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Oryx and Crake Summary and Analysis

by Margaret Atwood

Chapter 14

Summary

Idol

Snowman takes as much as he can from the storage room. Anything that might be useful is pilfered—batteries, flashlights, canned food, pills, etc. As he walks out of the building through the airlock, he tries to avoid Crake’s skeletal grin staring up at him.

Before he leaves, he takes one last look at Paradice. He has already charted a way out of the complex with the help of a map. He crosses the golf course without any problems. As the sun rises in the sky, he spots vultures from above who watch him. They have more than likely noted his limp, he thinks. He shoots one pigoon on his way over to the rampart. He tries the door to a gatehouse but is unable to open it as it is locked. Eventually he reaches the pleeblands. There is no sign of life other than the vultures who continue to circle him. Shortly before noon, Snowman climbs a tree to take a break. He eats lunch and attends to his wounded, extremely painful foot. He puts a bit of antibiotic gel in the cut, but at this point, he knows that whatever has taken over his foot is likely to win. He ponders what would happen if he were to die in the tree. Would anyone notice? Would he be any different from the scores of dead that line the streets?

After a few hours of unsuccessful rest, Snowman continues onward. He is relieved when he finally reaches the pathway to his home. Although he is exhausted, he decides to visit the Crakers before resting. Afterwards, he thinks about washing up in the ocean water.

On his approach to the Crakers’ settlement, Snowman hears strange noises. As he gets closer, he realizes that the Crakers are chanting, sitting in a circle with a hideous effigy in its center. They bang on various objects to accompany the chanting. When they spot him, the Crakers break out into enthusiastic cries. They touch him and tell him that they were calling out to him in their chants. The effigy was a picture of him, made to assist their voices reach him. Snowman thought of how Crake would have disapproved of this. Crake had tried his best to eliminate the desire to create art and worship idols from the Crakers. The Crakers ask him how his journey to the sky was. Snowman is confused at first but is then reminded by the Crakers that this is where Crake lives. He tells them that Crake is in Paradice, invisible to them. Crake has turned himself into a plant, a talking tree, Snowman says. The Crakers are confused by this but are quickly distracted once they notice Snowman’s injured foot. They bring him fish and begin to purr around his foot, trying to heal it. The children are dismantling the effigy. Snowman thinks that it is almost appropriate, he too feels torn apart and scattered.

Sermon

Abraham tells Snowman that others like him came by the Craker encampment. Snowman feels a rush of adrenaline and immediately begins asking for details. They tell him that there were two men and one woman. The woman smelled as if she were fertile so the Craker men had approached her with their bright blue erect penises and song. The two human men got angry and they ran away.

Snowman wants to know if they were carrying anything notable. The Crakers tell him that they had a stick like his, a spray gun. Snowman knows that he must find these people. He gets up to leave but the Craker women object. They subject him to another round of purring in an attempt to heal his foot. He finds himself constantly on edge, wondering what the outcome of this revelation will be.

Before he leaves, he decides to give the Crakers some words of wisdom. As he ponders what to tell them, he realizes that there are so many things he cannot say. There are simply too many things that the Crakers do not understand. He decides that he will just tell them that Oryx loves them and Crake is watching over them. He feels himself being carried by the Crakers.

Analysis

As Snowman returns to his encampment by the beach, he finally sees the source of smoke that he witnessed from the watchtower. The Crakers have constructed a bonfire and an effigy. He realizes that the effigy is supposed to represent him. As the Crakers explain, they built the fire, chanted, and constructed an effigy to help Snowman return from his visit to Crake. Once again, Crake’s genetic programming has failed. Crake tried to remove all desire to worship and create. Ironically, the Crakers have grown to understand Crake as a kind of deity and Snowman as Crake’s prophet.

After Snowman arrives at the Craker encampment, the Crakers begin to take apart the effigy made in his honor. Snowman cannot help but notice the symbolism behind the deconstruction. Snowman’s slow decline, bolstered by starvation and a foot injury, has led him to feel that he does not have much time left. As each piece is removed from his makeshift image, he sees what time and circumstance has done to his body and to his mind.

Chapter 14 offers a dramatic turn of events. The Crakers tell him that they saw three of Snowman’s kind pass by. This reaffirms what Snowman learned at the watchtower over the radio, there are more humans alive. The possibilities have changed even more drastically now than they had after hearing the remote voice as these individuals are closer. Snowman is faced with a dilemma of conscious. He knows that he has promised to protect the Crakers, but what does that mean in this context? Will he have to kill his fellow man to ensure that the Crakers prosper? Would such a murderous act mean that he is fully compliant with Crake’s end goal? The revelation results in more questions than answers.

Before departing in the direction of the three humans, Snowman decides that he should leave the Crakers with some words of wisdom. After much pondering, he realizes that there is not much that he can say that will not result in confusion or further questions. He ultimately keeps it simple, choosing to reaffirm the mythology that he has created by telling the Crakers that Crake would always be watching over them and Oryx loved them. The words reference Oryx and Crake’s respective roles in the creation of the Crakers.

Interestingly enough, these final words are in direct contradiction to the plans that Crake had for the Crakers are they echo the fears Crake had about worship. Snowman’s decision to go against Crake’s plan adds to the mystery of what he will do once he encounters the humans that recently came across the Crakers.

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