Oryx and Crake Summary

Snowman lives in a post-apocalyptic world populated by genetically-modified humanoids called Crakers. His best friend, Crake, engineered the Crakers at RejoovenEsense, a corporate Compound like the ones where their fathers used to work. Back then, Snowman was known as Jimmy and Crake was called Glenn.

  • Early on, it becomes clear that Jimmy is a "word person" and Crake is a "numbers person." Crake enrolls at the prestigious Watson-Crick Institute, and Jimmy attends the rundown Martha Graham Academy. After graduation, Jimmy goes to work at an advertising agency, while Crake becomes a scientist at a corporation that manufacturers diseases and their cures.
  • Jimmy descends into a life of boredom and womanizing. Later, Crake lures Jimmy into working for him at the lab, where Crake reveals that he has been genetically modifying human embryos to remove their faults. His engineered children are called Crakers and have glowing green eyes.
  • Crake has also hired a woman named Oryx, a former child porn star, to act as the Crakers' teacher. Jimmy falls in love with Oryx, but, after Crake releases a deadly contagion, Jimmy kills both Oryx and Crake. Somehow, he survives the plague, becoming the lone human survivor. He spends the rest of his life telling stories to the Crakers in exchange for fish.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 3, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 483

The story starts after the end of the world. Jimmy—who calls himself Snowman now—is the last normal human left on Earth, as far as he knows. The other inhabitants are the Crakers. The Crakers are genetically modified humans who were created to be peaceful, to live in harmony, and to...

(The entire section contains 1131 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The story starts after the end of the world. Jimmy—who calls himself Snowman now—is the last normal human left on Earth, as far as he knows. The other inhabitants are the Crakers. The Crakers are genetically modified humans who were created to be peaceful, to live in harmony, and to die at the age of thirty before experiencing old age. Jimmy guides and teaches them while slowly going insane himself.

Jimmy reflects on his past. He grew up in a walled-off compound owned by a biotech company. His best friend was a boy named Crake. Neither of them had involved parents. Crake’s father died, and Jimmy’s mother left the family before being executed. Jimmy and Crake grew up together until they separated for college. Crake studied hard and took things seriously; Jimmy enjoyed the company of women, alcohol, and cigarettes. He had a number of affairs that left him feeling cold and empty.

Eventually, Crake hired Jimmy to work on the Paradice Project ad campaign. He said its focus was on immortality. One thing they worked on is the BlyssPluss Pill, designed to protect against STDs, extend youth, and make the person more sexually excited. It would also make many people sterile. When Crake took Jimmyto Paradice, it was the first time he saw the Crakers.

Oryx was the teacher of the Crakers. She was also in a relationship with Crake. She had been sexually abused in the past and was old as a slave. However, she was cheerful and wanted everyone to get along. At one point, she had an affair with Jimmy, because he was in love with her and she didn't want him to be unhappy about her.

One day, Jimmy saw the news of outbreaks of a hemorrhagic agent around the world. People were dying. Oryx called him crying and saying that she didn’t know. The BlyssPluss pills were actually a way to spread the disease. People all over the world were dying. Crake returned to the compound and slit Oryx’s throat, coaxing Jimmy to shoot him. This is how Jimmy ended up as the last person on Earth.

Jimmy watched society fall apart from Paradice. He waited to release the Crakers until all the humans were dead so they wouldn’t be exposed to the trauma of their deaths. Now that they are free, Jimmy spends his days caring for the Crakers and trying to teach them. He tells them stories with Oryx and Crake as their gods. He has an injured foot that isn’t healing properly.

Eventually, he finds out that some humans survived—at least three—and that they stopped to speak to the Crakers. Jimmy sets off to find (and possibly kill) the people. He isn’t sure what he's going to do when he sees them. The novel ends with the reader not knowing what he chooses.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 648

Oryx and Crake also uses an unreliable narrator, the Snowman (his real name was Jimmy), an outcast and survivor of a global disease created by his friend Crake. In this dystopian novel, Snowman recounts what led to the disaster and what is happening in the present. When the novel begins, Snowman is in the present, foraging for food and instructing the Crakers, “people” created by Crake. Crake and Jimmy were childhood friends with different interests: Jimmy was a “word person”; Crake was a “numbers person.” Both lived with their parents in the Compound, a gated community of people who work for biotech corporations. After graduation, the friends drifted apart, Crake to the prestigious Watson-Crick Institute and Jimmy to the run-down Martha Graham Academy. The schools reflect the relative importance of the sciences (numbers) and the arts (words).

When they enter the job market, Crake works as a scientist for the biotech companies, and Jimmy becomes not a “wordsmith” but a “wordserf” in advertising. Eventually, Crake lures Jimmy to Watson-Crick, where Crake shows Jimmy the hybrid animals that the scientists are creating. Jimmy also learns that the scientists, who have cures for the known diseases, are creating new diseases and their cures to continue to make money. Crake’s own department is ironically named Paradice, and its work involves creating populations with “ideal” characteristics, such as beauty and docility, because “several world leaders had expressed interest in that.” The Crakers, as they come to be called, were programmed not to be racist, aggressive, sexually charged, or religious. Like other animals, they came into heat at regular intervals and urinated to mark their territory, but unlike other animals, they recycled their own excrement. Such “people” would therefore not experience the modern problems of “real” people.

Despite his aversion to modern problems, Crake falls in love, an emotion that leads to possessiveness and violence. Unfortunately, Jimmy is also in love with Oryx, a sexual waif he had seen on television when he was a child. She reappears as Crake’s lover, after having been the victim of white slavery and pimps. Jimmy exhibits all the symptoms of romantic love: sleeplessness, jealousy (demanding information about Oryx’s sexual past), and possessiveness. Oryx, however, is rooted in the present as the instructor of the Crakers. She also acts as a salesperson for the drugs that Crake’s company is manufacturing. The drugs are programmed to cause instantaneous suffering and death, which occurs on a global scale. At Crake’s instructions, Jimmy clears Paradice of all other personnel, which leaves him alone as an insulated, protected being. When Crake and Oryx appear at Paradice’s door, Jimmy kills them.

Jimmy/Snowman, who believes that he is the sole “human” survivor of the disease Crake has unleashed (Crake had thoughtfully provided him with the antidote), carries on the instruction Oryx had begun. Because of his love/hate relationship with Crake, he provides the Crakers with a mythology that includes Crake as the Creator/God and Oryx as the Earth Mother. He pretends to correspond with Crake through a wristwatch with a blank face, suggesting that he and the Crakers are suspended in time. Eventually, he has to travel from the “pleeblands” back to Paradice to get supplies, but in the course of his journey he recalls past events and keeps uttering random words, almost as if his existence depended upon language. In the present, however, his journey is threatened by the hybrid animals that Crake created. When he returns from Paradice to the Crakers, he discovers that despite Crake’s efforts, the Crakers are beginning to gain notions of ambition and hierarchy, notions that will lead to the problems Crake sought to prevent. Snowman also discovers that there are three other human survivors. Armed with a weapon, he tracks them down, but cannot decide what action to take, and the novel ends at “zero hour.”

Illustration of PDF document

Download Oryx and Crake Study Guide

Subscribe Now