Oryx and Crake

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Inside Symbol Icon
The book repeatedly draws attention to the difference between “inside” and “outside” and the efforts to keep the two separated. The emphasis on sanitation is an indication of this: keeping the clean “in” and the dirty “out.” Many people in the compounds work to keep viruses out of human cells (Jimmy’s mom says her job is to put “locks” on the doors of cell walls) and to keep diseases out of the compound. In addition, the Compounds are “inside,” set apart by domes, gates, and doors, inhabited by wealthy families employed by large research corporations. Snowman enjoyed the privilege of the “inside” his whole life, as a “Compound brat” and as an employee working inside Crake’s airlocked “paradice.” “Inside” represents cleanliness, health, familiarity, wealth and comfort, though it is also possible to argue that it represents being closed off and therefore blind to the world.

Inside Quotes in Oryx and Crake

The Oryx and Crake quotes below all refer to the symbol of Inside. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Scientific Progress & Its Costs Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Anchor Books edition of Oryx and Crake published in 2004.
Chapter 8 Quotes

How could I have missed it? Snowman thinks. What he was telling me? How could I have been so stupid?...
There had been something willed about it, though, his ignorance…he’d grown up in walled spaces, and then he’d become one. He had shut things out.

Related Characters: Jimmy (Snowman), Crake
Related Symbols: Inside, Outside
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Snowman thinks back on his friendship with Crake, the mysterious young man with whom he grew up. Crake's father died in a car accident, supposedly a suicide. Jimmy remembers Crake remarking that his father was "uncoordinated." Years later, Jimmy realizes the truth: Crake was trying to say that his father was out of joint with the other people in his corporation--he refused to go along with the corporate dogma, and so he was murdered for his disobedience. Jimmy is furious with himself for missing the obvious truth about Crake and Crake's father: he's been willfully ignorant.

The passage is interesting because it shows Crake, not Jimmy, being adept at manipulating language in subtle ways. Jimmy is the writer and wordsmith, and yet he misses Crake's hint about Crake's father's supposed suicide. It also shows Crake as being connected with ideas of "walled spaces"--the divide between "inside" and "outside" is an important one in the novel, and we see Crake's secrecy and efficiency as related to himself maintaining his "inside" and keeping everything else out.


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So a lot of what went on at Martha Graham was like studying book binding or Latin: pleasant to contemplate in its way, but no longer central to anything, though every once in a while the college president would subject them to some yawner about the vital arts and their irresistible reserved seat in the big red-velvet amphitheater of the beating human heart.

Related Characters: Jimmy (Snowman)
Related Symbols: Inside
Page Number: 187
Explanation and Analysis:

Jimmy doesn't go to a very prestigious school: Martha Graham is a run-down school devoted to the humanities, an area of human knowledge that few, if any, people continue to value in his society. Jimmy is perfectly aware that his society no longer values what he's interested in studying: the subjects at Martha Graham seem esoteric and "useless" compared to most of what Jimmy has seen in the professional world (Jimmy grew up around scientists and businessmen, after all). Even Jimmy himself doesn't seem very enthused when the president of his college makes a speech about the importance of the humanities to the human heart and one's inner life--Jimmy likes the arts, but he has no illusions about their importance to society.

The passage could be interpreted as Margaret Atwood's assessment of the place of the humanities in her own society. As the world becomes more technologically advanced and consumer-oriented, art and literature seem to be growing more and more unimportant--it's possible that someday they'll be considered as esoteric as book binding.

Chapter 11 Quotes

Maybe the guards tried to get out of RejoovenEsense just like everyone else. Maybe they, too, hoped they could outrun contagion.

Related Characters: Jimmy (Snowman) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Inside, Outside
Page Number: 270
Explanation and Analysis:

Snowman revisits the guard tower of a major corporate building. He realizes that there are no dead bodies inside the building, suggesting that even the guards were trying to run away from the mysterious "contagion"--the disease that, it's implied, killed most of the human population.

As we go on, we learn more about what, precisely, caused the global apocalypse. Here, we realize that it was a virus that did humanity in; furthermore, the virus may have been developed within or close to a major corporate building. The passage conveys the pathetic quality of humanity's struggle for survival: nothing humanity does can save it from the horrors of disease and amoral, all-consuming greed.

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Inside Symbol Timeline in Oryx and Crake

The timeline below shows where the symbol Inside appears in Oryx and Crake. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Scientific Progress & Its Costs Theme Icon
The State of Human Relationships Theme Icon
History, Language & the Humanities  Theme Icon
...explain to him what a disease does, how it attacks the cells and changes things inside you—and that if enough cells are infected, the disease takes over. Jimmy doesn’t understand right... (full context)
Corporate Power & Commodification Theme Icon
...outside, to a city, and has heard that the cities are dirty and dangerous. People within the compounds refer to cities and their surrounding areas as “the pleeblands.” Jimmy’s father likes... (full context)