Oryx and Crake Analysis

  • Oryx and Crake imagines a dystopian future where society has broken down. Advancements in science have created a world where children can be genetically modified to order, pigs can be bred to grow human organs, and chickens are replaced with "ChickieNobs," which have no brains or beaks. Science is a dangerous tool that results in the destruction of the human race.
  • Atwood engages in humorous wordplay throughout Oryx and Crake. She invents words like "pigoon" and alludes to fictional websites like nitee-nite.com, where Jimmy and Crake watch assisted suicides.

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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

Oryx and Crake (2003) is the first novel in Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy. It follows a characteristic dystopian structure; the novel begins in a post-apocalyptic world, and readers learn the circumstances leading up to this event in subsequent chapters. The plot is split into two storylines: that of Snowman, as he navigates the world after a devastating plague, and that of Jimmy, his past self. The novel juxtaposes two timelines to emphasize cause and effect leading up to the plague.

Atwood employs a third-person limited narrator. This allows for the revelation of significant details at precise points in the plot as well as access to the thoughts of Jimmy. Before the plague, Jimmy obtained a degree in “Problematics” to become a word expert, so it is ironic that most of the words he spent years studying are no longer in use. Jimmy had always thought that his degree was rather useless, and in the present, it truly is.

Two central themes in the novel are the relationships between humans and animals and the relationships between extinction and evolution. In the past, Jimmy lived in a world of genetic manipulation in which bio-corporations had engineered new species, such as “pigoons” and “rakunks.” Jimmy’s childhood friend Crake (formerly Glenn) grows up to become a scientist who heads the Paradice project.

Crake genetically engineered the Crakers, who are human-like creatures with characteristics that Crake believes are superior to those of humans. He creates a species that is immune to ultraviolet rays and sun damage, possesses the ability to digest vegetation, and does not possess sexual desire. Jimmy finds out the sinister reasoning behind the Paradice project: Crake plans to bring about the end of the world and replace humans with the “perfect” Crakers. The Crakers blur the distinction between humans and animals, and Snowman emphasizes this by frequently comparing himself to the genetically engineered animals.

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