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Oryx and Crake

Margaret Atwood
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Summary

Chapter 7

Summary Chapter 7

As he walks, Snowman also hears celebratory sounds from a Craker mating ceremony, in which four men have sex with a single woman. Crake engineered the Crakers to mate only once every three years, in a ritual designed to eliminate sexual competition. Snowman’s mind slips back to the time he visited Crake at the Watson-Crick Institute when Crake spoke about “how much needless despair has been caused by a series of biological mismatches.” Jimmy tried to convince Crake that eliminating sexual competition would also eliminate courtship behavior, which in turn provides the source of much art. Crake, however, simply concluded that art is little more than “a stab at getting laid.”

Snowman rests against a tree, feeling dejected.

Analysis: Chapter 7

Chapter 7 introduces more information about the genetic makeup of the Crakers, which further suggests just how much thought and care Crake put into his creations. More than simply representing the culmination of Crake’s research and his brilliance as a biologist, the genetic complexity of the Crakers demonstrates that Crake designed his new race knowing they would need to survive harsh, post-apocalyptic conditions. With this in mind, he gave the men the ability to repel predators via the scent in their urine, he endowed adults with the ability to purr at a healing frequency, and he altered both male and female hormone rhythms so they would only mate once every three years. All of these genetic modifications, along with the others already indicated in previous chapters, would enable the Crakers to survive in the wild, even after civilization’s collapse. The fact that Crake imbued his new humans with all of these abilities implies both that he knew some kind of apocalyptic event would bring an end to civilization and that he intended his creations to represent a new start for humanity.

Crake’s genetic designs aimed to develop new behavioral patterns that would in turn correct problems that have long plagued human societies. Most crucially, Crake changed the manner and frequency of how humans mate in an attempt to eliminate all forms of sexual competition. Eliminating sexual competition would provide two main benefits. First, it would ensure that no energy gets wasted in trying to find a mate. And second, it would prevent aggression, particularly amongst males. The revised frequency of mating provided another important though less obvious benefit. Since female Crakers only mate once every three years, the Craker tribe as a whole reproduces at a steady rate that replaces the current population without adding significantly to their overall numbers. And without a rapidly expanding population, there would also be no need to dramatically expand the size of their territory. Crake’s therefore aimed for his new breed of human to avoid the kind of overpopulation that had previously overburdened the planet and exhausted its limited natural resources.

The conversation between Crake and Jimmy that appears at the end of the chapter introduces a new theme about the fundamental difference between Crake as a “number guy” and Jimmy as a “word guy.” When Crake first told Jimmy his theory about sexual competition and the “needless despair” it causes, Jimmy saw that Crake’s perspective posed a threat not just to his own sexuality but also to his interest in art. Whereas Crake hadn’t shown much interest in sex, Jimmy had felt drawn to women and curious about sex since his high school days. Crake may not have seen why anyone would want to spend their energy on courtship, but that was precisely what Jimmy focused much of his own energy on. But in addition to threatening the pleasure of courtship behavior, Jimmy recognized that Crake’s theory also posed a threat to art. Reasoning that much art begins from thwarted desire, Jimmy concluded that eliminating sexual competition would also eliminate the need for art. That is, if no one knew what it felt like to be a spurned lover, then no one would be able to connect with the basic emotional message that drives artistic creation.