He too is a castaway of sorts. He could make lists. It could give his life some structure.
But even a castaway assumes a future reader, someone who'll come along later and find his bones and his ledger, and learn his fate. Snowman can make no such assumptions: he'll have no future reader, because the Crakers can't read. Any reader he can possibly imagine is in the past.
This passage provides the first insight at the level of isolation that Snowman is experiencing. Although the Crakers keep him company, their existence is so different from his that he cannot take true solace in their company. Moreover, Snowman is struggling with purpose. Besides caring for the Crakers, he cannot seem to find meaningful tasks to occupy his time. To a certain extent, everything seems futile.
"I am not my childhood," Snowman says out loud. He hates these replays. He can't turn them off, he can't change the subject, he can't leave the room. What he needs is more inner discipline, or a mystic syllable he could repeat over and over to tune himself out.
"Hang on to the words," he tells himself. The odd words, the old words, the rare ones. Valance. Norn. Serendipity. Pibroch. Lubricious. When they're gone out of his head, these words, they'll be gone, everywhere, forever. As if they had never been.
The novel focuses on various flashbacks that Snowman has during his rather dull existence living as the Crakers' keeper. It is in this part of the text that the reader realizes how important language has become to Snowman. Even before his isolation, he had a penchant for words. Now, words are the only thing he has. All of his friends are gone and he is the only "natural" creature in the midst of numerous genetically spliced, manmade animals.
In addition, this paragraph shows Snowman's attempts to distance himself from his past. He does not want to exist entirely in yesterday's world. However, in many ways this is all that he has left.
"Why don't we use a real set?" Jimmy asked one day when they were doing some chess. "The old kind. With plastic men." It did seem weird to have the two of them in the same room, back to back, playing on computers.
"Why?" said Crake. "Anyway, this is a real set."
"No it's not."
"Okay, granted, but neither is plastic men."
"The real set is in your head."
This passage allows the reader to obtain a glance at the logic that drives Crake's opinions. Crake offers Jimmy an alternate version of reality, one that is not based on simple tangibility but is rooted in what could be visualized. In other words, for Crake the simple act of envisioning a scenario gave it the possibility of being real. This short passage foreshadows Crake's future actions in the creation of a new species of humanoid beings. Crake's genius allows him to bring anything he creates mentally into the tangible world.
"Do you think they're really being executed?" [Jimmy] said. "A lot of them look like simulations."
"You never know," said Crake.
"You never know what?"
"What is reality?"
Crake's obsession with questioning the nature of life is prominently featured in this passage. He does not believe in reality being limited to what can currently be seen. He thinks that reality can be expanded to that which can be envisioned. The act of thinking is the birth of something becoming real. This sentiment is the driving force behind Crake's mission to improve life on earth.
Now he can feel Oryx floating towards him through the air, as if on soft feathery wings. She's landing now, settling; she's very close to him, stretched out on her side just a skin's distance away. Miraculously she can fit onto the platform beside him, although it isn't a large platform. If he had a candle or flashlight he'd be able to see her, the slender outline of her, a pale glow against the darkness. If he put out his hand he could touch her; but that would make her vanish.
Snowman's hallucinations of Oryx indicate not only his level of loneliness, but also his slow descent into mental instability. Oryx is his most common "visitor" from the past. This could be attributed to his strong emotional connection to her and the traumatic way in which she was murdered. In particular, this passage shows how strong Jimmy's memories are of Oryx, but how intangible she remains to him in death.
"So I learned about life," said Oryx.
"Learned what? said Jimmy. He shouldn't have had the pizza, and the weed they'd smoked on top of that. He was feeling a little sick.
"That everything has a price."
"Not everything. That can't be true. You can't buy time. You can't buy... " He wanted to say love, but hesitated. It was too soppy.
"You can't buy it, but it has a price," said Oryx. "Everything has a price."
"Not me," said Jimmy, trying to joke. "I don't have a price."
Wrong, as usual.
This passage reflects the nature of the society in which the protagonists live. The economy of the world is extremely market driven as everything is for sale. Snowman takes issue with this reductivist approach to life as it rounds things to the lowest common denominator. An advocate of the power of words, Snowman believes that some things cannot be reduced to a simple numerical value.
Snowman realizes over time that although his personal beliefs might differ, he lives in a world that is largely driven by capitalist motivations.
Jimmy let them labor away on him. It cheered them up, it made them feel useful. It was touching, the lengths to which they would go. Would this make him happy? Would this? Well then, how about i[this]? But he took care never to get any less melancholy on a permanent basis. If he were to do that they'd expect a reward of some sort, or a result at least; they'd demand a next step, and then a pledge. But why would he be stupid enough to give up his grey rainy-day allure-- the crepuscular essence, the foggy aureole, that had attracted them to him in the first place?
Jimmy's defunct relationship with his mother haunts him years after her disappearance. He struggles with connecting to women. Most of the time, as demonstrated in this passage, he finds them to be a type of game. Instead of getting pleasure out of being with another person, he finds satisfaction in their misconceived notions of how they might be helping him.
"Now, suppose you're an outfit called HelthWyzer. Suppose you make your money out of drugs and procedures that cure sick people, or else-- better-- that make it impossible for them to get sick in the first place."
"Yeah?" said Jimmy. Nothing hypothetical here: that was what HelthWyzer actually did.
"So, what are you going to need, sooner or later?"
"What do you mean, after that?"
"After you've cured everything going."
"So, you'd need more sick people. Or else-- and it might be the same thing-- more diseases. New and different ones. Right?"
"Stands to reason," said Jimmy after a moment. It did, too. "But don't they keep discovering new diseases?"
"Not discovering," said Crake. "They're creating them."
This revelatory passage lets the reader in on the big secret that drives the dominance and superiority of the pharmaceutical companies. Instead of finding cures for extant diseases, the companies create new bugs in order to keep market demand high. The greed demonstrated by the companies is part of the reason why Crake wants to reinvent the world.
Anyway, maybe there weren't any solutions. Human society, corpses and rubble. It never learned, it made the same cretinous mistakes over and over, trading short-term gain for long-term pain. It was like a giant slug eating its way relentlessly through all the other bioforms on the planet, grinding up life on earth and shitting it out the backside in the form of pieces of manufactured and soon-to-be-obsolete plastic junk.
This passage comes from a reflection made by Jimmy after a conversation with his girlfriend Amanda's roommates. Her roommates are forward-thinking, feeling that humanity needs to change its course to avoid destruction. There is much truth to Jimmy's thoughts, more than he realizes at that moment.
"Immortality," said Crake, "is a concept. If you take 'mortality' as being, not death, but the foreknowledge of it and the fear of it, then 'immortality' is the absence of such fear. Babies are immortal. Edit out the fear, and you'll be..."
In this passage, Crake explains his alternate interpretation of the concept of immortality. This understanding of immortality drives Crake’s vision for the Paradice Project. The Crakers’ existence is shaped by Crake's quest to achieve a corporal manifestation of his version of immortality.
Oryx and Crake Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Oryx and Crake is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Glenn, renamed Crake during the playing of Extinctathon, is Jimmy's peer and best friend. He is a brilliant student and spends most of his time living in a world of ideas. After high school, he attends the prestigious Watson-Crick Institute where...