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Oryx and Crake

Margaret Atwood
  • Study Guide
Summary

Chapter 11

Summary Chapter 11

Analysis: Chapter 11

Chapter 11 features a lot of foreshadowing related to events from Snowman’s past that the narrative has not yet fully explained. For one thing, the reader gets more details about the nature of the apocalyptic event. Snowman specifically thinks that the watchtower guards may have tried to flee the facility in biosuits because they wanted to avoid a contagion, suggesting that whatever caused the apocalyptic event may have been connected to an epidemic. For another thing, the reader learns that the apocalyptic event wasn’t simply local. In addition to Snowman’s discovery of a Russian-language message coming from far away via the short-wave radio, he also wonders whether people in places like New Zealand and Madagascar escaped. These thoughts clearly indicate the global reach of the apocalyptic event. But the most significant piece of foreshadowing in this chapter comes in the revelation that Snowman killed Crake. This revelation creates a feeling of suspense for the rest of the novel.

As Snowman recalls the story of his relationship with Crake and laments that he failed to see the signs that were right in front of him, the reader learns that Snowman feels some degree of responsibility and guilt for the apocalyptic event. This revelation of Snowman’s guilt points the reader both forward and backward in the narrative since it makes the reader curious about the extent of Snowman’s responsibility and rehink what is already known about Snowman. Up until this point, the novel has presented Snowman as a victim. Though predisposed to cynicism, and despite his questionable treatment of women, Snowman comes across as an essentially good person. He’s a long-suffering casualty of his friend’s ambitions, and despite the hopelessness of the situation created by Crake, he continues to look out for the Crakers. But if Snowman was personally involved in the events that led to the apocalypse, then that revelation makes the reader question his motivations and his apparent innocence.

For all that this chapter focuses on the catastrophic event that lies in Snowman’s past, the multiple signs of other survivors give Snowman his first sense of hope for the future. At the beginning of chapter 9, Snowman speculated vaguely about a bleak future in which nature would overtake the ruins of civilization. In this chapter, however, the radio messages and smoke signals provide Snowman with two important signs that he is not as alone in the world as he previously believed. These signs also provide Snowman with the only surge of joy and hope that he has felt thus far in the novel. Yet Snowman is deeply conditioned by his cynicism. After he tries to respond to one of the radio messages he immediately regrets having done so, and his suspicious reaction shows that he struggles to believe that the future could really turn out okay.