Oryx and Crake is a fiction novel with a speculating genre, that was written by a Canadian author, Margaret Atwood in the year 2003. It mainly focuses on a man named Snowman who finds himself living with Crakers to provide company in a seemingly post-apocalyptic world. Through flashbacks into the supposed pre-apocalyptic era, it is later learned that Snowman was a man named Jimmy in the past. Jimmy lived a time when there were industries, advertising corporations, and freedom to study, work, move freely, and marry. This paper, therefore, will critically analyze the novel evaluating its meaning and significance.
At the beginning of the novel, when Snowman wakes up naked and only covered in a flimsy sheet, it is not clear what befell him. He wonders in a haze what transpired and had to believe that he was still asleep. The question of what exactly happened is deepened as he takes in his surrounding while still lying unmoving. Atwood says, “The shrieks of birds that nest out there and the distant ocean grinding against the ersatz reefs of rusted car parts and jumbled bricks and assorted rubble sound almost like holiday traffic” (3). The presence of rusted car parts and disintegrated bricks scattered everywhere brings about the thought of a disaster or catastrophe had occurred thereby, creating a post-apocalyptic setup.
The novel also fails to give insights into the present time zone as shown when Snowman looks at his watch out of habit. Atwood asserts, “A blank face is what it shows him: Zero hours. It causes a jolt of terror to run through him, this absence of official time. Nobody nowhere knows what time it is” (3). In his state, Snowman finds himself on top of a tree, another situation that generates the question of why he slept on a tree and what led to the circumstance. Therefore, this implies that Snowman is not aware of what transpired and how exactly he found himself in that predicament.
The novel further creates a scenario where, as Snowman was walking around the lagoon trying to assess the situation. In that action, he sees a group of children walking while glistening with water droplets, a clear indication that they had been swimming. He develops a nostalgic feeling of envy and a sense of responsibility towards the children as he wonders what if the water is poisoned as well (Atwood 5). On examining the children closely, he notices that each of them had a different skin color, some rose color, others chocolate, butter, cream, honey, and tea colors (Atwood 6). He, however, notes that despite the varied skin colors, all children had the same green eyes. Snowman then refers to them as Crake aesthetics which results in the reader wondering why Snowman would associate them with Crake.
It is later revealed that Crake was a friend of Snowman formerly known as Jimmy, and worked at the Paradice facility where he had housed genetically created humans he had referred to as Crakers. It then comes to the reader’s attention that when the outbreak came about, the genetically engineered human beings broke free and were able to survive the apocalypse. However, how the said Crakers seemed to adapt to the apocalyptic environment as Snowman as wonders, is not clear. Snowman’s father worked for Organic Farms where he worked in the laboratory to replicate genetic composition, while his mother had for long disapproved of her husband’s job, she suffered depression and ran away leaving Jimmy behind. Later, it is brought to Jimmy’s attention that his mother had been executed, a scenario that creates a question in Jimmy’s mind as well as that of the reader on what led to the execution.
As the novel unfolds, at the Paradice facility Jimmy met a lady named Oryx who became subject to envy between Crake and Jimmy. An outbreak is revealed to be happening and Oryx is summoned by Crake, however, a moment later Crake murders Oryx and is confronted by Jimmy leading to Jimmy shooting Crake (Atwood, 278-279). The novel, nevertheless, fails to tell the reader why Crake killed Oryx and whether the deep romantic feelings Jimmy had for Oryx were the reason he shot Crake.
Snowman is seen to struggle to fend for himself and the children. Therefore, to ensure that they do not run out of the essential supplies, Snowman goes out to the Paradice facility in RejoovenEsense, the place where he worked together with Crake and Oryx (Atwood 8). On his journey back, to the present time, he arrives and the children of Crakes inform him that they have seen a group of people who look like him. Snowman, in his quest to find out who the other survivors are, and finds out and is faced with a dilemma on whether to approach them as friends or treat them as enemies.
Therefore, Oryx and Crake’s novel from a literary perspective offers an opportunity to learn the consequences of genetic experimentations. The novel looks into human nature and society as well as the quest for identity in the social strata. From the critical analysis, varied points have proven to be manned by a question on what transpired, why, and how the present time came about. The author, however, critiques modernity while using Snowman as an object of change to provide the reader with insights on certain issues.
Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake. Nan A. Talese, 2003.