Books and Movies Reviews

Oryx and Crake

Margret Atwood’s: Dominance of Reality Through Consumption in Oryx and Crake The human species has defined itself as one driven towards consumption and exploitation of natural resources. Our rapid evolutionary success and our seemingly relentless appetite for advancement, and utilization, have developed many associated problems, one such problem being the issue of reality. For the purpose of this essay, reality will be defined as “The state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them” and consumption shall be defined as ‘the action of using up a resource” (Oxford

University Press). Population growth rates are remaining stagnant globally, and in the United States there’s has been a decline of a mere three hundredth percent, as released by the World Bank in two thousand eleven. (World Bank Statistics Center) Adding to our success, since the industrial revolution life expectancy rates have increased exponentially. (Silvers, Desnoyers, and Stow 802) As a result we are consuming resources at a rate that is not renewable, or feasible for the future. It is plausible that we will have to rely on scientific advancement to sustain our species.

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The novel, Oryx and Crake, written by Margaret Atwood, displays the aftermath of these events as an overpopulated earth advances to meet our needs. In this essay I will examine how human consumption could create a world of false reality, as developed in the main theme of the novel, Oryx and Crake. Through the juxtaposition of the main characters in the novel, Jimmy and Crake, we see a conflict ensue between the use of science to satisfy human needs, represented by Crake, and the associated problem of reality, represented by Jimmy.

Through Jimmy, Atwood indirectly rgues that scientific advancement has created a world of false reality, and could eventually lead to society’s failure by its own hand. Jimmys underlying focus on the arts led him to believe that the society in which he lived was not that of reality, but one manufactured by man. Jimmy constantly questioned his surroundings; “is it real…? ” (Atwood 269) became a reoccurring theme. Over a game of virtual chess one day Jimmy asked, “why don’t we use a real set, the old kind with plastic men? ” To which crake later responded, “the real set is in your ead. (Atwood, 93) These seemingly insignificant debates among friends, proved to be a microcosm of the problems apparent in our modern society. Atwood has drawn to attention the idea that the world in which we live is no longer real, and developed it as the main theme in her novel through characterization. Martin Heidegger, in his analysis of human development, proposed that we as a society appropriate entities in order to dominate them, and that our culture built upon a technological dependence has evolved an ideal of self importance (125).

This endless consumption, and appropriation, addressed by Heidegger, is demonstrated throughout the novel mostly through bioengineering. Between the exploitation of resources, and JimmVs futile questioning of its authenticity, the theme of how consumption can lead to a false reality becomes clear. In contrast to Jimmy, the scientifically gifted Crake further develops the theme of consumption and reality. Crake’s overpowering obsession with questioning the nature of human life leads him to the belief that reality can neither be created or destroyed, and that it only exists within the realms of ones mind.

His arguments with Jimmy are consistent and concrete; they represent the side of our society primarily focused on advancement without consequence. While watching a series displaying live executions in their youth, Jimmy and Crake again engage in conversation about reality. “Do you really think they are being executed? ‘ said Jimmy “You never know. ” said “You never know what? ” ‘What is reality? ” (Atwood, 101) Crake like many modern intellects does not believe reality is tangible.

And although he reinforces his point time and again, Atwood indirectly counters this rgument when Crake destroys the human population via a manmade disease, and replaces people with his own version of the human, less sophisticated and, according to Crake, more successful. But is this new superhuman species real? This is the question in which Atwood calls upon the reader to answer. Perhaps the species is real in the sense that it breathes, eats, reproduces, defecates, and will eventually die.

But Atwood would likely argue that they are no more real than a fish that glows in the dark, pigs injected with growth hormones, and other modern day creations. They are merely a demonstration of our power, an exercise in human influence and exploitation on a global scale. Through such domination we have blurred the line between reality and illusion, and Atwood expresses this, and brings it to the forefront in her main theme in Oryx and Crake.

Outside of characterization, Atwood further displays her main theme of consumption and reality, through unethical abuse of animals. These bioengineered creatures are created, modified, and perfected through human development. In theory, and actuality in the novel they are created to serve the people. They supply this society with food, essential organs, and any other resources that could possibly be extracted, and do so without reciprocation.

These creations are tangible, and can be consumed, but they do not think, analyze, or experience feeling such as modern day animals. In light of Attwood’s theme, are they real? In Raymond Anthonys article on building a sustainable future, he presents the idea that we as a society are “chasing disburdenment for its own sake, we have inadvertently embraced the view of the human being as the human doing mechanically consuming without reflecting on limits and harms done to thers. ” (par. 19).

In collaboration with Anthony, it can be said that eventually nothing will remain for consumption. This impending resource extinction will lead to a situation where the bioengineered species of Atwood’s novel become an imminent reality, and the line between reality and illusion will become less defined. The human species appears to have an endless capacity for knowledge, but often we do not consider the impact that our advancement can have. Whether the effects are agricultural, environmental, or societal, they are ever present as e peruse the unknown.

One of the important repercussions of our consumption is the division of reality and illusion, to which Margaret Atwood draws on and expresses, in her main theme in Oryx and Crake. In one of Martin Heidegger’s earlier works on metaphysics, the philosopher proposed the idea that, “Being has entered into the light. Being has arrived in a state of 4) This interpretation of reality helps to propose the question represented in Atwood’s theme, is reality only present in a specific situation, where we have been exposed to something visibly tangible?


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