Tag Archives: Atwood

Twitter Summary

Our classes tweets varied wildly, but there were common threads throughout the live reading of the book. Much of these similarities revolved around the treatment of the characters in the novel and the believability of its world.

  • Discussion of plot device and difference in style between past and present
  • Excitement over Margaret Atwood’s direct response and more questions asked

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  • Disagreement on words that have been thrown out in the new world
  • Misunderstanding and disbelief of Oryx’s attitude towards her past
  • A very in-depth look at the education system (i.e. the focus on math and science over the humanities that we are already seeing today)
  • A lot of tweets mention the mutated and invented animals, especially pigoons, along with the desire for some of the technologies available in Jimmy’s world.

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  • Further into the book, conversation began to focus on the analysis of the minds of the characters. More specifically, the class was very interested in looking at the motivations behind Crake’s actions and why he chose Jimmy to be the lone survivor.
  • Broader questions formed about the God complex, humanity and personhood in relation to the Crakers and Snowman, and when looking at the parallels between modern society and the world depicted by Snowman’s flashbacks.

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  • There was often a lot of nitpicking at flaws in the book (both scientific and in the personalities of characters).

Overall, the story seemed to elicit a lot of coinciding responses from people, though almost everyone drew slightly different conclusions throughout the in-class discussions. For a visual map of all the tweets, follow the link below!

The Web of Tweets

Oryx and Crake Provocation

When looking at the major characters in Oryx and Crake, it seems somewhat apparent that they aren’t merely plot figures, but symbollic of greater overarching value systems. The title can be misleading in that the main conflict occurs between Jimmy and Crake, with Oryx laying somewhere in the middle ground in between the two. Though the in class discussions touched on the opposing forces of idealism and realism, along with the dichotomy of sensitivity and callous behavior towards society that Jimmy portrays versus Crake’s general pessimism, I’d like to look more in depth at this conflict especially in relation to the latter portion of the novel.

In the final parts of the book, we find Snowman trapped within the Rejoovenessence compound and simultaneously ensnared within the horrific past. As he traverses deeper into the pleeblands in this section, he travels further along in his own memories, recollecting information about the times and moments that led up to the destruction of the old world. At the beginning of Chapter 12, he focuses in on a few specific sexual encounters and can’t seem to escape his fantasies even when hurt and in danger. Snowman recalls a very intriguing comment Crake once made: “Nobody wanted to be sexless, but nobody wanted to be nothing but sex… Another human conundrum” (311). I think that this issue shows a much more grandeur importance throughout the novel than one might think, especially when analyzing the traits of the Crakers as the new human race. While Snowman has been also rendered sexless, Jimmy was the complete opposite and loved the trasient physical satisfaction he gained from sex, yet hated the implications involved with it.  The Crakers also end up sexless in a way (though they still must do it to reproduce, their is no emotional attachement with it), and where does that really leave them? They still seem to develop complex and meaningful relationships with one another, but in a manner that lacks most ulterior motives that are present today.

In recent times, sexuality has expanded in modern culture and become something essential to an individual’s personhood. For some people, it is the determining factor of their entire personality. To think that in this society, one that’s much more open, perverse, and grotesque in every way (especially sexually), Crake would render the new world sexless is incredulous. What are the implications for removing sex from the world? Are sex and love as intertwined as we may think? Is Atwood making a broader statement here about what should be done in society or is she merely attempting to point out our current confusion with infatuation and love and the vagueness surrounded with that word in particular?

Adam’s Oryx and Crake Provocation

Wow, the word that in my opinion best sums up my reaction to this last segment of Oryx and Crake. One thing that really resonated with me while reading about Crake’s enterprises is how much he reminded me of a Bond villain,specifically that of the Bond villain in the film Moonraker, in the sense that in Crake’s mind his mission is a extremely noble one and that he is ultimately in the right. I would assume that most people who read Oryx and Crake associate Crake as the antagonist in the story, but to Crake he feels that the extreme measures he takes to correct the human condition are necessary in order to make the world a better place. Crake’s perspective is best summed up in the following quote:

“The BlyssPluss Pill would also act as a sure-fire one-time-does-it-all birth-control pill, for male and female alike, thus automatically lowering the population level…Such a pill, he said, would confer large-scale benefits, not only on individual users – although it had to appeal to these or it would be a failure in the marketplace – but on society as a whole; and not only on society, but on the planet.”(471)

Excerpt From: Margaret Atwood. “Oryx and Crake.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/f5Qiz.l

In the context of the “BlyssPluss Pill” Crake rationalizes his covering up of the fourth effect of the pill, the fourth effect being that of a “one-time-does-it-all birth-control pill, for male and female alike,” because although people will be upset by the fact that they can no longer reproduce and have kids, thus  the pill would effectively “lower the population level”. By lowering the population Crake attests that this will allow for “large-scale benefits,” such as the benefit of using less resources, therefore sustaining and protecting them for future generations to come. The cruel twist to this result though is that when Crake references future generations he is referring to his creations, the Crakers. In his mind they’re perfect in the sense that they have been genetically engineered to not have any of the negative attributes associated with the human condition. The villain in Moonraker justifies killing off all of Earths population in order to repopulate it with genetically perfect humans. Crake is practically the same as he justifies tne genocide of the entire human population as necessary due to the “large-scale benefits… not only on society, but on the planet”(471). Thus, Crake concludes that humans are destroying the Earth and in order to prevent its destruction humans must be done away with. Ultimately, just like the concept in Moonraker, Crakers—genetically perfects individuals— would repopulate the Earth. I think that the anti-hero parallel between the villain in Moonraker and Crake is uncanny. In both cases, some ideas they have and opinion on things are hard not to agree with. For instance, protecting the planet is a very noble and righteous belief and stance, but some people take these noble objectives the extreme, eco-terrorists for example, thats actions do more harm than good.

Therefore, my question to the class is do you see Crake as a villain for destroying human civilization or as a hero because his actions ultimately protected the Earth from further anthropological harm?

My follow up question is do you think that extreme measures must be taken in order to solve extreme problems or conflicts such as the ones that the society in Oryx and Crake are consumed by?

Scarlett’s Oryx and Crake Provocation: What Makes a Life Worth Saving?

Something that interested me most about Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood was looking at the value that the characters in the novel put on individual lives. Oryx and Crake asks it’s reader to really consider what makes a life worth saving and as I read it I found myself struggling with my own morals in regards to living things.

It all starts with the pigoons. Early on the in the novel Jimmy is taken to OrganInc and is introduced to the pigoons. Pigoons look like pigs but contain human organs, scientists then harvest these organs and use them for transplants. On the surface it seems that the scientists at OrganInc value the Pigoons lives more than the life of a normal pig; “it was claimed that none of the defunct pigeons ended up as bacon and sausages: no one would want to eat an animal whose cells might be identical with at least some of their own.” (24). However we soon find out that the value placed on the Pigoons lives is far more to do with individual morals than overall consensus. Jimmy is upset when he finds out that Pigoon meat may be being slipped into the cafeteria food and this is one of the first things that marks Jimmy out as being potentially more morally good than some of the other characters in the novel. In direct contrast to his feelings about the pigoons Jimmy’s aversion to eating the ChickieNob’s comes from them being too far removed from a normal living being. “He couldn’t see eating a ChickieNob. It would be like eating a large wart.” (203).

Atwood continues to look at the value that the characters put on individual lives in a much more dramatic way when Crake decides to destroy almost the entire human population. Destroying every human on Earth certainly seems like a large jump from eating a few pigoons and the question of why Crake did what he did is one that looms over the entire novel. I think that Crake’s decision comes fundamentally from a place of pain. He has discovered the drug companies plans to make people ill in order to sell them drugs and he also suspects them of killing his father. It’s an extreme decision to make but by blurring the lines of morality in regards to other creatures throughout the novel, Atwood makes us slightly more sympathetic to Crake. His hatred of his species has grown so large that to him it makes complete sense to wipe them out and replace them with another.

The novel ends on a cliffhanger but one that also concerns the way that different species regard each other. The Crakers are the species in the novel closest to humans however it is unclear at first whether their lives are valued or not, and it is eventually Oryx who convinces Jimmy that their lives are worth saving;

“If Crake isn’t here, if he goes away somewhere, and if I’m not here either, I want you to take care of the Crakers.” (said Oryx).

(…)

“They are like children, they need someone. You have to be kind with them.”

(322).

After this Jimmy treats the Crakers like children, making sure they are fed and looked after. However when Jimmy discovers that there are other humans alive the question of how the Crakers and the humans will interact becomes key and Jimmy worries that the humans will not see the Crakers as lives similar to their own; “Maybe all will be well, maybe this trio of strangers is good-hearted, sane, well-intentioned; maybe he’ll succeed in presenting the Crakers to them in the proper light. On the other hand, these new arrivals could easily see the Children of Crake as freakish, or savage, or non-human and a threat.” (366).

Okay so after that very long point I do finally have some questions:

Do you think that Atwood is making an argument that all living creatures should be valued or do you think she is saying that none should be?

Do you think she is using the blurred moral lines regarding life throughout the novel to highlight our societies confused conscience when it comes to what animals we are okay with destroying and what animals we place extreme value on?

Another large theme in the novel is extinct animals. Do you think Atwood is making us look at the way we kill entire races of animals by showing us Crake’s decision to destroy the entire human race?

Provocation- Oryx and Crake

First of all I would like to say that this is one of my favorite books books of all time- and it is of course running against some tough contenders.

This is not my first time reading this book, and now of course I am picking up on things I had  missed before. Does anyone else think that Crake is responsible for uncle pete’s demise? I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure.

The thing I really want to talk about here is obsession- not Jimmy’s obsession with Oryx, but rather Crake’s fixation on jimmy.

Why does the extremely successful Crake keep coming back to (or for) Jimmy? Without Crake’s effort to keep in touch, the two would have lost contact long ago. It is partially Jimmy’s own feelings of inferiority- which colors the narration – that mind-bends the reader into thinking of Jimmy as lesser than Crake. Crake obviously does not think this way. Or rather, despite Jimmy’s numerous failings, he has what appears to be a genuine respect for Jimmy. Does Crake see Jimmy’s very well hidden but doubtless vast potential? Does he recognize Jimmy’s sarcastic genius? Or is Jimmy just one of the few people (maybe even the only person) that Crake considers his friend?

Characters aside, there are are some very interesting aspects of the future world that they live in that I find very interesting/strange.

First of all is the social hierarchy that is so different from our own. Scientists unfortunately don’t get the glory in our society. They certainly get the respect, but not to the extent that they do here. The students of Watson-Crick are considered the premier thinkers of a new world- but they are lacking in any kind of social skill whatsoever. Crake is not really an exception to this. Why have values shifted away from what they are now (entertainment, culture) to a super focus on technology?

In our world, experience and entertainment is one of the main parts of our lives- but here, such entertainment is outsourced to far away places (that are nonexistant in the eyes of the young viewers in the compound). Is the reason Jimmy and Crake watch such appalling internet programs because entertainment culture has vanished?

On another note, are Jimmy and Crake “normal” in their entertainment choices? In our world, this kind of graphic media certainly exists, but is consumed by a very small subset of people. So, even in this weird biotech-obsessed world, I don’t think that Crake and Jimmy’s choice of media is normal. It certainly is either a cause or result of many of their apathetic tendencies (I’m going to say result, but this is really an open debate).

Lastly, I want to talk about SoYummie Ice cream. Why, in this world of vast compounds and genetic engineering, is real food so rare? It would seem, from the context, that it simply became unimportant (as did the mysteriously absent entertainment industry), but in Watson-Crick it is described as a luxury. Why can’t they just grow more chickens on trees? Or better yet, why don’t they revert to the farming practices of old? they certainly don’t have moral objections.

Discussion question:

(Even though most of this post is made up of questions, I am still adding another one to the list.)


Oryx and Crake’s future world obviously does not match up with the trajectory of our society right now. So, for what purpose is the world skewed in this way? What is the message or satire here, or otherwise, why was it necessary in the story?

Cesco’s Provocation

It’s interesting how much Oryx’s perspective of her life varies from Snowman’s and Crake’s. While one can say that both Snowman and Crake are intellectuals, Snowman tends to care about intrinsic values and emotions more than Crake. Crake is practical and emotionless, at least on the surface. So much so, in fact, that he doesn’t have much of a reaction when his mother dies in front of him.

Snowman remembers how he would badger Oryx into telling him about her background and childhood. As opposed to his privileged compound life, Oryx grew up in the third-world pleeblands; a world where children were sold routinely by their parents and ended up being slaves or pornographic actors. Her view, consequently, is that she’s lucky that her life worked out the way it did and that she’s now where she is. She doesn’t hold any grudges against the people who used her as a child, and Snowman can’t understand this. This relates closely to our current socio-economic divides because it is often difficult for upper-class individuals to identify with or even see from the same perspective as the less well off. Snowman is preoccupied by the little things: finding out who these people were and exacting some sort of revenge for what was done to Oryx. Oryx, rather, remembers the situation, knows that there were many that were much worse off than her and is actively working with Crake to fix larger problems in the world.

Something I found scary was the future of the internet. We’re constantly fighting for freedom of speech, press, etc., but what happens when the demand turns to wanting to see videos of immoral, perverse and disgusting acts? At what point does there need to be a certain aspect of regulation?

Lastly, I thought the pertinence of Snowman’s career to our class was uncanny. We live in a society where advertising is king and marketing is one of the most profitable careers to go into. I think Atwood accurately portrays the qualms and successive lack of fulfillment entertained by advertisers. What do you guys think about someone who’s job it is to mislead people or instigate desires in them? It’s often seen as a glamorous job where you get products before they’re released and meet famous people, but what is the cost on the individuals psyche?

Oryx and Crake Provocation

Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake provokes a multitude of topics for discussion regarding our own society and where we are heading. One central aspect of the book, a necessary thread for its intended effect, is portraying characters with a severe lack of empathy or sensitivity in order to warn the reader about a possibly desensitized future society. For example, Jimmy publishes false words in his AnooYoo work and treats it like a game: “he’d come to see his job as a challenge: how outrageous could he get, in the realm of fatuous neologism, and still achieve praise?” (250). To an extent, this proves Atwood’s point: when reading about Jimmy’s manipulative treatment of women, his obsession with pornography, or his compulsion to lie in his writings for AnooYoo, I feel warned about people like Jimmy. In the back of my mind I am thinking of everything I can do to not become like him or to see who I know that is similar to him. However, when Jimmy and the other characters in the book are so lacking in humanity, like Crake’s distaste for Nature as a concept, I feel so drilled with the negativity of these characters that I just start to hate the characters instead of contemplate their environment. I get so busy hating Jimmy that I feel almost blinded to the commentary presented in the novel. Jimmy is definitely a product of an unfortunate situation, but I feel like it is easy to blame him for all the problems in the book instead of the world he exists in.

One aspect of our second reading of Oryx and Crake that I found really interesting and thought-provoking was the way Oryx differed from the rest of the children that had been sold into sex slavery and child pornography. When Oryx’s story is first told, I was shocked by her lack of anger or distress over the horrible things that had happened to her. When Jimmy becomes upset upon hearing about Jack’s abuse of Oryx, she replies: “‘Why do you think he is so bad?’ […] ‘He never did anything with me that you don’t do” (141). While reading this I was beginning to think that the common traumatic psychological effects of abuse were being ignored for the sake of having some sort of dream girl to be Jimmy’s love interest. However, when Jimmy’s second discovery of Oryx is told, it is revealed that her strangely positive view of her situation was abnormal for children in her same situation. Some of the other girls said they’d “been drugged,” “smuggled in container ships,” or “made to perform obscene contortions” (254). Whether they are true or not, these girls’ stories are more evident of the kind of trauma they suffered than what Oryx accounted. Compared to them, Oryx is strangely content. It is comforting to know that Atwood recognizes the true effects of abuse, and I am interested to see how Oryx develops considering her strange emotional history.

Why does Jimmy love Oryx so much? Could it be because he feels like he can fix and protect her when no one could protect him? Is it because she is beautiful? Is it because she loves him? Could it be any combination of these, or something totally different?

Oryx and Crake Provocation

As I continue to read Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, more and more of me just wants to know what happened “before”, what happened to the relationship between Jimmy and Oryx and Jimmy and Crake, why isn’t the book called Oryx and Crake and Snowman? These questions about uncovering the backstory to Snowman’s life and the backstory to Jimmy’s life probe my further reading.

 

One aspect of this book that sticks out to me is the way that The Children of Crake were materialized, showing intense planning by Crake himself to eliminate functions of humans he deemed useful. I tweeted about how I thought the way they acted was very removed, they were built logically and thus their “human” instincts removed many of the evils we know today. This is most notably shown in the way Atwood describes how The Children of Crake have sex. Crake made many “adaptations” to the human brain and body and adapted many features of other animals, such as the transformation of blue skin to symbolize arousal from baboons. This manner in which sex was regarded was much more of an “athletic demonstration” (165). This new way of reproduction thus eliminated prostitution, sexual abuse of children, sex slaves and rape, all things that are prevalent today and are hard to prevent although many efforts are present.

 

This also gives us a little clue to how the world Atwood is describing was formed. Seemingly all known humanity was wiped away and Crake manufactured a new human race built from the ground up. Taking away the unwanted features of humans and adding in adaptations from other animals “As Crake used to say, Think of an adaptation, any adaptation, and some animal somewhere will have thought of it first” (164). These designer humans display the qualities of an idea human in Crake’s mind.

 

Professor Licastro responded probing that in this logic is creativity, humanity and passion lost? I believe so. The way Crake has manufactured these humans removes the expressive nature of human life we treasure today however it seems to eliminate many unnecessary evils. This begs the question of can a balance be struck between the two? Is it possible for humans to adapt a new way of living to progress and eliminate such things as rape and sexual abuse?

#nyufyws #OryxandCrake

Here is a data visualization of our #nyufyws tweets:

http://hawksey.info/tagsexplorer/?key=0Aou5cvR4jhODdFEwWFNMRFNudTUyMzhRSW9ZaE0tdXc&sheet=oaw&mentions=true

Check out the top tweets and tweeters. Click on any node and it will show you a summary of their tweets. Click on “Replay” and it will recreate the conversation. Pretty neat right?

It is run from an archive of our tweets I have created, and automatically updates every hour. You must include #nyufyws to have your tweets included.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0Aou5cvR4jhODdFEwWFNMRFNudTUyMzhRSW9ZaE0tdXc&single=true&gid=82&output=html

Oryx and Crake – Provocation

Loneliness is repressing. And claustrophobic. In our modern world, we constantly crave attention and have hundreds of friends on Facebook and Instagram. We have a need to socialize with people because loneliness is not an option. The Snowman’s loneliness is the hardest to reconcile with. He craves human interaction and physical contact with another person. He needs to hear the voices of people and animals. In desperation, he imitates the voices of animals such as the roar of a lion to reassure himself (11). It feels like he is shouting into the void because no one can hear him. We don’t have to fear that in our world. Modern technology has equipped us to be in constant contact with people all around the world. We are not alone. But in a way, Jimmy’s loneliness still feels familiar. Our technology has certainly upgraded our level of communication, but in a way has diminished our human interaction. We mainly speak through technology. Is it possible that once we realize the importance and necessity of human interaction it might be too late?

One of the most interesting scenes in Oryx and Crake was the one on pages 31-32, where Atwood describes the separation of the Compounds and the cities. “Long ago, in the days of knights and dragons, the kings and dukes had lived in castles, with high walls and drawbridges and slots on the ramparts so you could pour hot pitch on your enemies, said Jimmy’s father, and the Compounds were the same idea. Castles were for keeping you and your buddies nice and safe inside, and for keeping everybody else outside” (32). I found this passage enlightening as it resonates with the social conditions of our time. There is a class division in society as the bourgeoisie (the business owners, CEOs, bankers) are separated from the working class (factory workers and so forth). the bourgeois society shields itself from the rebuke and protests from the working class by creating laws and rules that legalize the inequality between these two classes, acting as castles that keep these people safe. Similarly, the society in the novel is very similar as the OrganInc people deem the ‘pleeblands’ as unsafe and beneath them: “there were people cruising around in those places who could forge anything and who might be anybody, not to mention the loose change – the addicts, the muggers, the paupers, the crazies” (31).

Another thought-provoking instance in the novel is when Jimmy/Snowman’s mother condemns the OrganInc as unethical and a “moral cesspool” (64). “At NooSkins’ prices it is. You hype your wares and take all their money and then they run out of cash, and it’s no more treatments for them. They can rot as far as you and your pals are concerned. Don’t you remember the way we used to talk, everything we wanted to do? Making life better for people – not just people with money. You used to be so … you had ideals, then” (64). We can observe this terrible truth in our society as well. Our culture is based on profits and money. Big corporations such as the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry promise in their advertisements and propaganda a better life for their consumers. But they only cater to those with money. What about the poorer sections of the society who cannot afford to pay exorbitant amounts of money for these services and medications that could potentially save their lives? Everyone has a right to health and development but such corporations in their goal to earn profits stray from achieving the common good.

In addition, the environmental destruction in the world of Oryx and Crake is terrifying. I am afraid to ask, but is that where are planet is heading? Jimmy’s mother discusses how beaches and many eastern coastal cities were washed away due to the rising of the sea level. “And she used to snivel about her grandfather’s Florida grapefruit orchard that had dried up like a giant raisin when the rains had stopped coming, the same year Lake Okeechobee had shrunk to a reeking mud puddle and the Everglades had burned for three weeks straight” (72). This reminds me of our situation – the increasing global warming, carbon footprints, pollution etc., but Jimmy’s world is so much worse. Margaret Atwood shows our future in a way; how are actions impact the planet we inhabit. I love that through this fictional universe, we get a glimpse of the reality of our present and perhaps act as warning of what we shouldn’t be doing.