Oryx and Crake and Adam and Eve

ENGL 4110 “Commonplace Book” Entry 7

Oryx and Crake is one of Margaret Atwood’s lesser-known works, but it tells a haunting tale — what if the world really were to end?

The story opens in Snowman’s present-tense narrative, where the reader learns that Snowman is supposedly the last of his kind, a lone survivor of some catastrophic event. He lives on the beach and sleeps in a tree, and the only other life includes the Children of Crake and the strange animals (Children of Oryx). They worship him in a way because they believe he speaks with Crake and Oryx. Snowman struggles to find food and supplies, so one day, he decides to set off to the RejoovenEsense Compound, where he hopes he can scavenge.

Scattered throughout these first chapters, flashbacks are recorded in past tense, teaching the reader more about Snowman’s past life before the world-ending event. We learn that he lived in a “safe” compound, went to school, met Crake, and eventually learned Oryx’s backstory as well.

One scene strikes me in particular:

“Snowman, tell us please about the deeds of Crake.”

A story is what they want, in exchange for every slaughtered fish. Well, I owe them, Snowman thinks. God of Bullshit, fail me not.

“What part would you like to hear tonight?” he says.

“In the beginning,” prompts a voice. They’re fond of repetition, they learn things by heart.

“In the beginning, there was chaos,” he says.

“Show us chaos, please, oh Snowman!”

“Show us a picture of chaos!”

They’d struggled with pictures, at first — flowers on beach-trash lotion bottles, fruits on juice cans. Is it real? No, it is not real. What is this not real? Not real can tell us about real. And so forth. But now they appear to have grasped the concept. (Page 102)

If Crake is “God,” Snowman is their prophet. They obey him in return for knowledge, leading the reader to assume the Children are as clueless as we are.

The first line of his story, “In the beginning,” is famous too —the first line of the Bible, furthering the theme of religion and the concept of creation.

Additionally, chaos is not normally something to be excited about. This insinuates that either the Children of Crake do not know chaos, or perhaps they have never known anything else.

If you didn’t have a chilling feeling about this book before, I hope you do now.

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