Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake Summary and Analysis of Chapter 3



Snowman does not like noontime. The sun is highest in the sky and it becomes unbearably hot. Originally, he had set up a lean-to to protect himself from the sun. He had used a knife, now misplaced, to help him create the structure. He cannot remember when or how he lost the knife and remarks that he should keep better track of time. Snowman remembers that his father gave a similar multi-function pocketknife for his ninth birthday.

His father thought that giving Jimmy tools would help him develop a more practical side.

Snowman’s thoughts shift to Oryx. He had told her about the gifted knife. She had asked him if he had given his father a dollar in return for the knife. He said that he had not. Oryx believed that giving money in exchange for a knife would prevent bad luck from cutting the receiver of the knife. When Jimmy asked who had told her such a thing, Oryx simply said “someone.” Jimmy remarked that this “someone” played a pivotal role in Oryx’s life.

Returning to his memories of the lean-to, Snowman remembers the first night he slept on the cot sheltered by the lean-to’s tarp. Ants had attacked him mercilessly. To avoid this, he put the legs of the cot inside of containers filled with water. The ants did not return. However, the heat underneath the stuffy tarp was unbearable. In addition, rakunks and pigoons had visited him, which had unnerved him. So, he moved to the tree. The tarp of the lean-to was blown away during a particularly strong storm. Occasionally, Snowman uses the bed frame as a place to cool off during the unrelenting midday heat.

As he reminisces about his various sleeping arrangements, a word pops into his head: Mesozoic. He cannot remember what the word means. Snowman remarks that he finds himself more and more prone to forgetting the meaning of words. He blames his forgetfulness on the heat. The only positive aspect of the heat of noon is the fact that he loses his desire to eat.

As Snowman lays sprawled on the bed frame, he imagines a schoolteacher’s voice saying, “Let’s pretend this is a vacation!” He remembers one of his grade schoolteacher’s, Ms. Stratton. Snapping out of his muddled thoughts, Snowman realizes that he has to find better ways of passing the time. He ponders the possibility of whittling, perhaps a chess set. He used to play chess with Crake, who usually won. Of course, he cannot whittle without a knife.

His thoughts drift back to the many after-school hours he spent with Crake. At first, they would play games—Extinctathon, Three-Dimensional Waco, Barbarian Stomp, and Kwiktime Osama were some of their favorites. All of the games were based on the same strategy—envisioning where you were going before you got there. He could not whittle those types of games because they were too complicated.

Snowman ponders the possibility of writing a diary. He imagines himself in a similar situation as that of a captain with a doomed ship, frantically writing in the logbook before the ultimate demise. The only problem with writing a diary, Snowman notes, is that it assumes that there will eventually be a reader. The Crakers cannot read and any other readers exist only in the past.

Snowman is filled with happiness at the sight of a caterpillar descending toward his chest. He savors the uniqueness of the moment. He writes his inexplicable joy off to a potential vitamin deficiency. As he watches the caterpillar pause over him, a line from a long-forgotten line comes to the forefront of his consciousness: “We are not here to play, to dream, to drift. We have hard work to do, and loads to lift.” He assumes that this line comes from his junior high Life Skills class. His teacher, Snowman recalls, encouraged independence but did so with a tone so lifeless that it seemed that he no longer believed in his own lessons. The Life Skills class was not useful, as students were learning things either that they already knew or did not care to know.

Returning to his thoughts on how to best occupy his time, Snowman thinks that perhaps he should concentrate on improving his living conditions. He wonders why he has not attempted to find more food resources. Snowman wishes that he could find a cave with a source of running water. There was a creek he had once gone to go cool off, but he cannot imagine staying there for very long because the Craker children go there to play in the water. He does not want them to see him naked, as he feels self-conscious around them.

As the clouds multiply in the sky, Snowman falls asleep to thoughts of Oryx.


Loud thunder and strong winds rouse Snowman from his slumber. He quickly grabs his sheet and hops off the metal bed frame, a bad place to be in the midst of a thunderstorm. Snowman makes a beeline for his storm refuge—a pile of tires that provide protection from lightning and hail. Just as he reaches the tires, the storm slows to a stop. He walks over to a concrete slab, noting an old construction sign strewn in the sand. Taking advantage of a stream of falling water, he gulps dirty water, takes a makeshift shower, and wrings out his dirty sheet.

Snowman pours water into his empty beer bottles. He imagines that he can still smell the traces of the beer that once filled them. He chastises himself for thinking of real beer as it only serves as torture. Suddenly, he has the desire to escape. However, he is not truly imprisoned. In his frustration, he speaks to himself in a child-like voice. Unconvinced of his own performance as a child, he begins to cry.

A book in his mind encourages him to concentrate on the “realities and tasks at hand.” Snowman must have read that somewhere as he cannot imagine coming up with such a series of lines on his own. He would never come up with the phrase “pointless repinings” by himself. As Snowman wipes his face, he gets the strange feeling that someone is watching him from behind the foliage.


Snowman begins to fragment as a protagonist in this chapter. He fades in and out of reality in his thoughts, grasping for words that he cannot fully remember. Oryx is also introduced as one of the key people of the story. Her constant entry into Snowman thoughts indicates her importance to him.

Snowman is readily aware of the slow degradation of his mind. He tries to come up with ways of preserving whatever he has left. However, as this chapter demonstrates, he is left in a world that has little in terms of resources. As such, he is not only possibly the last man on earth, but he also has nothing to do. This social and physical emptiness provides ample mental space for Snowman to relive his past. It is through his memories that the story of how he arrived at his current situation is told.

Snowman’s mention of his father in the text is the beginning of a long series of antagonistic memories of his parents. The memories are so prominent for Snowman that they constitute one of the major themes of the novel. Snowman has clearly been scarred by his parents, and that damage is reflected in his inability to build profound nurturing relationships with others. His relationship with the Crakers, his only company, is a perfect example of this.

In a way, Atwood is tearing apart her protagonist. Snowman’s multiple layers are peeled away, visible for dissection by his disconnected thoughts and obsessive thought patterns. Snowman’s style of narration of his life story is a metaphor for the deconstructed, destroyed world in which he lives.

A glimmer of hope is also presented in this chapter. Snowman’s inexplicable feeling of elation at seeing the caterpillar hovering over his chest demonstrates the enduring spirit of humanity. In spite of all of the adversity he faces, the extreme loneliness, and physical discomfort, he is able to see beauty in the ugly, dilapidated world around him.