Atwood was born in Canada a
passionate writer from the start.
She is said to have begun writing
at age 6, and officially decided to
become a professional writer at
16. She went on to study at the
Victoria College in the University
of Toronto. She published many
poems and articles in the
school’s literary journal. She
went on to Harvard for grad
school, but dropped out after a
Atwood is an extremely
accomplished poet, she received
the Nelly Sachs Prize for her
poetry collection, “The Door.”
Also received the 1966 Governor
General's Award for The Circle
Her novels have also gained much
recognition as she has been the
winner of the Arthur C. Clarke
Award and Prince of Asturias
Award for Literature. She’s also
been nominated for the Booker
Prize five times, winning once.
Atwood The Activist
Atwood is also a famous
Humanist, she’s been
named the Humanist of the
Year by the American
Humanist Association in
1987 and has made many
public appearances to
debate and discuss her
As seen in many of her
books, Atwood is very much
a feminist. Many of her
characters are often
dominated by patriarchal
societies. Atwood also
wrote The Edible Woman
during the early second
wave of the feminist
Girl Has Style
Atwood writes in an exact, vivid,
and witty, style. Many of the
worlds she sets up are often
unfair and painful to live in, even
her poetry when describing
nature seems to imply that
everything is “haunted” and
“looming.” Atwood's novels are
sarcastic jabs at society as well
as identity quests. Her
protagonist are usually women in
a fight for survival in a society
ruled by oppressive men.
Oryx and Crake is often
described as a scientific fiction
novel, but I think a more
accurate label would be
speculative fiction. The book is a
warning to humanity for what’s
to come if we do not change our
ways. It’s an extreme prediction
of what is to come of genetic
mutations and unnecessary
manipulation of nature.
The setting plays a huge role in the story, as it is a result of the citizens’
attitudes and corrupt nature. The setting effectively helps characterize
the people, its uncomfortable aura can be attributed to the greedy
industrialists’ manipulation of nature and disinterest for anything that
won’t bring some sort of profit or personal benefit.
Importance of the Setting
The Two Main Settings
The setting of the wasteland
is meant to show how genetic
mutations and exploitation of
modern technology can
cause a virtual extinction of
the human race. It’s all
attributed to humanity’s
unsustainable usage of
natural resources, which is
why many think this book is
Atwood’s way of presenting
our potential fate.
In the near future society where
"Jimmy" lives is a lot different
from the wasteland in which
"Snowman” lives. Jimmy lives in a
society where Bio
genetic technology is rapidly
developed, however without
consideration of consequences.
In addition, entertainments such
as pornography is almost
available to everyone in the
society and it is really simple to
skip the age restriction. Suicide
and execution are standard
Jimmy is a self described “word person” because of his inability to relate to the
interests of the scientific community. Instead, Jimmy spends his time
writing, which is often unappreciated by the rest of society. Jimmy is very
analytical and self assured in his understanding of the corrupt nature of the mad
scientists and industrialists. He is the protagonist of the novel and is best friends
Glenn, later renamed Crake, is
Jimmy's peer and best friend. He is
a brilliant student who attends the
prestigious Watson-Crick Institute
where he buds into a formidable
geneticist. His talents in this field as
well as his unique philosophies
ultimately lead to his creation of a
group of superhumans later
referred to as the Crakers. Over the
course of the novel, Crake turns
from boy to brilliant teenager to
mad scientist. Crake meets his
demise after slitting Oryx's throat in
front of Jimmy, who shoots him.
Oryx is by far the most mysterious character in the novel, we know little about her but are
intrigued because of Jimmy’s obsession with her story. She is seen as a lover of nature.
Jimmy believes that he saw her as a little girl on a pornography site, but this is never
confirmed. She is seemingly traded like a material object throughout the entire novel. She had
been forced to sell flowers on the street as a little girl, until she was sold into the pornography
industry. She was later bought again and transported to San Francisco where she was found
in a storage locker. She went on to work for Crake and was a lover to both Crake and Jimmy.
Snowman is Jimmy, he renames
himself Snowman after the world
falls apart. The Snowman is the
narrator of the novel, he lives in a
wasteland as a result of the story
he tells us. We don’t know much
about the snowman, other than
the fact that he is relatively
biased towards the past as it
resulted in him living in such
The story starts off with The Snowman (Jimmy’s future self) describing the post
apocalyptic world in which he now lives. He goes on to tell his story as Jimmy.
Jimmy is the son of two genetic scientists, the leading industry of he time.
Jimmy becomes friends with Crake, and they bond over their interests of video
games, watching mock executions and child pornography. (one actress in particular
which might be Crake)
Both friends split when the go to separate colleges, Crake goes on to become a bio
technician, and starts his Crakers project. It was basically a set of superhumans which
would allow parents to pick characteristics from them to genetically mutate their children.
A little about the Crakers, they only ate vegetables, had sex all together at once at very
specific times of the year, and they would eventually take over human society as they
were “perfect humans”.
Things get interesting…
Crake finds his favorite child pornography star and hires her as his own
personal sex slave. We now see Crake becoming a bit of a maniac.
This girl is named Oryx, Jimmy and Crake meet again when Jimmy comes
home. Jimmy and Oryx seem to connect and eventually become intimate.
Both Jimmy and Crake fall in love with Oryx. She doesn’t seem to prefer
one over the other from the start, as she admires Crakes masterful work
but often goes to Jimmy for fun and affection.
Crakes insanity becomes more prevalent when he creates a germ that
would eventually kill off most of the human race except for Jimmy and him.
Crake gave Jimmy an antidote of sorts without Jimmy’s knowledge. He
decided that everyone except them were subordinate and thus he would
be saving intelligent life from a rotting society. The population is cut in half
in a matter of hours.
Things get heated when people all
over the world start dying and Crake
tells Oryx and Jimmy that he is
essentially responsible. Crake then
proceeds to slit Oryx’s throat, Jimmy
proceeds to shoot Crake because of
this. There isn’t very clear reasoning
for why Crake killed Oryx. I believe
that Crake knew that Jimmy would be
a good guardian for the Crakers and
planned a double suicide leaving
Jimmy in charge of the world.
Another possibility is that Crake
knew of Oryx’s preference of Jimmy
over him and decided that he would
let Jimmy rot alone in this horrid
world. Crakes rational is up for
The Snowman offers a little hope, as he has encountered
some actual humans and believes that they may be able to
one day rebuild society.
The Crakers begin to build religious monuments in respect
for Snowman, their “leader.” This is slightly ironic because
Crake wanted to “root out” religion and worship.
I believe Atwood was almost satirizing our alleged
beginning with Adam and Eve, as they are all innocent and
naïve, but as they gain more knowledge and temptation
they will eventually become the humans we are familiar
with, offering some sort of strange circle of life scenario.
"What is reality?” (83)
"Immortality, is a concept. If
you take 'mortality' as
being, not death, but the
foreknowledge of it and the
fear of it, then 'immortality' is
the absence of such fear.
Babies are immortal. Edit out
the fear, and you'll be...” (303)
“Nature is to zoos as God is to
Crake is obsessed with nature and
reality. He does not believe reality is
limited to what currently exists.
This understanding of immortality
drives Crake’s vision for the
Paradise Project. (The Crakers)
Crake explains his dismay with the
worship system in his society.
One of the main symbols that is
constantly highlighted in the
book is toast. As you get further
and further into the book toast
gets associated with and
surrounds most of jimmy's
problems, weather it's his
relationship with his mother or
his best friend Crake. Toast is
burnt, dry and desolate witch
relationships with his close ones
and it also very much symbolizes
the world surrounding Jimmy.
Nature and it’s true meaning is questioned all the
time the the novel. The question of whether or not
genetically modified beings are “natural.” The debate
between "natural" evolution vs. "synthetic" evolution
is very prevalent.
Immorality and it’s true meaning is also
questioned, as Crake believes that one’s image and
history can make one immortal, rather than actually
being alive forever.
If you love or are interested in
Science Fiction, this book is for
you. It questions reality and
preconceived notions that could
only be questioned in such a
strange world. Atwood’s writing is
perfectly descriptive and
engrossing. As difficult as it may
be to identify with any of the
characters, it allows insight into
the minds of the corrupt and the
potential extreme that may come of
our world some day. This book
allows you to step out of your
comfort zone and examine a
completely foreign world.