Oryx and Crake

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Oryx and Crake Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Pleebcrawl. Snowman is limping because of his injured foot, and is making poor time. At the height of day he must find shade and rest until the heat breaks. His own voice speaks in his head. “Why didn’t he leave me alone?” He reassures himself that he’d never really meant to hurt anyone.
Snowman’s infection appears to be worsening. In a kind of delirium, he once again expresses regret and guilt over his participation in whatever horrors Crake committed. Yet in blaming Crake he also disavows his own responsibility in what happened. He is being passive now even as he was when allowing himself to work for the corporations in the past.
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One Saturday, Jimmy is lying in his bed in the AnooYoo compound. He is unmotivated and depressed. Someone rings his doorbell and he tells whomever it is to go away. Crake responds—Jimmy realizes Crake is the only person he wanted to see. Crake has passes to visit the Pleeblands, which means he must be very important. He tells Jimmy he wants to go out bar hopping in the pleeblands with him. Before they leave Crake injects Jimmy with a cocktail of medicines that are meant to immunize Jimmy against diseases common in the pleeblands.
Crake appears shortly after Jimmy’s mother’s death (coincidentally—or maybe not so coincidentally—he arrived in Jimmy’s life just before her disappearance) and Jimmy is so grateful for the presence of someone he believes to be a true friend he willingly goes out with Crake. The injection Crake gives Jimmy seems a precaution against diseases found outside the compounds—but in fact it will save him from a more dangerous virus made inside in the compound.
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Jimmy has only ever seen the pleeblands from the window of a bullet train and is nervous at first. He is comforted when he realizes the inhabitants of the pleeblands are not the mentally deficient criminals compounders make them out to be. Jimmy and Crake wander around “New New York” and notice all of the RejoovenEsense products for sale. Crake tells Jimmy the whole trip is on him. They get drinks, dinner, and buy services from various prostitutes. The next morning Jimmy vaguely remembers Crake telling him about a job for Jimmy at RejoovenEsense, and thinks he must have accepted.
We finally get to see what the pleeblands are really like. Even outside of the compounds, the corporate presence is undeniable. Many of Crake’s company’s products are on the shelves. Jimmy accepts a job from Crake, but can barely remember doing so. This again suggests that Jimmy has very little agency or control—that he is at the mercy of Crake’s manipulation (a manipulation that relies on Crake’s genius and his ability to sell ideas), though it also certainly says something about Jimmy’s knack for finding ways to avoid responsibility.
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BlyssPluss. When Jimmy returns to AnooYoo on Monday, several higher-ups congratulate him on his new job. His mistresses have already been informed of his departure, and have sent him sorrowful goodbye emails. Jimmy realizes Crake has a long reach and must be quite powerful.
The power of Crake and his corporation begin to sink in. Jimmy’s bosses, previously ambivalent about him, come out of the woodwork to congratulate him. Crake has obviously been keeping tabs on Jimmy.
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The RejoovenEsense compound is the most beautiful compound Jimmy has ever seen. Crake gives him a tour of the facilities and takes him out to lunch. Crake tells Jimmy he’s been working on a product called “Paradice”—and that the product is immortality. Jimmy asks for more detail. Apparently it doesn’t involve cryogenics or any kind of deep freezing. Crake says the research budget is many millions of dollars.
Selling immortality is not a new concept in this world—other corporations have already tried various methods of offering people longer life (even infinitely longer) through science. Crake has managed to get virtually unlimited funding for his project—immortality is worth a great deal of money.
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Within Paradice, Crake explains, there are two initiatives. One is the BlyssPluss pill, which is designed to eliminate most causes of unnecessary death by protecting the user from sexually transmitted infections, increasing stamina and libido to end sexual frustration and therefore (in Crake’s belief) put a stop to all violent crime, and, finally, prolong youth. The pill would also be a contraceptive, depriving men and women of their fertility, but this would not be advertised. The sterilization would solve the problem of overpopulation, and lead to greater freedom and happiness, says Crake. Jimmy says this is sterilizing people without their consent, and Crake calls that a “crude way of putting it.”
We learn Crake’s justification for his work. He believes the BlyssPluss pill is a solution to human suffering—and it does seem to offer some pretty great benefits! Yet it also essentially involves a tremendous secret scientific experiment on a large and unknowing swath of the population. It is a case of Crake, through science, playing god—determining what is best for other people, for the rest of the world. Crake doesn’t think this is a problem. In his view, mass sterilization will solve overpopulation, and is therefore a good thing despite it being done to people without their knowledge. He rejects Jimmy’s ethical questions as “crude”—which we can assume he means “unscientific.”
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The more Jimmy thinks about it the more he thinks he could use a pill like this one, but stops short of saying so to Crake. He agrees with Crake that the pill would become a must-have all over the world; that it would be irresistible. Jimmy asks where Crake is going to get his test subjects, and Crake smiles as he tells him they will test it in poorer countries. “Pay them a few dollars, they don’t even know what they’re taking.” He will distribute the drug to sex clinics, whorehouses, prisons, and anywhere there was a good supply of desperate people. When Jimmy asks how he fits into this project, Crake tells him that he is in charge of the advertising campaign.
Not only is Crake selling the pill without disclosing all of its effects, he is testing it on communities who are too poor, desperate, or troubled to think twice about accepting money to test a new drug. We see Jimmy’s conviction wane, though—he acknowledges the pill will be wildly popular, and even feels like he wants to try it for himself. What’s more, Jimmy finds out he will be complicit in Crake’s unethical distribution of the pill—he will in fact write the advertisements for it.
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MaddAddam. After lunch Crake and Jimmy go to Paradice. It is located in an air-locked dome that is basically impenetrable. The employees are wearing nametags with the names of extinct animals on them. Crake explains that everyone who works in Paradice is an Extinctathon grand master. They are geniuses with genetic splicing, and had previously been using their skills to introduce damaging microbes and viruses into corporate biological products. Crake had won them over by explaining they’d be much safer working inside a corporation than outside, where the CorpSeCorps men would be looking for them. Crake intimates that certain employees had failed to integrate smoothly, and had been eliminated. Jimmy doesn’t ask him to explain.
Crake has absorbed members of a rebellious, anti corporate group into his project—taking advantage of their skill and intelligence while at the same time neutralizing the threat that they pose. He has consolidated his power in a big way. The irony of their being named after extinct animals, while (unknowingly) working towards the extinction of humankind, is painfully deep. What’s more, Crake suggests he has killed or harmed employees who have opposed him—this is a startling and horrifying suggestion, but Jimmy once again refuses to engage in any moral way.
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Paradice. They stop at Crake’s office. Jimmy notices he still has the word magnets on his refrigerator, only now they form a strange kind of verse about God, Man, and human limitation. Jimmy asks Crake what he’s really up to, and Crake asks him “what is really?” Jimmy laughs playfully but is thrown by this answer.
More signs that Crake’s arrogance has taken a dark turn. It’s becoming obvious to Jimmy that he doesn’t have the whole story, but he still can’t find it in himself to really confront Crake about what he’s selling, and what he’s creating, in Paradice.
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Crake tells Jimmy he will now see Crake’s life work. He takes him to a watch room that overlooks a central area through a one-way mirror. Inside is a simulation of a natural habitat, with large trees and lots of vegetation. This is Jimmy’s first view of the Crakers. They are naked, but betray no self-consciousness. They are strikingly beautiful, with bright green eyes. Each one had a different skin color. Crake asks Jimmy if he is familiar with the concept of a “floor model”—then says the Crakers are the floor models.
The artificial habitat in which the Crakers live when Jimmy first sees them resembles very notably the Garden of Eden—it is lush and primal, and the inhabitants are not aware of their own nakedness. The suggestion that Crake is using money and scientific knowledge to “play God” becomes basically undeniable in this moment.
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Crake explains that the Crakers started as modifications of stolen human embryos. But now the Crakers are reproducing themselves. He says they grow rapidly, but are programed to die suddenly and painlessly at age 30—before they experience the pain of old age. He explains that they are immortal, however, because they have no concept of mortality. And when knowledge of mortality is removed, all that’s left is immortality. Crake explains that his full initiative is split in two: the pill and the project. BlyssPluss will stop unnecessary reproduction, and the project (the genetic adaptations being modeled by the Crakers) will usher in a superior era of human existence.
It becomes clear that Crake is deceiving his financial backers, his customers, and almost everyone else. He is not selling infinite life—he is selling genetically manipulated humans who simply don’t know death, but who will nevertheless die, and die very young. What’s more, these people are reproducing on their own—he has created a self-sustaining population of what he believes to be superior versions of “humanity.” His ambitions become even clearer. Crake’s comments about mortality are interesting: he claims that mortality isn’t connected to dying; it’s connected to thinking about dying. It seems as if Crake’s ideal human is one focuses solely on survival, but does not even have the capacity to think about the “bigger” things of love, death, religion, etc.— all the things one might say the humanities explore and depict.
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Crake expands upon the different features modeled by the Crakers (these features, could, theoretically, be chosen one by one by prospective parents looking to design their child). They did not perceive skin color, thus racism was impossible. They were not constantly sexual, and came into heat at very regular intervals, so sexual torment was absent. They were not capable of inventing harmful symbolisms, like kings or gods or money, and they were able to digest food like a rabbit, by consuming their own excrement. Jimmy interrupts to say that these no longer sounded like features that could be sold to parents. Crake brushes him off by saying he’s done his market research. Jimmy feebly asks if the Crakers have the power of language—Crake says of course. Jimmy wonders if they can make jokes, and Crake says they do not have enough malice to make a joke, and he thinks he’s managed to “do away with” jokes.
Some of the improvements Crake suggests seem valuable—no one would argue, for example, that the elimination of racism is a bad thing. But Crake has eliminated racism in the same way he has eliminated mortality—by removing the comprehension of such things altogether. Racism, rather than being overcome by understanding, is “overcome” by the absence of it. The rest of the features are suspicious—they no longer seem like sellable products, and Jimmy’s (and our) skepticism about the purpose for which Crake truly created these beings rises. Crake has eliminated from these beings so much of what makes a human, even humor..
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Crake in Love. As a storm rages, Snowman is in turmoil thinking of Oryx—of her laugh, her optimism, her belief in Crake. He wonders if Oryx is the same person whose face he saw in the child porn, and on the news. “Was there only one Oryx, or was she legion?”
Snowman’s continuing questions about the realness of his relationship with Oryx, and the realness of Oryx herself again highlights the role Oryx plays in the novel. She’s not just a woman; she’s an idealized woman. She’s nurturing, beautiful, accepting, sexual. Her very being offers healing to all these men who feel some profound lack. And yet at the same time the men seem not even to see her, to know her—what they crave is the healing. She’s a woman imagined by men, and any such woman is more a reflection of the men than a person herself. She is both super-real, and not real at all.
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A few days after Jimmy arrives in Paradice, Crake is showing him how to use the various viewing screens in the Craker observation tower. On the screen Jimmy sees a woman in with the Crakers, naked like them, but human. She is holding a rakunk and talking to a Craker man. Jimmy asks who she is, and Crake says he hired her as a teacher for the Crakers, to show them what to eat and how to live. Jimmy recognizes her, in shock, as Oryx, from the screen shot and from the news, but says nothing to Crake. Crake explains she’s perfect for the job and that the Crakers trust her.
Oryx’s similarity with the Crakers is remarkable—Jimmy doesn’t even recognize her in there for days. The fact that Oryx has been working for Crake all this time—while Jimmy has been pining for her, despite not knowing her—emphasizes Jimmy’s loneliness and isolation, as well as Crake’s charisma and confidence. It is also notable that Jimmy yet again first sees Oryx on a screen—not in real life.
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Jimmy asks Crake where he found this woman, and Crake explains he met her through the escort service provided by Watson-Crick student services. He had shown them the freeze-frame of the kiddie porn, and asked for a woman who looked like the girl in the picture. Then after their first meeting, Crake had arranged to see her again. Once he ascended to his position in RejoovenEsense, he was able to give her a position. As Crake talks, Jimmy realizes Crake is in love with Oryx.
Crake also notes the resemblance between Oryx and the child in the video, but doesn’t appear to believe they are the same person. His love for Oryx is apparent to Jimmy—which shocks him, given that Crake has never seemed capable of loving anyone. Ironically Crake met Oryx through a program meant to prevent this kind of emotional attachment.
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Jimmy and Crake wait for Oryx to join them for lunch. Jimmy asks questions mostly as an excuse to stare at Oryx while she answers. He asks if the Crakers ever wonder where they came from. Crake responds curtly that he’s bred that out of them. Oryx chimes in that they actually did ask, today, who made them. She says she told them the truth, that Crake made them, and smiles admiringly at Crake.
Already we can see that Crake’s vision of what the Crakers will be like—uncreative, unquestioning, basically unthinking—isn’t coming to fruition. They wonder about their origins. Oryx clearly admires Crake’s power and believes in his vision—Crake has clearly sold her on it, though Jimmy remains more skeptical.
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Jimmy spends his days longing for Oryx. He knows he can’t touch her, because Crake is his friend, but nevertheless he can’t stop thinking about her. Meanwhile, Jimmy’s work isn’t difficult: BlyssPluss will basically sell itself, he’s sure. One day, however, Oryx arrives at his house and seduces him. He protests at first, saying Crake will be upset. Oryx explains that Crake wouldn’t want Jimmy to be unhappy, and she knows he is unhappy without her. Jimmy asks her if she is Crake’s girlfriend, and she responds that Crake lives in a higher world, a world of ideas. And that Crake is her boss, but Jimmy is for fun. She promises Crake won’t know and Jimmy submits.
Jimmy will not betray his friend Crake by pursuing Oryx, and throws himself into his work, even though the work is easy. When Oryx seduces him, however, Jimmy cannot resist. We are able to see how Oryx thinks of Crake—as emotionally unattached, brilliant, elegant, and somehow above the inner turmoil that plagues most of the rest of humanity. She believes in Crake’s image of himself. Oryx’s trust of Crake is naïve—and so is, perhaps, Jimmy’s love for Oryx. He seems to trust her account too readily.
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They carry on their affair, and it appears Crake doesn’t know. Oryx explains she is useful to Crake because she has contacts at sex clinics and whorehouses because of her history. She assures Jimmy she would never test BlyssPluss on herself, because Crake warned her not to do so. Jimmy misses Oryx deeply when she goes away on these trips, but their reunions are always happy. Oryx explains that Crake’s sexual needs are very direct and simple. But with Jimmy sex is intriguing and fun—it doesn’t feel like work.
Oryx is being used to distribute BlyssPluss in much the same way Jimmy is being used to advertise it. We also learn that Oryx’s sexual life with Crake is dispassionate and mechanical—we can recall that sex between Crakers is also like this. Crake’s lack of interest in humans extends even into his sex life. But Jimmy, who is better with language and with abstract concepts, who is almost more human than Crake, is still capable of passionate love, and Oryx appreciates that in him.
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Jimmy asks Oryx what happened to her in the garage in San Francisco. She asks what garage, and Jimmy reminds her that she’d been trapped in a garage in San Francisco as a teenager. She asks Jimmy where he dreams up such things. Jimmy persists, asking her if the man who put her there made her have sex. Oryx relents and tells Jimmy about the man, though he suspects she might only be improvising to humor Jimmy. Oryx explains the man was kind, and his wife was “very spiritual,” and she believes they both wanted the best for her. Jimmy angrily tells her she’s wrong, and Oryx wonders how Jimmy can be upset about something that happened so long ago.
Once again we are asked to wonder how much of Oryx’s history is real, and how much of it is invented. Is Jimmy inventing Oryx’s past in the same way that Snowman invents the Crakers’ past? Or is Oryx the one rewriting her own history to make it more tolerable, more humane, and more loving? This disconnect frustrates Jimmy just as it later tortures Snowman—he believes Oryx is trying to artificially erase pain from her life—perhaps in the same way Crake is trying to artificially erase pain from human experience.
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Takeout. Snowman is now coming to the darkest part of his memory. “What if” questions fly through his mind. He imagines telling Oryx “Don’t go. Stay here.” He imagines that he told her he had a gut feeling that she should stay.
“Takeout,” the title of this part of Chapter 12, refers to food, but also gestures to the murders that occur in this section. Snowman is wishing the past had been different—he is inventing new details and re-writing history. But he is a lover of humanities; he can’t rewrite his own history.
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But Jimmy, in fact, has no gut feeling this happy evening when Oryx is at his house. Jimmy asks her if she loves him, and she laughs. After they sleep together, she gets out of bed and says she is going to get a pizza, and will be right back. Jimmy suggests that they run away together. Oryx doesn’t understand why Jimmy would want to leave Paradice. Jimmy says he doesn’t want to sneak around anymore, and that he’s been worried Crake has found out about them.
Oryx does not tell Jimmy whether or not she loves him. In fact, she seems to reject the question altogether. Jimmy is beginning to realize Paradice and Crake are not as perfect as Oryx has made them out to be—despite her reassurances, Jimmy still feels that Crake knows of their affair, though it’s entirely unclear whether Crake would be upset about it if he did know. Jimmy’s desire to run away shows he is no longer invested in Crake’s project; he’s invested in Oryx, and wishes she would make that same choice.
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Snowman is thinking that he should have seen the signs. Crake had asked him once if he would kill someone he loved in order to spare them pain. Jimmy didn’t really understand the question, but Crake had then asked him to take care of the Crakers if anything bad happened to him. Snowman curses himself for not taking this seriously. Crake had also suggested that if he died, Oryx would die too. Jimmy had laughed this off, and found Crake’s ego remarkable.
Jimmy’s blindness to Crake’s plan continues to haunt him. The suggestion in Crake’s question about killing in order to save someone pain is that Crake would be willing to do this, in fact is thinking of doing this. Jimmy didn’t realize that Crake’s arrogance was completely unchecked—or that Crake seemed to connect being human with feeling pain. In Crake’s mind, to kill any human would be to spare them pain. Jimmy can’t comprehend any of this.
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Jimmy is insisting to Oryx that Crake knows about their affair—he’s not sure why. Perhaps to scare her into running away with him. Oryx explains that Crake doesn’t believe in jealousy, and Jimmy protests that Crake can feel jealousy regardless of whether he believes in it. Just before she leaves to get the pizza, Oryx asks Jimmy, if she and Crake were to ever go away, to take care of the Crakers. Oryx looks emphatic so Jimmy promises. She tells him she’s very happy, and says she’ll be right back with the pizzas.
The question of Crake’s jealousy is brought up—Oryx apparently doesn’t believe Crake is even capable of jealousy—she believes his scientific mind is “elegant” and therefore void of basic human emotions. Jimmy doesn’t buy it—he notes that a belief in such “elegance” is not the same as actually being “elegant.” And the novel never answers the question of what motivates Crake, whether his worldview is the product of some response to his past, or if it is simply how he came to see the world without any associated trauma. Oryx’s request is ominous, but Jimmy doesn’t seem to realize its significance.
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Airlock. Jimmy waits for Oryx for a long time. He becomes increasingly uneasy and then feels panicked. Meanwhile, he receives a news alert about the spread of some infection and thinks it will be another minor instance of a contained epidemic or bioterrorism, somewhere far away. But when he goes to the monitor screens, which display maps of infected areas, he sees red splotches all over the globe, spreading fast. He calls Crake but gets no answer. His phone finally rings, but it is Oryx. She is crying and apologizing—she says that the disease was in the BlyssPluss pills she flew around the globe. She says she didn’t know. She says she only wanted to help people, but then the connection breaks off.
Crake’s plan is finally revealed—an infection tears through the human population, and it was located in the very pills that Jimmy willingly advertised and that Oryx distributed around the globe. Crake was secretly sterilizing people, in a sense, but by killing them! Up to this point Oryx has never shown or seemed to feel negative emotions—her reaction here is telling. The version of events she naively bought from Crake is not the reality, and now she is complicit in a horrifying plot to wipe out humanity. She believed she was helping people, because Crake told her she was—but now her credulous demeanor has involved her in a terrible crime.
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By midnight every major American city has been hit by the disease, which causes people to bleed profusely from every orifice. The three other staff members inside Paradice are growing nervous. Jimmy tells them to stay calm. Suddenly Crake rings the bell to enter the airlock. Jimmy yells at him through the intercom. Crake sounds drunk, which is unusual. Jimmy asks him about the BlyssPluss pills, and Crake snidely asks him where he’d heard about that.
Crake has also been selling a version of himself—cool, calm, collected. His drunken, angry sarcasm reveals he is not what he made himself out to be. Crake’s snide question suggests he’d known about Jimmy and Oryx—we are asked to wonder if part of his motivation in releasing the plague was revenge against Jimmy for having a more passionate, loving relationship with Oryx than he did, if his hatred for the “complexities” of humanity stemmed from his own inability to access or enjoy those complexities.
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What happens next appears to Jimmy as if it is in slow motion. He retrieves a gun from the storage rooms, and tells the other staff members that he has spoken to CorpSeCorps and Crake, who assured him that everything was under control. He tells the staff they should go back to their houses and rest. They appear relieved, and when they turn their back on Jimmy, he shoots and kills all three. Jimmy is now the only one in the airlock except for the Crakers—he killed the staff because he feels that it is imperative that he not fall victim to someone else’s panic. The men had to die in order for him to maintain control.
Having already been tricked into promoting a deadly and profoundly violent disease, Jimmy believes he is now forced to commit three additional murders. Already he knows he is fighting for his own survival, and is taking steps to secure his own safety. Yet those murders in their suddenness and the lack of certainty of the complicity of the now dead staffers, is shocking. Jimmy shifts to survival mode very quickly. Perhaps he is already thinking of his duty to the Crakers, of his promise to Oryx that he would do his best to look after them and keep them alive, or perhaps the pure need to survive really does make one give up on any complex morality.
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Jimmy drinks and watches news of the spreading plague as he waits for word from Oryx, but it never comes. Jimmy hears beeping at the door. Crake is trying to punch in the code to enter. Jimmy walks up to the door and says through the intercom that he’s changed the code, according to regulation he must let no one in. Crake says that rule doesn’t apply to him. Jimmy tells Crake he might be infected, and Crake tells him they are both immune. The immunization had been snuck into the vaccinations Crake and Jimmy used to go to the pleeblands.
Crake has created an antidote to the virus, but has only given it to Jimmy, himself, and perhaps Oryx—he is in utter control over everything in their bodies. He has manipulated their very cells without their knowledge. His power over them is grotesque and undeniable, and he has been exercising it for quite some time. Jimmy is once again being used as a prop in a larger plan.
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Jimmy is startled by this information, but agrees to let Crake in. When Crake enters, Jimmy sees that Crake has Oryx draped over his arm and that Crake is carrying a jackknife. Oryx seems to be asleep or unconscious. Crake lets Oryx’s head fall back, and Jimmy watches in disbelief. Crake tells Jimmy, “I’m counting on you,” then slits Oryx’s throat. Jimmy shoots him.
The devastating endgame of Crake’s plan is carried out. He kills Oryx, knowing Jimmy will kill him once he does. This leaves Jimmy in charge of raising a new race of humans. Crake has manipulated everything—from science to friendship to romance—so that his plan may be carried out—he has wiped out humanity, cleared the way for his “superior humanity”, and gotten revenge (perhaps) on Jimmy both by killing Oryx and leaving Jimmy as the last person alive.
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