradice” department of his firm involves experimenting on human embryos, enhancing supposedly desirable characteristics in, and eliminating what are seen as flaws from, their genetic makeup. One of the positive features is green eyes; it later turns out that such eyes are also not harmed by ultraviolet light. While Crake carries out the work, most of the feature choices had already been made.

As Glenn, Crake had grown up with Jimmy, who renames himself Snowman. The boys lived in a compound run by the bioengineering firm where both their fathers worked. Jimmy’s father is shown as one of the scientists who helped create the conditions upon which Crake later builds; he had worked on genetically altered hybrid creatures.

As an adult, the talented scientist Crake worked for a biotechnology firm. One of its activities also paves the way for the later experiments and apocalyptic devastation: manufacturing instantly lethal drugs.

The choices were justified in the eyes of the society’s decision makers. Atwood makes it clear that science, apparently unregulated, had become ascendant over arts and humanities, so that those who might object were relegated to the periphery.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The dystopia of Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake is based to a large degree on pessimism concerning unrestrained commercial use of biotechnology. In a way, Atwood is presenting a form of slippery slope argument about biotechnology, but more importantly about the approach to health care in the United States (especially as seen from Canada) in which health is treated as a for-profit industry rather than a right for all citizens. If health is simply for profit, she suggests, then creating diseases in order to make money curing them is a logical step. Similarly, it is only a short step from genetically improved animals to genetically modified humans. I think her argument, although obviously exaggerated, is fundamentally sound -- that access to medical care should be a right rather than something from which people profit.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial