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Oryx and Crake

Margaret Atwood
  • Study Guide
Summary

Chapter 5

Summary Chapter 5

The Crakers gather closer and ask Snowman to tell them about the deeds of Crake. Snowman launches into a rehearsed origin story: “In the beginning, there was chaos.” He explains that all the people in the world were full of chaos, killing each other and eating the Children of Oryx. Then Crake banished the chaos through the Great Rearrangement, which made the Great Emptiness. The Crakers ask Snowman to tell them how Crake was born, and Snowman explains that Crake was never born, but rather “he came down out of the sky.”

The Children of Crake go away, and Snowman climbs into his tree with a bottle of Scotch from his cache and drinks the remaining alcohol as a pack of wolvogs assembles on the ground. He finishes the Scotch and throws the bottle down at them.

Snowman looks up at the stars and thinks again about the nursery rhyme. Later he imagines a hand touching him, and he masturbates while fantasizing about Oryx.

Analysis: Chapter 5

In this chapter the reader continues to learn about Snowman’s personality and his ongoing struggle to cope with his situation. Snowman exhibits a struggle between earnestness and cynicism. For example, he reclines in his tree, looking at the stars and reciting the nursery rhyme about making a wish on the first star that appears in the sky. He then quickly dismisses his own nostalgia with cynicism, telling himself “fat chance.” And yet Snowman circles back around to the nursery rhyme at the end of the chapter, suggesting that a part of him really does want to make a wish, even if he knows it won’t make a difference. Aside from the play of earnestness and cynicism, this chapter also showcases how Snowman uses alcohol and sex to cope with his present situation. For example, as he fetches the last bottle of Scotch in his cache, Snowman recalls that immediately after the event, he scavenged abandoned bars and homes for alcohol and got drunk every night. In addition to managing his emotions with alcohol, Snowman also copes by thinking about sex, as when, at the end of the chapter, he indulges in a sexual fantasy about Oryx.

As Snowman interacts more with the Children of Crake, the reader also learns more about the genetic and cultural differences that separate Snowman from the Crakers. The Crakers all have perfectly formed bodies modeled on the images that used to be propagated by the advertising industry. The Crakers also have luminescent green eyes that, similar to the genetically modified rabbits, glow because of some jellyfish DNA. These details give the reader more information about what makes the Crakers so different. Whereas the genetic differences make Snowman feel like the Crakers belong to a different species, he also sees the difference as a cultural one and treats the Crakers as if they belong to a primitive tribe. For example, when the Crakers first approach him in this chapter, Snowman recalls words from an old anthropology text. The words instruct him to use culturally appropriate metaphors when communicating with “indigenous peoples,” and he dismisses the voice in his head as condescending. However, he quickly recognizes the truth of the anthropological text when he uses “toast” as a metaphor and realizes how much confusion it could cause if he tried to explain what toast is.

Despite the fact that Snowman must choose his words carefully around the Crakers, he has clearly spent much of his time with them filling their heads with tales about Crake and the origin of the world. Snowman has made up these tales himself, creating a new mythology that mixes up elements from biblical stories, Greek fables, and Norse legends. The mythology Snowman has invented demonstrates his ingenuity as a storyteller. It also indicates Snowman’s desire to interfere with Crake’s legacy. As Snowman recalls, Crake strictly rejected all notions of God and divinity, and Snowman relishes the irony of feeding the Children of Crake fictions about their godlike creator. At the same time, Snowman resents the story he’s made up, since it was he, and not Crake, who looked after the Crakers and kept them safe after the apocalyptic event. Furthermore, by deifying Crake, Snowman has unintentionally positioned himself as Crake’s servant by becoming the man’s prophet.