Oryx and Crake

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Oryx and Crake Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Margaret Atwood
Atwood was born in Canada as one of three children. Her mother was a dietician and nutritionist and her father an entomologist. Atwood became interested in writing at a young age and eventually obtained a degree in English, French and Philosophy from the University of Toronto in 1961. She did graduate work at Harvard University, and then taught at various prestigious universities in both Canada and the US. She published her first novel, The Edible Woman, in 1969, and since then has written numerous books of poetry, nonfiction, and novels. Many of her novels have been bestsellers, including The Handmaid’s Tale, which received the first ever Arthur C. Clark award in 1987. She remains interested in feminist critique, gender roles, environmentalism, and Canadian national identity. She is a decorated author who continues to enjoy critical and commercial success. The MaddAddam Trilogy (comprising Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and MaddAddam) is being adapted into a televised mini-series by HBO. Atwood currently lives with her husband (with whom she has a daughter) in Toronto.
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Historical Context of Oryx and Crake
The turn of the 21st century marked unprecedented advances in science and technology which fueled various speculations about the future of culture. The importance and prestige of the humanities has declined as STEM fields have become more and more profitable and influential. Corporate influence over public policy has also been on the rise, and scientific research and consumer culture together have created an environment where commodification is intensifying. Atwood, who has always been a champion of the arts and an avid environmentalist, has been vocal about the risks of downplaying the importance of the humanities. Oryx and Crake is widely considered to be an extension of these efforts, an extrapolation of current trends to imagine where those trends might lead.
Other Books Related to Oryx and Crake
Oryx and Crake is the first book in the MaddAddam trilogy (books two and three are The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam, respectively). The trilogy has frequently been compared to Orwell’s 1984. Oryx and Crake notably references various 20th and 21st century “texts” that are not literary—self-help books, pharmaceutical advertising, and video and computer games—in order to point to the decline of the language arts and the displacement of literature by consumer and entertainment cultures.
Key Facts about Oryx and Crake
  • Full Title: Oryx and Crake
  • When Written: 2001-2003
  • Where Written: US and Canada
  • When Published: 2003
  • Literary Period: Contemporary / feminist
  • Genre: Science fiction /speculative fiction
  • Setting: North America, unspecified year (most likely late 21st century.)
  • Climax: Crake, after it is revealed that he has released a deadly plague, slits Oryx’s throat and is shot by Jimmy as a result.
  • Antagonist: Crake
  • Point of View: 3rd person limited; Jimmy / Snowman’s perspective.
Extra Credit for Oryx and Crake

The LongPen. In addition to being an author and activist, Atwood is also an inventor. She conceived of a remote signing device called the LongPen, which allows her to attend and perform book signings without being present. The LongPen is an actively sold and marketed product by a company Atwood founded.