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Oryx and Crake

Margaret Atwood
  • Study Guide
Summary

Chapter 9

Summary Chapter 9

Analysis: Chapter 9

Chapter 9 provides the reader with more fragments of insight into the nature of the apocalyptic event that led to Snowman’s present. In particular, the details in this chapter indicate that the event happened suddenly and caused a sense of panic among the inhabitants of the RejoovenEsense Compound. The reader knows that people must have picked up and left without much planning, both because of the trail of belongings that leads from the residences and out of the Compound, and because of Snowman’s conviction that the houses in RejoovenEsense will likely still be full of supplies. Furthermore, the fact that people clearly fled the RejoovenEsense Compound suggests that Snowman may be entering ground zero—that is, the epicenter of the apocalyptic event. Although the full details of the event will not appear until later chapters, the current chapter uses foreshadowing to build a sense of suspense for the reader.

At the same time as chapter 9 offers fragmentary suggestions about the past, it also shows Snowman thinking about the bleakness of the future. The chapter opens with Snowman wondering about what future generations might think when they examine the ruins of the former civilization. Although Snowman doesn’t make any specific conclusions about what these fictional people will think, his thoughts nevertheless suggest a bleak future. For one thing, as he wanders, he observes plant life already overtaking residential areas. This image of nature reclaiming the ruins of civilization echoes similar images from earlier in the novel, as when Snowman made note of some overgrown rooftop gardens in chapter 5. In addition to this speculation about nature’s reclamation of civilization, Snowman also recalls a point that Crake once made about how the elimination of a single generation of humans would bring an end to civilization. Even if there were survivors, there would be no effective way for them to resurrect the vast amount of complex knowledge that would have been lost. Snowman may not explicitly think about how bad the future will be, but his observations and recollections throughout the chapter nonetheless suggest a bleak outlook.

As Snowman arrives at the RejoovenEsense Compound, alone and imagining the panic of all those who once lived there, the narrative revisits the theme of Snowman’s loneliness. A strong sense of loneliness flares up both in the house where he searches for supplies and in the gatehouse where he takes shelter from the tornado. While searching the house, Snowman has an uncanny feeling that he’s in his own childhood home and that the he is child who was missing from the kid’s bedroom he found upstairs. This uncanny sensation partly relates to the fact that the apocalyptic event made Snowman an orphan, and it surfaces just after he finds an office with a stack of reference books, which make him speculate that the dead man upstairs worked in advertising. As the next chapter will make clear, Jimmy went on to have a career in advertising after graduating from Martha Graham Academy. Thus, in addition to seeing himself as the absent child, Snowman also envisions the dead man he found upstairs as a representation of a former self (i.e., Jimmy) that perished in the apocalypse.