Oryx and Crake

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Themes and Colors
Scientific Progress & Its Costs Theme Icon
Corporate Power & Commodification Theme Icon
Humans & Animals Theme Icon
The State of Human Relationships Theme Icon
History, Language & the Humanities  Theme Icon
Extinction & Evolution Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Oryx and Crake, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Atwood has described Oryx and Crake as ‘speculative fiction’, meaning that it is a novel that takes current trends and extrapolates them to explore what the future might look like. The world of Oryx and Crake extrapolates upon the rapid advances around the turn of the 21st century in biological and genetic engineering and the questions raised about the moral and ethical responsibilities of science and scientists when they became capable of creating new kinds…

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Oryx and Crake also imagines a world in which the growing power of corporations in the late 20th and early 21st century also continues on its present path until corporate power literally reigns supreme, unchecked and unchallenged by any other kind of power. Though the novel occasionally mentions, for example, “Russia” and “Fiji” and other non-western countries, the western world seems effectively divided into pleeblands (which still contain cities like “New New York” and San…

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The advanced science achieved in the world of the novel has challenged the distinction between human and animal. Pigoons, for example, are pigs that grow human organs and even human brain tissue (for the purpose of transplantation). Their partially human makeup makes it so that people are uncomfortable with the idea of eating them, because it seems vaguely cannibalistic. They are the book’s first, but certainly not only, example of transgressing the divide between human…

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The novel examines various kinds of human relationships (sexual, romantic, familial) and how they are affected by the scientific and cultural shifts taking place in Oryx and Crake’s world. Are human relationships free and safe from corporate and scientific manipulation? Are individuals still even capable of human bonding in this culture?

Jimmy spends a great deal of time in the novel seeking connection, and largely failing in achieving it. His mother has left his…

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Oryx and Crake portrays a world in which the humanities – history, literature, even language itself – have become devalued in the face of the rise of science, consumerism, and entertainment culture. History has become little more than fodder in video games, such as the game “Blood and Roses” that Jimmy and Crake play, while one of the last colleges to focus on the humanities, the Martha Graham Academy, is run down and a subject…

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The book’s interest in human history and the humanities is accompanied by an interest in natural history and the history of life and death on earth. The work being done in the compounds—the modification of animals, gene splicing, building new viruses and immunities—is often described as an extension or acceleration of evolution. The game that gives Crake his nickname is Extinctathon, and involves memorizing and cataloguing the increasingly long list of species that have gone…

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