Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake Summary and Analysis of Chapter 11



Snowman wakes from a nightmare. At first, he is disoriented, but he soon remembers that he is in the gatehouse. He hears a noise coming from the corner. Squinting in the darkness, he sees a land crab emerging from the shadows. Snowman carefully looks around before getting out of the chair—he is weary of other animals that may have also chosen to wait out the storm in the gatehouse. He walks to the outer door of the gatehouse to gaze at the grey sky. He is hungry but knows that he will have to wait to eat. He has to make it to the central mall first. Just as Snowman sets out in the direction of the mall, he is confronted by seven pigoons.

They approach him slowly, watching him with penetrating eyes. He glances to his other side only to see an even larger group of pigoons. He is cornered. He turns around, runs back to the gatehouse, and shuts the door behind him. The door does not latch because it is electronic. Without power, he is unable to secure himself. Snowman knows that the pigoons will be able to open the door with little effort. He runs through the gatehouse searching for a hideout. He hears the pigoons entering the building. Snowman is sure that the pigoons will wait him out if they cannot open the door. After placing a desk against the door, he realizes he has cut his foot. He stands in the center of the back room, searching for a solution.


Snowman stands from the chair and begins to search the inner room. He tries the three doors in the room. Luckily, one opens. He glances up the flight of stairs behind the door and realizes that the pigoons will not be able to climb the steps. With a great sense of urgency, he runs up the stairs. He emerges from the stop of the staircase to find the watchtower.

Snowman is pleasantly surprised to find two cots, an alarm clock, a cigarette pack, a toilet tank full of water, and various other sundries. He takes out a cigarette and searches for his plastic bag. Snowman realizes that he probably dropped the bag in his hasty climb up the stairs. He returns to the stairwell and sees the bag halfway down the steps. He carefully climbs down and stretches out his hand to grab the bag. Just as he does so, something lunges at him. The pigoons were baiting him with his bag.

In the watchtower kitchenette, Snowman finds a few edible items. He drinks half a bottle of beer with some of the snack foods he has found. As he continues his search of the room, he finds a wind-up radio. He cranks it up and searches the stations. In the midst of much white noise, he hears a voice speaking what he believes to be Russian. Then, he hears a faint voice in English calling out to any potential listeners. In his excitement, he struggles to remember how to send a message. He shouts into the radio, affirming his presence. Unfortunately, nobody responds. Snowman is elated because this brief encounter has changed his world.


Snowman finally attends to his foot wound. He removes the sliver of glass from his foot and washes the cut with some of the beer. He finds a tube of expired antibiotic ointment and slathers it on his cut. He worries about what germs may have entered his wound during his escape through the littered floor of the gatehouse.

He watches the sunset from the tower windows. The pigoons look almost like toys from above. As night falls, he lies down on one of the cots. Snowman cannot fall asleep because of the stuffy heat. He lights a candle and studies some sex-site printouts that he found earlier in the day. Instead of being attracted to the images of the women, he feels dismay.

That night Snowman dreams of his mother. To be exact, he dreams of her absence. His heart is thumping in his ear when he awakes. He remembers his mother’s arms.

The alarm clock wakes him with a seductive female voice saying, “Rise and shine.” Snowman worries about the Crakers. They have been alone three days now. He cleans himself up, checks his foot, boils some water, and eats. He puts on some of the clothing that he has found in the room and prepares himself for his escape.

At first, he tries breaking the kitchen window. When that fails, he moves on to the air vent. He squeezes himself through the tiny opening and drops down to a rampart. Snowman scolds himself for having forgotten the radio. He walks along the rampart toward the mall. At the third watchtower, a cloud of smoke in the distance catches his attention. It’s coming from near the Craker encampment. He is confused by the large fire that seems to have resulted in the large smoke cloud. He eats part of a Joltbar, hydrates, and continues onward. Each time he looks back, the smoke is still there.


The theme of the nature of Nature is addressed in chapter 11 as Snowman tries to escape from the human cortex containing pigoons. Snowman is essentially trying to outsmart a creature that thinks more like a human and less like a pig. Transformed into hunters, pigoons are more similar to predatory humans than prey swine. The change in mental capacity provided to the pigoons demonstrates an important point about human nature in the novel. Humans in Oryx and Crake have created their own worst enemies. In their attempts to better the world, they have only set themselves up for disaster by modifying the environment to the point that it has become hostile not only for lesser creatures, but for all creatures.

In trying to outwit the pigoons, Snowman must logically think about what they might do given their mental and physical capacities. In this particular situation, both Snowman and the pigoons have physical limitations. Snowman has injured his foot and the pigoons, due to their short leg length, are unable to climb the stairs to the top of the watchtower. What follows is a stalemate, ended only with Snowman’s thorough analysis of all options of exit. For Snowman, this minor victory reinforces his position of intellectual superiority to the pigoons. Before he had determined a solution to his plight, he was at the mercy of the pigoons. They had outsmarted him.

Snowman’s strategic competition for success against the pigoons is amplified by another feat of human ingenuity. For the longest time, Snowman had thought that he was the only human alive. While searching the radio waves for any sign of life, he hears a voice. The presence of another human changes Snowman’s world. The possibilities are now limitless. This small revelation gives him an exit from his depression and provides him with additional encouragement to continue onward.

The last portion of chapter 11 addresses the nature of the Crakers. Crake, as mentioned before, had attempted to remove all capacity for art and creativity in the Craker gene pool. As Snowman continuously documents, Crake was unsuccessful in this quest. As Snowman is exiting the watchtower, he notices smoke billowing in the horizon from the location of the Craker encampment. This change in their behavior confuses him. Although he has witnessed minor tendencies toward innovation amongst the Crakers, this is the first true deviation from normal behavior.

The content of chapter 11 tells the story of many inversions of behavior. The pigoons, perhaps working off their human cortex-influenced brains, have lost their fear of humans and have turned into hunters. Snowman realizes that he is not alone in the world; a revelation that opens many doors he did not even know existed before. Finally, the Crakers show signs of innovation that they were not supposed to have. It appears that no matter how much the “nature” of a being is tweaked through genetic modification, the true nature of beings is to adapt to their environments.