Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Nooners. Noon is the worst time of day for Snowman, because the sun and heat are so intense. He must retreat away from the glare of the ocean back into the forest. Snowman remembers the knife he’d had when he’d first arrived here and set up camp, and wishes he hadn’t lost it. This makes him think of his ninth birthday, when his dad had given him a pocketknife. Snowman recalls, years later, telling Oryx about the knife, and Oryx telling him, “you need to give money when someone gives you a knife, so the bad luck won’t cut you.” Jimmy wonders who told Oryx this, and the thought of her with other men makes him jealous and angry. Her voice and touch soothes him, however—it is hard for Jimmy to concentrate on his hate when he is with Oryx.
The memory of the false and damaging relationship with his mother is followed by one of true connection and love. Jimmy feels a range of natural and honest emotions toward Oryx—jealousy, excitement, hate, compassion, love. These are emotions we associate with fully-fledged romantic relationships. Nevertheless, the damaging effects of corporate enterprise looms—Oryx explains that money buys luck. What’s more, we will eventually learn that the person Jimmy thinks of as Oryx is actually likely a conglomeration of different televised images. Commodification still intrudes on human connection.
Themes
Corporate Power & Commodification Theme Icon
The State of Human Relationships Theme Icon
We are told how Snowman learned to adapt to his environment: first he’d built a lean-to on the ground, but feral rakunks, pigoons, and, most dangerous of all, wolvogs had sent him up into the tree where it was safer. In the tree his biggest nuisance is mosquitos and biting ants.
Snowman is threatened by various genetic splices of animals thriving in this environment. Biological science has clearly run amok in this world. Nevertheless he learns to adapt, though his situation is still sorely uncomfortable.
Themes
Scientific Progress & Its Costs Theme Icon
Extinction & Evolution Theme Icon
Snowman rests on an old bedframe he’d found early on, trying to cool off. The word “Mesozoic” comes into his mind, out of nowhere. He can’t place it, and worries that his grasp of language is diminishing. He comforts himself by acknowledging that the heat is probably getting to him, and wishes dreamily that he could cool down by hanging his tongue out of his mouth.
Snowman’s worry about losing his grasp of language emphasizes the importance of history and language to his survival—it is not that losing those things will make him die, but that they will make him cease to be human, cease to be him. Notably this worry about losing his grip of language is followed by an image of Snowman cooling himself via panting, like a dog. His temporary loss of language occurs with the temporary loss of his humanity.
Themes
Humans & Animals Theme Icon
History, Language & the Humanities Theme Icon
The voice of an old schoolteacher, Ms. Sally Stratton, is in Snowman’s head. She is asking him first to play a game with her, and then her remarks become sexual. Jimmy fails to get aroused, and Ms. Stratton’s voice fades.
The extent of Snowman’s loneliness is still being established. Like the voice of the prostitute, Ms. Stratton’s voice is evidence that Snowman’s mind struggles to hold on to meaningful relationships.
Themes
The State of Human Relationships Theme Icon
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Snowman lets his mind wander back to his and Crake’s afterschool distractions. He remembers computer games they would play: Extinctathon, Three-Dimensional Waco, Barbarian Stomp, and Kwiktime Osama. He and Crake would also play chess on the computer, and Snowman wonders briefly if he could whittle a chessboard. He thinks maybe a diary could help him cope, but he knows his writing would have no audience; the Crakers (the beings he had earlier called children) cannot read.
The video games that Jimmy and Crake play are evidence that appreciation and study of history have given way to commodification and entertainment value. 20th century people and events that we would recognize as tragic or of vital importance (Osama Bin Laden, the Waco siege) are reduced to gimmicky computer games. This thought gives way to the realization that Snowman has no literate audience for his writing, and therefore no way to record himself into a meaningful history.
Themes
Corporate Power & Commodification Theme Icon
History, Language & the Humanities Theme Icon
Snowman watches a caterpillar drop down on a silky thread in front of his face—it inspires a sudden and unusual happiness in him, which Snowman suspects is evidence of a vitamin deficiency. He hears the caterpillar begin to speak in the voice of his former “Life Skills” teacher. Life Skills class informed students how to handle banking, contractual negotiation, finding a partner who is a good genetic match, and how to avoid sexually transmitted bioforms.
Snowman’s concern about a vitamin deficiency gives rise to a memory of a class called “Life Skills,” which ironically underscores the fact that the lessons he learned in “Life Skills” are of no use to him now that his survival is in question. There is no more money, no contracts, and ostensibly no other human beings with which Snowman could interact with—the “Life Skills” he now needs are completely different.
Themes
Corporate Power & Commodification Theme Icon
The State of Human Relationships Theme Icon
Extinction & Evolution Theme Icon
Snowman realizes he should be spending his time not looking for distraction but looking for food and water. He wishes he’d spent more time studying. A voice in his ear calls him “honey” and tells him he shouldn’t beat himself up. He cannot cool down at the nearby stream and watering hole, because the Crakers play in it, and they make him feel grotesque and ask him too many questions. And when the Crakers are not at the watering hole, predators can be found there. Snowman settles for imagining the pool, and Oryx floating in it, though the image makes him feel uneasy.
The voice calling Snowman “honey,” though unidentified, sounds motherly—offering compassion his own mother never did. Snowman’s body is again revealed to be poorly adapted, compared to the better-evolved Crakers, whose beauty and perfection alienates Jimmy. Jimmy once again turns to a vision of Oryx to comfort himself, but the ominous feeling he gets when he does so foreshadows the ill-fatedness of his relationship with her.
Themes
The State of Human Relationships Theme Icon
Extinction & Evolution Theme Icon
Downpour. Every afternoon there is a massive thunderstorm. Today the storm is strong, but there is no hail so Snowman doesn’t need to find cover. As the storm winds down he takes some empty beer bottles to the ruined remains of an old bridge and collects runoff water in the beer bottles and attempts to clean himself off. He looks at the bottles and wonders if he can pretend they actually contain beer.
The harshness and loneliness of the environment is again emphasized. The beer bottles indicate that alcohol had previously been a comfort for Snowman, but now as society has collapsed alcohol has been replaced by runoff water. Where the bottles once helped Snowman cope with depression and loneliness, they now help him merely survive.
Themes
The State of Human Relationships Theme Icon
The thought of beer sends Snowman into a kind of tailspin of longing. He desperately thinks, “let me out!” but realizes he couldn’t possibly be more “out” than he is already. A child’s voice speaks in his head and insists, “I didn’t do it on purpose,” then weeps. Snowman feels it’s a bad performance and doesn’t believe the voice. The voice of another self-help book tells him he must stay focused on the task at hand.
The full force of the collapse of human culture and society is felt by Snowman. The child’s voice, and Snowman’s disdain for it, suggest guilt and self-loathing. Yet another self-help book pops up in his head, offering prepackaged sound bites and false solutions. He sees the past, as it manifests in his mind, as full of deception, manipulation, and dishonesty.
Themes
Corporate Power & Commodification Theme Icon
The State of Human Relationships Theme Icon
History, Language & the Humanities Theme Icon