Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
How it works
Margaret Atwood’s novel Oryx and Crake is about a man named Snowman, formerly known as Jimmy, who lives in a realistic dystopian world rid of humans. He is left to care for a new species deemed “Crakers” by Crake, the super genius behind the BlyssPluss pill, which turned out to be a terrible plague that wiped out the entire population. Atwood’s intentions when creating Crake was to use the Crakers “nonhumanness” as a way to use Crake and RejoovenEsense as a powerhouse over the masses. The name of Crake’s compound, RejoovenEsense, the place in which had a monopoly in the medicine distribution all over the world. The BlyssPluss pill was created by Crake, advertised by Jimmy and were suppose to give the consumer protection for all STDs, give an “[..] unlimited supply of libido and sexual prowess, coupled with a generalized sense of well-being, thus reducing the frustration and blocked testosterone that led to jealousy and violence, and eliminating feeling of low self-worth”(Atwood 293) and lastly it would prolong a person’s youth.
But this pill did not do any of what was promised by Crake and RejoovenEsense. We are also given hints as to how RejoovenEsense was not what they said they were. In the title, we see that the first part, “Rejooven” is an obvious corruption of the term rejuvenate which, according to one Merriam-Webster dictionary definition, means, “to restore to an original or new state.” The second half of the title is a corruption of the word essence, meaning “ the individual, real, or ultimate nature of a thing especially as opposed to its existence,” (Merriam-Webster). In one interpretation of the title, the interpreter could be any of the millions of people who live and work outside of the RejoovenEsense compound.
How it works
These people would, therefore, have no information about the projects going on inside other than the fact that the compound manufactures the BlyssPluss pill and that they are working on making certain genetic modifications available for prospective parents. Here, it is the BlyssPluss pill, in particular, that is of interest because, in a sense, the pill does restore users back to a more natural state by increasing their libido. A person with this information would, therefore, assume that the name RejoovenEsence refers to the BlyssPluss pill and that the goal of the compound is to renew mankind’s health and youth, eventually discovering the secret to immortality through this path. This is a more small-scale and self-centered interpretation of the compound name, and one that Crake would secretly know is incorrect. However, it is highly likely that he intentionally choose a name that would mislead people into interpreting it this way, without sacrificing the chance to give the compound a name that heralds his true mission.
Freud Sigmund’s Psychoanalysis comes to play here as Crakes Ego and Superego are deeply reflected onto his choice of eradicating mankind. He believes that God is nothing more than “a cluster of neurons,” (Atwood 157) and that art is, “An empty drainpipe. An amplifier. A stab at getting laid,” (Atwood 168), and these claims make Crake seem like someone who doesn’t value the humanities enough to want Jimmy to pass them onto the Crakers. According to Crake, the humanities are toxic. He clearly has his own interpretation on humanity in which later causes his to act on his Superego and bring upon destruction to the world. Later on in the novel, we see how Crake inadvertently became God by his best friend Jimmy. Crake created a species which replaced humans as a way to cleanse all sin that had been done by humans such as overconsumption, overpopulation and even religion.
One of the changes Crake made when creating the lifeforms to essentially replace human beings with, the Crakers, was giving them the digestive system of a rabbit as a practical solution to the scarcity of food, a problem created by the large populations of mankind. A second change he made, as another solution to overpopulation and the problems that result from it, was to give the Crakers a mating ritual similar to that of a baboon, so that children are no longer being born every day since, “Crake had worked out the numbers, and had decreed that once every three years per female was more than enough,” (Atwood 169), thus creating a more controlled population. These types of solutions are the ones Crake excels at finding. When there is a problem with obvious and far-reaching consequences, such as overpopulation or food scarcity, Crake takes from other animals and splices a new strand of DNA into the Crakers and, voila, the problem is no more. On the other hand, Crake laments not being able to “fix” the things he believes were the beginning of the end for mankind, like art and religion.
This leads us to the one, seemingly out-of-character decision Crake makes. Rather than ensuring mankind’s complete obliteration, he chooses to immunize his best friend, Jimmy, so there is someone left behind to care for his genetically-engineered humanoid creatures, the Crakers. The problem is that now his Superego is starting to conflict on or starts to size up against everything else Crake has said and done up to this point in the novel, is that letting Jimmy live is as good as foiling his own plans. From this point onward we now see Jimmy as a walking treasure trove of everything that Crake has tried so hard to eliminate from the Crakers. Jimmy is an artist, a manipulator of words, and a kind soul. His values are presented as the polar opposite of Crakes.
And, as we have already begun to see long before reaching this point in the novel, Jimmy’s presence among the Crakers leads to their learning the very things Crake wanted to eliminate. Namely, religion, although secondarily, art. The biggest example of both these things is shown when Snowman returns to the Crakers village after looting RejoovenEsense, “Snowman longs to question them— who first had the idea of making a reasonable facsimile of him, of Snowman, out of a jar lid and a mop?” (Atwood 361). The purpose of this “reasonable facsimile” was to summon Snowman, as the Crakers inform him, the way one might summon a deity in certain religions. The overarching element presented in Oryx and Crake was the Crakers. They were the driving point which then shaped the way we saw Crake and RejoovenEsense were the ones who had total power over everyone in one way or another and ultimately ended civilization to create a new one, a new kind in where Crake desired for the Crakers to live harmoniously without the interference of war or social cultures.