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What does Oryx and Crake suggest about the lack of individuality?

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For the first part of the novel, Atwood has Snowman tell a story about his past. He tells how he had moved to the oppressive WorldCorp compound with two friends, Crake and Jimmy. Together they had worked on scientific experiments in bioengineering. The three friends were isolated from everyone else on the compound because of their age and their work in genetic engineering. Later, when Jimmy dies from the plague, Snowman is alone with Crake, who then begins to create a new world for himself and for Snowman by using DNA manipulation. In this post-plague world there are no longer any humans other than Crake’s creations: the healthy humanoid animals called Crakers.

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Margaret Atwood’s novel juxtaposes the humanoid Crakers with the handful of individuals left in the post-plague world. She draws the reader into the story that Snowman tells, which makes it seem that he and Crake are busily involved in continuing the bioengineering that had produced the first Crakers. These beings are all alike, including all being equally disease-resistant. The mysterious character of Oryx seems to be the epitome of originality, which is a large part of what attracts both Snowman and Crake to her. The world’s other beings, aside from animals, are the indistinguishable humanoid Crakers. At the end, however, it is revealed that many of these ideas are false. Left to their own devices, as well, the Crakers are starting to exhibit individual traits, including competition and desire. Atwood implies that even among partly human creatures, the push toward individuality can never be eradicated.

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In the dystopian world portrayed in Oryx and Crake, individuality as we understand it simply doesn't exist. Society is dominated by an ideal of beauty—manifested in the Crakers—that is wholly artificial and which militates against the slightest trace of individuality. The science of genetic modification has developed to such an extent that it has effectively ruled out the possibility of naturally occurring individuality.

In contemporary society, we are no less obsessed with conforming to ideals of what's considered beautiful. The difference, however, is that there is still a place for natural individuality; there is no concerted attempt by the authorities to manufacture a supposedly ideal race of clones. In Atwood's dystopia, however, the overriding message from the government is that natural individuality is a thing of the past. This extends even to animals, who are genetically modified to create grotesque hybrid creatures such as "pigoons" and "chickienobs."

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This is definitely a theme ripe for exploration in this work. I would personally approach it by discussing the Crakers and the way that Crake created them to be a "perfect" people, without the tendencies that man has to rebel and cause problems. In creating the new form of humanity by genetic engineering, Crake has ironed out differences and the kind of idiosyncrasies and quirks that make us individuals and special and unique. If you consider the description of the Crakers, they are described as being incredibly similar with only slight differences in the colour of their skin or appearance. Their core nature is the same. Atwood therefore presents a rather bleak view on the future of humanity and encourages us to celebrate rather than deplore our differences.

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