Oryx and Crake Summary and Analysis

Chapter 4

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Summary

Rakunk

Snowman realizes that a young rakunk is watching him from the bushes, listening to his musings. He thinks that if he really tried, he could tame the animal. He would finally have someone to whom he could talk. Oryx always told Jimmy to talk to her.

Jimmy’s father had given him a rakunk when he was 10. Snowman cannot really remember what his father looked like. He has a clear image of his mother in his head, but not his father. He only remembers small details—his father’s Adam’s apple, his ears, his hands. He surmises that perhaps he was never far away enough to take in the whole picture. Snowman thinks that he received the rakunk from his father as a birthday present but he cannot remember.

Snowman has locked the memories of his birthday away. He never felt that they were worth celebrating after the departure of his beloved nanny, Delores. She had always ensured that there was a birthday cake for Jimmy—complete with candles. Jimmy’s mother did not have the same attention to detail that Dolores had and frequently had trouble remembering his birthday. Jimmy’s father would always make excuses about why such an important day had slipped his mind. Afterwards, he would receive an e-card from his father and a gift that enhanced intelligence and skill, an implied request that Jimmy improve.

Jimmy immediately bonded with the rakunk, naming him Killer. Jimmy’s mother was not thrilled with the idea of a pet because she feared that she would end up with the responsibility of taking care of it. Upon being taken up to Jimmy’s room, Killer immediately made himself at home. The two fell asleep, nose-to-nose.

A few months after receiving the rakunk, Jimmy’s father changed jobs. NooSkins, another biotech company, had hired him and his assistant, Ramona. NooSkins was part of a larger company, HelthWyzer, and as such, they moved into the company’s compound. The security at HelthWyzer was much more thorough than that at OrganInc Farms. A fanatic woman had recently attacked a guard with a hot bioform and the unfortunate man had literally melted in one of the compound’s isolation rooms. The increased security made Jimmy’s mother feel even more of a prisoner than she had before.

Jimmy initially had not had many friends at school. Unlike at his old school, he stayed on campus for lunch. After he ate, he would frequently visit the library and watch educational CD-ROMS. One of his favorites, Classics in Animal Behaviour Studies, featured an intelligent, rebellious parrot named Alex.

Jimmy’s father spent a greater amount of time at work. His job involved creating new types of skin-related technologies. The end goal was to replace an old skin with a new one. Mostly geared toward aged, wealthy individuals, the new skin would offer a second chance at being young.

One evening Jimmy’s father returns from work, proclaiming success through champagne-slurred words. Jimmy hears the entire conversation through a microphone that he planted behind a kitchen clock. Jimmy’s father and his team had developed a means of growing human cortex in pigoons. Jimmy’s mother was not impressed. If anything, she appeared annoyed that pigs had been given human brains. She was convinced that the entire premise of creating such technologies was solely to rob desperate people of their money. Jimmy’s mother says that what Jimmy’s father is doing is “interfering with the building blocks of life.”

After an intense argument, one of Jimmy’s two parents walked out of the room. Jimmy sat thinking about his parents’ complete lack of knowledge about his likes and dislikes. He knew that his parents were disappointed in who they thought he was. He silently went to bed.

Hammer

Several years later Jimmy was going through puberty. Killer was his best friend. He stayed clear of his parents as much as possible. At school, he would imitate his parents’ arguments as a form of entertainment for his friends. Sometimes, if he took it too far, he would feel guilty.

One day, upon returning from school, Jimmy found a note from his mother. She had decided to leave the compound and go into hiding. In the note, she wrote that she loved him very much. Somehow, Jimmy found this hard to believe. Even harder was the fact that she had taken Killer with her.

Jimmy was heartbroken for months. He was not sure if he missed Killer or his mother more. Before leaving, Jimmy’s mother had destroyed his father’s computer, smashing it to bits with a hammer. In order to escape, she had faked a dental appointment outside of the compound. Escorted by one of the CorpSeCorps men, she was able to leave without suspicion. Jimmy tried to make sense of her departure by replaying bits of conversations he had overheard between his parents. The CorpSeCorps began questioning him about his mother’s affiliations. All Jimmy knew was that she smoked a lot.

Jimmy’s father was shaken by his wife’s actions. The security forces set their eyes on him as a potential leak. For a while, a couple of CorpSeCorps women watched Jimmy while his father was out. They searched the house for clues as toward where Jimmy’s mother had gone. In between their various searches, they would ask Jimmy more questions.

Jimmy went to counseling but he found it to be a waste of time. After a while, Ramona, the lab tech for Jimmy’s father, moved into the house. Their constant lovemaking embarrassed Jimmy. Snowman ponders how long the two had actually been together. Ramona eventually sat Jimmy down to have a conversation about her relationship with his father. She wanted to be his friend. Jimmy longed for Killer. He began to receive postcards from an unknown Aunt Monica. Jimmy knew that they were from his mother.

Upon finishing his stroll down memory lane, Snowman proclaims that “[he] is not [his] childhood.” He comforts himself by trying to remember rarely used vocabulary words.

Crake

Jimmy met Crake a few months before the disappearance of his mother. Crake stood out from his peers due to his mature nature. Unlike most of his friends, Jimmy’s mother actually liked Crake. After Jimmy’s mother left, Crake did not comment much on the situation. He simply said, “Some people needed to change.”

At the time, Crake technically was not Crake yet. He was still Glenn. He met Crake at school, where he was a new transfer from another compound. Jimmy’s teacher requested that he show Crake around the school. Intrigued by Crake’s silent nature, Jimmy wanted to know more about him. One day after school they went to one of the compound’s malls together. Jimmy was hoping that he would run into Wakulla Price, a girl he had a crush on. Instead, they spotted one of their teachers heading into an adults-only club with a man. Jimmy asked crake if he thought that the man had his hand on the teacher’s butt. Crake responded, with a very matter-of-fact tone, that it was a question of estimation. Jimmy admitted that he was not a “numbers person.” Jimmy found Crake’s sense of humor appealing.

Snowman recalls how Crake “generated awe” from both his peers and the teachers at the school. People sensed his capacity to do something, but were unsure of what.

Brainfrizz

Crake was assigned as Jimmy’s lab partner. Crake excelled at Nanotech Biochem. The duo began to hang out at lunch every day and twice weekly after school. After a few failed attempts at playing tennis, they turned to games. Crake was an intense game player. He would play until he had perfected his plan of attack. Many of the games that they played were related to war and/or the various means of destructing humankind.

Snowman tries to recall the names of prominent, classic works. He feels that he has forgotten many. A voice whispers the names of those that he has forgotten. Annoyed, he tells the voice to stop.

Jimmy and Crake began playing Extinctathon, a game that led to the formation of their codenames—Crake and Thickney—derived from two extinct Australian birds. The game required extensive knowledge of the extinction of numerous species. Crake was a huge fan of the game.

If Jimmy and Crake were not playing games, they would surf the internet together. Some of their favorite sites allowed them to watch live surgeries, animal snuffing, assisted suicides, and live executions. Crake did not believe that the executions were real; he thought they were staged for dramatic effect. Crake found the assisted suicides entertaining and would often smile while watching them take place. Other times, they would voyeuristically watch a woman named Anna K. live out her life on camera.

Snowman wonders when the body became separated from the mind and the soul. He fathoms that perhaps the body grew tired of the requirements of the mind and the soul, eventually reaching out for its own destiny.

Crake used his Uncle Pete’s private code, via a complicated hacking maneuver, to gain access to the more intensely explicit websites. Uncle Pete was never able to figure out where the charges were coming from. Crake also knew where Uncle Pete kept his skunkweed. Crake and Jimmy would smoke in silence while watching executions and porn. Jimmy would find his way home, hobbling into the house. Neither his father nor Ramona ever seemed to realize that anything was amiss.

HottTotts

When Crake’s mother was home during Jimmy and Crake’s internet entertainment sessions she would offer them snacks, never realizing what they were doing because of her belief in respecting Crake’s privacy. One afternoon, Jimmy and Crake visit a site called HottTotts. The site featured sex tourists performing acts that would be considered illegal in their home countries. On this day, the two first saw Oryx. She was only a little girl, licking whipped cream off the body of a man. Crake froze an image of Oryx looking directly at the camera and saved it. Oryx’s steady gaze made Jimmy feel guilty.

Crake prints the picture of Oryx for Jimmy. Snowman recalls having saved it over the years. He had shared the photo with Oryx many years later. Oryx denied being the girl in the picture despite Jimmy’s insistence that it had to be her. After seeing Jimmy’s disappointment, Oryx admits that perhaps it might be her in the picture. Jimmy is curious about what she was thinking in that moment. Oryx becomes exasperated with Jimmy and tells him that he wants to know everything.

Analysis

The fourth chapter features a continued shifting of voices—between Snowman, the present, and Jimmy, the past—that provides a visual manifestation of Snowman’s conflicted self. What has happened to the world is so traumatic that it has resulted in the protagonist becoming a split personality. The harder Snowman tries to dissociate himself from his past, the more it haunts him.

Snowman’s memories of his pet rakunk, Killer, demonstrate his ability to connect with animals on a more intimate level than people do. The only human individuals that he formed deep relationships with during his childhood were his nanny Delores and, later, Crake. His mother fired his nanny, as he explains. Delores’ termination further strained Snowman’s relationship with his mother.

The tension between Jimmy’s mother and father mount after his father starts working for a new company, HelthWyzer. Jimmy’s mother takes particular offense at the fact that the pigoons are genetically programmed with human cortex. Her stance provides an alternate interpretation of what is seemingly accepted by the majority of individuals. Jimmy is placed in the middle of these two disparate perspectives. His role as the sole member of the audience of his parents’ fights later affects how he himself views the world of genetic splicing.

The brusque departure of Jimmy's mother hits him hard. Because he is already unsure of whether or not she truly cared for him, his mother’s abandonment only wounds him more deeply. Jimmy’s uncertainty in knowing whom he longed for more, i.e. his mother or Killer, his pet rakunk that was liberated by his mother on her departure, provides a clear indication of the tenuous relationship that he had with his mother. Jimmy’s dysfunctional relationship with his parents provides his only, imperfect model of love.

Shortly before his mother’s escape from the compound, Crake entered Jimmy’s life. His friendship with Crake provided a much-needed escape from Jimmy’s tense home environment. For Crake, the friendship provided distraction, companionship, and a sounding board for his unconventional ideas. Jimmy and Crake’s afternoon internet explorations exposed them to a myriad number of explicit websites. On one of these websites, the character Oryx first enters. A small child performing in a pornographic video, she captures the attention of both Jimmy and Crake. The fact that her image piqued the interest of both Jimmy and Crake is the first indicator that they represent two very different, yet highly related vantage points.