Annihilation

by

Jeff VanderMeer

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The Crawler is the creature writing the words in the Tower as it slowly descends the stairs. For much of the book, the Crawler lurks ominously in the background, relentlessly writing words on the walls, but the biologist doesn’t observe it directly. After encountering the Tower for the first time, the biologist sees the result of the encounter between the anthropologist and the Crawler: the anthropologist’s face is burned, her jaw broken, and her legs melted. Later, testing the sample the anthropologist was able to collect from the Crawler, the biologist realizes that the Crawler’s cells include those of human brains. At the end of the novel, the biologist finally encounters the Crawler herself, which emits a massive light and is difficult for the biologist to fully see. She believes that it reflects her own ideas of what the Crawler looks like back at her, including a sluglike monster ringed by satellites of odd creatures, or a figure within panes of glass, or a series of layers in an arch shape. The Crawler then probes the biologist’s brain, making her experience agonizing pain, and the feelings of drowning and burning—though ultimately she is able to survive the Crawler’s trials. When she encounters the Crawler a second time, it completely ignores her, but she is able to see it slightly more clearly, noting that it has the lighthouse keeper’s face.

The Crawler Quotes in Annihilation

The Annihilation quotes below are all either spoken by The Crawler or refer to The Crawler. 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:
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Farrar Straus & Giroux edition of Annihilation published in 2014.
Chapter 3 Quotes

But there is a limit to thinking about even a small piece of something monumental. You still see the shadow of the whole rearing up behind you, and you become lost in your thoughts in part from the panic of realizing the size of that imagined leviathan. I had to leave it there, compartmentalized, until I could write it all down, and seeing it on the page, begin to divine the true meaning. And now the lighthouse had finally gotten larger on the horizon. This presence weighed on me as I realized that the surveyor had been correct about at least one thing. Anyone within the lighthouse would see me coming for miles. Then, too, that other effect of the spores, the brightness in my chest, continued to sculpt me as I walked, and by the time I reached the deserted village that told me I was halfway to the lighthouse, I believed I could have run a marathon. I did not trust that feeling. I felt, in so many ways, that I was being lied to.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Psychologist, The Surveyor, The Crawler
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

The enormity of this experience combined with the heartbeat and the crescendo of sound from its ceaseless writing to fill me up until I had no room left. This moment, which I might have been waiting for my entire life all unknowing—this moment of an encounter with the most beautiful, the most terrible thing I might ever experience—was beyond me. What inadequate recording equipment I had brought with me and what an inadequate name I had chosen for it—the Crawler. Time elongated, was nothing but fuel for the words this thing had created on the wall for who knew how many years for who knew what purpose.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Crawler
Related Symbols: The Tower/The Tunnel
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:

A swimming pool. A rocky bay. An empty lot. A tower. A lighthouse. These things are real and not real. They exist and they do not exist. I remake them in my mind with every new thought, every remembered detail, and each time they are slightly different. Sometimes they are camouflage or disguises. Sometimes they are something more truthful.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Crawler
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:

Imagine, too, that while the Tower makes and remakes the world inside the border, it also slowly sends its emissaries across that border in ever greater numbers, so that in tangled gardens and fallow fields its envoys begin their work. How does it travel and how far? What strange matter mixes and mingles? In some future moment, perhaps the infiltration will reach even a certain remote sheet of coastal rock, quietly germinate in those tidal pools I know so well. Unless, of course, I am wrong that Area X is rousing itself from slumber, changing, becoming different than it was before.

The terrible thing, the thought I cannot dislodge after all I have seen, is that I can no longer say with conviction that this is a bad thing. Not when looking at the pristine nature of Area X and then the world beyond, which we have altered so much.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Crawler
Related Symbols: The Tower/The Tunnel
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:

Observing all of this has quelled the last ashes of the burning compulsion I had to know everything… anything… and in its place remains the knowledge that the brightness is not done with me. It is just beginning, and the thought of continually doing harm to myself to remain human seems somehow pathetic. I will not be here when the thirteenth expedition reaches base camp. (Have they seen me yet, or are they about to? Will I melt into this landscape, or look up from a stand of reeds or the waters of the canal to see some other explorer staring down in disbelief? Will I be aware that anything is wrong or out of place?)

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Crawler
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:
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Annihilation PDF

The Crawler Character Timeline in Annihilation

The timeline below shows where the character The Crawler appears in Annihilation. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
...biologist posits that the words are essential to the well-being of the Tower or the Crawler (the thing writing the words) or both. The Crawler and the Tower could be intelligent... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
...life. She perceives a “terrible presence hovering in the background of these entries,” like the Crawler, and wonders if the focus is a way of coping with that horror. She also... (full context)
Chapter 4
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
The biologist tries to get the psychologist to talk about the Crawler and Area X, but the psychologist seems to take pleasure in withholding the answers the... (full context)
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
...was “colonized” by a green-gold fuzziness, which spread from the wound she received from the Crawler. The wound likely caused not just paranoia, but also schizophrenia and delusional behavior. The biologist... (full context)
Chapter 5
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
...finally has some proof, along with the brain tissue that the anthropologist took from the Crawler. After this, the biologist finally picks up her husband’s journal as the brightness washes over... (full context)
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
...louder. The words on the wall become fresher, and there is also a hum. The Crawler’s slime becomes slicker under the biologist’s boots. After two hours of progress, the Tower’s heartbeat... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Turning the corner in the Tower and encountering the Crawler is a similar experience. The biologist cannot begin to understand what she is looking at;... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
...perhaps something vaguely head-shaped. She tries to pull back, creeping up the steps, but the Crawler traps her. She begins to black out and come back to consciousness, still unable to... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
...returns to the physical world and feels herself “thawing.” She once again recognizes that the Crawler is an organism that might be inexplicable, but that it’s a living creature that practiced... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
...moment. She opens her mouth and welcomes the water—but there isn’t really any water. The Crawler transfixes her to the spot, and she cannot move. A waterfall comprised of fingers probes... (full context)
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
Then, the invasiveness, as well as the sense of drowning, are gone. The Crawler tosses the biologist aside, down the steps, and she is bruised and crumpled. She has... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
...hour, the biologist feels she must keep going, unable to return to look at the Crawler again. Eventually, she realizes that the blurriness is about 500 steps below her. It blazes... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
...on her back. She realizes that she has another test to endure: returning to the Crawler. Before she turns the corner where it is writing, she worries about going mad this... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
...the drowning and the feeling of her head being cracked open, but nothing happens. The Crawler displays no interest in her. The biologist walks past it and risks one more glance... (full context)
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
...second circle around his face. If the hints in the journals are accurate, when the Crawler reaches the end of its latest cycle, Area X will experience another “cataclysmic molting.” She... (full context)