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Oryx and Crake

Margaret Atwood
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Summary

Chapter 8

Summary Chapter 8

The account of Jimmy’s visit to Watson-Crick introduces additional thematic material related to genetic engineering, this time specifically related to the blurry distinction between what is natural versus unnatural, “real” versus “fake.” When Jimmy saw massive butterflies flapping around the Watson-Crick campus, he suspected that they were created in a lab and assumed that this meant that they were in some way fake. For Crake, however, the distinction between “real” and “fake” is false. Despite being created by humans, these butterflies actually existed in the material world. They lived, died, and bred, just like every other species and hence must be considered real. The issue of distinguishing between real and fake returned near the end of the visit, when Jimmy expressed his feeling that the wolvogs were unnatural, since they reversed the centuries of breeding that had transformed wild wolves into domesticated dogs. Here, too, Crake dismissed Jimmy’s language of natural versus unnatural. Crake implied that the very concept of “Nature” (with a capital N) is bogus. He implied that genetic engineering represents a natural activity because it was developed by humans, who are themselves a part of nature.

Crake’s hypothesis about HelthWyzer, which he explained to Jimmy on the second-to-last night of their visit, introduces an important theme related to the immorality of corporate power. According to Crake, HelthWyzer had a fundamentally contradictory business model. On the one hand, the company sought to cure ill people and eliminate disease. And yet, if the company really achieved its aim and eliminated all diseases, then there would be no way for the company to make money. Thus, to ensure its own profitability, the company had to invent its own diseases and distribute them among the public at large. Crake’s hypothesis brings to light the contradictory logic of corporate power, which subdues the very people it relies on for revenue. Whereas Crake’s father sought to expose the immorality of corporate power, Crake himself would later capitalize on this logic to advance his own agenda, as later chapters in the novel demonstrate.