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Oryx and Crake

Margaret Atwood
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Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title Oryx and Crake

author Margaret Atwood

type of work Novel

genre Speculative fiction; dystopian fiction; post-apocalyptic fiction

language English

time and place written Canada, late 1990s and early 2000s

date of first publication May 2003

publisher McClelland and Stewart (Canada); Bloomsbury (UK); Doubleday (US)

narrator The narrator is anonymous. The narrator mostly speaks with an objective perspective but occasionally mimics Snowman’s thoughts, which makes the narrator’s voice sound more like Snowman’s.

point of view  Snowman’s point of view dominates Oryx and Crake, but instead of Snowman speaking for himself, the narrator speaks about Snowman in the third person. The narrator has full access to Snowman’s thoughts and feelings and so describes everything in the world as Snowman sees it from his subjective perspective.

tone Cynical and mournful. Snowman’s narrative recounts the rise of Crake’s scientific ambitions, which resulted in the fall of human civilization.

tense The chapters following Snowman are narrated in the present tense, and the chapters following Snowman’s past self, Jimmy, are narrated in the past tense.

setting (time) Near the end of the twenty-first century

setting (place) The east coast of the United States, somewhere in the mid-Atlantic

protagonist Snowman (aka Jimmy)

major conflict The major conflict plays out between Crake and Snowman and the ideals each man stands for: whereas Crake stands for scientific progress and rational solutions to the world’s problems, Snowman stands for a more complex and humanistic view that seeks to understand rather than solve the world’s problems.

rising action On his way to Paradice, Snowman remembers how he came to work at the facility when Crake was in the final stages of developing his two-part plan, which included the BlyssPluss pill and a tribe of genetically enhanced humans. Both men fell in love with Oryx and had relationships with her.

climax Once he arrives at Paradice, Snowman remembers when he first realized that Crake’s BlyssPluss pill caused the global outbreak of a deadly plague, and that Oryx had unknowingly helped prepare the way for Crake’s plan.

falling action Snowman remembers how, in the first hours of the outbreak, Crake returned to Paradice with Oryx and slit her throat, prompting Snowman to shoot Crake.

themes The danger of scientific advancement; the dominance of corporate power; the devaluation of art

motifs Voices; memory; playing God

symbols Blood and Roses; Alex the Parrot; the Children of Oryx

foreshadowing Foreshadowing permeates most the narrative, which involves Snowman remembering the events that led to the post-apocalyptic conditions of his present situation. Each event brings the reader closer to an ultimate understanding of the event that wiped out most of the world’s population and Snowman’s personal role in it. For example, Snowman recalls Crake’s hypothesis about HelthWyzer using vitamin pills to distribute newly developed diseases, which in hindsight he now recognizes as a forerunner to the plague Crake spread via his BlyssPluss pills.