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Oryx and Crake

Margaret Atwood
  • Study Guide
Summary

Chapter 10

Summary Chapter 10

As time passed, Jimmy felt more and more restless. Sex no longer gave him the same thrill, and the news was full of stories about plagues, famines, floods, and droughts. The news also reported on a story about adolescent girls who had been brought from other countries and locked in garages. Jimmy thought he recognized one of the girls, and he wondered if she was the same girl he and Crake had seen in the HottTotts video years prior.

In his fifth year at AnooYoo, agents from the CorpSeCorps appeared at Jimmy’s apartment and showed him a video of a blindfolded woman about to be executed. A Corpsman in the video removed the woman’s blindfold, and it was Jimmy’s mother. She looked straight into the camera and said, “Goodbye. Remember Killer. I love you. Don’t let me down.” The camera then panned back out, and the soldiers completed the execution. The Corpsmen wanted to know what she meant by “Killer,” and Jimmy informed them that Killer was the name of his pet rakunk.

In the weeks following the Corpsmen’s visit, Jimmy spiraled into depression. He retreated from communication and began to drink alone at night. Language no longer felt solid, and he no longer took comfort in words.

Analysis: Chapter 10

Jimmy’s relationship with Amanda marked a significant transformation in how he related to women. Amanda had endured a number of traumatizing experiences in her life, having grown up in a working-class family that the narrator describes as “abusive, white-trash, and sugar-overdosed.” Jimmy found Amanda’s emotional wounds compelling, and he wanted to “mend” her. During his earlier college years, Jimmy had exaggerated his melancholy personality to bait women who might want to fix him. With Amanda, Jimmy has a similar desire but in reverse. Whereas before he positioned himself as the love object that others pursued, now he positioned himself as the one who pursues the love object. This new pattern reappeared later, in his fascination with the girl imprisoned in the garage. Jimmy’s interest in this girl stemmed from his desire to mend her psychological wounds. This change in Jimmy’s romantic behavior also marked a shift in his sexuality, which, as the rest of the chapter indicates, became increasingly obsessive, to the point of addiction.

Although Jimmy disliked Amanda’s housemates and dismissed their theory that humanity was doomed from the start, the reader, who know about the apocalypse to come, is more likely to find their bleak theory credible. Though the narrator doesn’t fully spell out the logic of the housemates’ theory, the implication is that the seeds of the world’s current environmental crises were sewn back when humans first invented agriculture some six or seven thousand years ago. Before that, humans had survived by foraging and hunting. Agriculture stabilized the food supply, making it possible for the human population to expand. Over thousands of years, this expansion eventually led to a population so large that people felt the need to fight over territory. Hence the housemates’ conclusion that ever since the invention of agriculture, human society had proved itself “a sort of monster, its main by-products being corpses and rubble.” At the time, Jimmy dismissed this theory of humanity as absurd. However, the news stories he encountered later about climate change and related environmental disasters suggested that Amanda’s housemates may have been right about how humans had doomed themselves.

Crake’s news about his Uncle Pete’s death struck Jimmy as suspicious, particularly given how the mysterious circumstances of his death echoed the mysterious circumstances of Crake’s mother’s death many years prior when she was suddenly infected by a violent, unknown virus. Crake witnessed her death, and when he recounted the experience to Jimmy, he spoke with curiosity rather than horror. At the time, Crake’s emotional distance alarmed Jimmy, and a similar feeling arose when Crake informed Jimmy of Uncle Pete’s death. Just like Crake’s mother, Uncle Pete died suddenly from a virus that didn’t infect anyone else. Jimmy wanted to know whether Crake had been present to witness the death, as he had been with his mother, and Crake responded cryptically: “In a manner of speaking.” As Jimmy would come to suspect much later, Crake had something to do with Uncle Pete’s death. From Snowman’s retrospective perspective, this moment represents one of many signs of Crake’s sociopathic personality that went unnoticed at the time, but which led directly to the apocalypse to come.