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Oryx and Crake

Margaret Atwood
  • Study Guide
Characters

Snowman

Characters Snowman

Snowman is the protagonist of Oryx and Crake . The narrative recounts his life in the post-apocalyptic present as well as in the pre-apocalyptic past. Snowman is perhaps the sole human survivor of a global pandemic, and he is in charge of a tribe of genetically enhanced humans created by his friend-turned-rival, Crake. Although he takes responsibility for protecting the “Crakers,” he also feels distant from them due to their childlike nature and superior genetic adaptations. As such, Snowman suffers a profound sense of loneliness, and when not scrounging for the resources he needs to survive, he spends much of his time immersed in memories of his old life. Snowman’s early life, when he was called Jimmy, was largely shaped by his mother’s abandonment of him, his friendship with the intelligent but unemotional Crake, and a growing fascination with sex. Snowman also felt scarred by his cold relationship with his father, who remained disappointed in Snowman’s poor performance in math and science. Snowman did show an early gift for performance and wordplay, which earned him popularity among his high school peers. Even so, in a world increasingly dominated by science and technology, Snowman’s affinity for language and the arts marked him as an antiquated and economically unviable throwback.

In the present time of the novel, Snowman journeys back to the Paradice facility at the RejoovenEsense Compound, where Crake developed the plague that obliterated the world’s population. Snowman’s main objective is to collect supplies, and throughout the journey he feels haunted by various memories and particularly by his mother’s abandonment. He’s also haunted by voices from his past, especially the voice of Oryx, a young woman he first saw on a child pornography website and later fell in love with. Other voices that float through Snowman’s mind come from literature and other texts he read at university. More than anything, though, what haunts Snowman are memories of his longtime friendship with Crake. Snowman recalls the entire history of their relationship, from the time they met in high school, all the way through the period when they worked together at RejoovenEsense. Although the reader doesn’t know the full extent of what Crake did until the end of the novel, Snowman’s recollections throughout the book give a fragmentary account of how Crake came to create his disastrous plague. Snowman also frets about his own culpability, since he failed to see the signs indicating who Crake would become.