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Oryx and Crake

Margaret Atwood
  • Study Guide
Summary

Chapter 12, continued

Summary Chapter 12, continued

Jimmy waited for Oryx for a long time. News reports about simultaneous incidents of bioterrorism started coming in from around the world, and since Crake was off premises, the staff called Jimmy to Paradice headquarters. Jimmy’s phone rang and Oryx was on the line. Crying, she explained that the BlyssPluss pills she had been disbursing had caused a plague. She apologized to Jimmy and swore that she didn’t know. Then the connection broke.

Later that night, Crake called and assured Jimmy that everything was under control. He said he was at the pizza place in the mall and that he would come to Paradice shortly. Jimmy changed the door code, and he picked up a spraygun from the emergency storeroom.

When Crake arrived, he couldn’t get into the facility. Jimmy explained that he was following Crake’s instructions not to let anyone in. Crake assured Jimmy that both he and Jimmy were immune since he’d hidden the antibody serum in the vaccine they’d taken before going to the pleeblands. Jimmy opened the door. Crake entered the room. He held a knife in one hand, and his other arm was wrapped around Oryx. Crake dropped Oryx over his arm, told Jimmy “I’m counting on you,” and slit her throat. Then Jimmy shot Crake.

Analysis: Chapter 12

The second half of chapter 12 at last reveals how Jimmy and Oryx met and how their romantic relationship developed in the shadow of Crake’s love for Oryx. Oryx’s appearance at the Paradice facility was foreshadowed in chapter 8 when Crake navigated to a secret Extinctathon game room using the image of Oryx from the HottTotts website as his virtual passkey. Jimmy had felt profoundly affected by that image and kept a physical copy with him throughout the years, but up to that point, Jimmy had no idea that Crake felt similarly intrigued by the image. This background helps explain how, at Paradice, Jimmy could recognize Crake’s love for Oryx so quickly. The fact that both Crake and Jimmy had felt an affection for Oryx for so long also points to her symbolic importance as a shared object of desire and hence a threat to their friendship. When Oryx took both Crake and Jimmy as lovers, she activated the implicit sense of rivalry that had long persisted between the two men. In other words, Oryx’s appearance at Paradice and her initiation of a love triangle with Crake and Jimmy ultimately heralded the end of the two men’s friendship.

From a psychological perspective, Jimmy’s relationship with Oryx was an extension of his previous relationships with women, and particularly his relationship with Amanda Payne. Just as he wanted to mend Amanda’s traumas, Jimmy obsessed over Oryx and her life story. However, Jimmy’s interest in Oryx’s past quickly grew invasive, as when he interrogated her about her experience being locked in a garage. Although Jimmy’s interest in Oryx followed a similar, if exaggerated, psychological pattern that he had established with Amanda, Oryx herself was a very different person from Amanda. Specifically, she didn’t find Jimmy’s concern romantic, and at every turn, she deflected his questions and rejected his assumptions about how her experiences had affected her. Whereas Jimmy approached Oryx like a broken person who needed someone to put her back together, Oryx insisted on her own integrity and wholeness. It is only in the present time that Snowman can retrospectively see that Oryx was probably only humoring him when she admitted to any feelings of trauma at all.

The second half of chapter 12 recounts how the first hours of the plague and the final hours of Oryx’s and Crake’s lives passed in a jumble that left Jimmy confused about what Crake’s plan had actually been. It’s clear that Crake had laced his BlyssPluss pills with a contagion that had a delayed release and which he designed to cause a virulent plague that would kill a significant portion of the world’s population. What’s less clear, though, is what Crake himself had planned to do following the plague’s outbreak. Prior to the outbreak, he instructed Jimmy to take charge of Paradice should something happen and Crake not be around. Later on, Oryx said something almost identical, suggesting that Crake must have let her in on his plan. Yet Oryx also denied knowing about the BlyssPluss pills when she called Jimmy to tell him what had happened. Ultimately, Crake and Oryx both died before Jimmy could get any answers, leaving him suspended in ambiguity. This ambiguity is important, since it shows the reader another source of the tortured psyche Snowman has exhibited since the beginning of the novel. Snowman doesn’t have all the details about what happened and why, and this not knowing continues to haunt him.