Oryx. Snowman wakes up in the middle of the night suddenly. He feels Oryx near him. He knows if he tries to touch her, she’ll vanish. He tries to tell her that he really loved her, and that what they had was more than sexual. He regrets that he’d used this line as a tool to get close to many women before Oryx.
Once again we are aware of Snowman’s regret surrounding his relationship with Oryx. He continues to insist that their connection was genuine and their love real, but his insistence betrays a certain amount of doubt.
Jimmy pieces together Oryx’s story, but he imagines the story is different according to every person who’s met her. Oryx tells Jimmy, one day as they eat pizza in Jimmy’s bed, that she grew up in a small village, in a country with a name she could not remember. She was bought by a man named Uncle En. Her mother sold her brother to Uncle En as well, and Oryx believes this means her mother loved her and did not want her to be alone. This story makes Jimmy furious, but Oryx doesn’t understand his anger, and knows that people were simply doing what they needed to in order to survive. When Jimmy vents about it to Crake, Crake remarks that this kind of suffering is the result of overpopulation because humanity has never learned to limit reproduction.
The idea that Oryx’s story is written by everyone who has ever met her is crucial. She is not the author of her own story—she exists as a reflection of those who know her. Perhaps this is why she is so infatuating. Oryx’s past is tragic in Jimmy’s eyes, but for Oryx it is simply her life, and she doesn’t understand Jimmy’s rage. Their experiences have been so different—Jimmy has led a privileged life and Oryx has not—that they cannot relate to one another. Crake, in a typical fashion, reduces the problem to an evolutionary, biological one—we begin to see his rejection of love and sex taking shape.
Birdcall. Uncle En led Oryx and her brother, along with other children, out of the village. Oryx was scared walking through the jungle, but she found comfort in the sounds of the birds, and believes her mother was sending her messages and love through birdsong. After a night in the jungle and more walking, they reached Uncle En’s car, and he drove them away. When they are stopped at a checkpoint, Uncle En tells the soldiers the children in his car are his nieces and nephews. The soldiers remark that he has very many nieces and nephews. Uncle En slips them money and they laugh knowingly as they let Uncle En through the checkpoint.
Oryx’s life is in many ways a demonstration of the damaging effects of commodification on a global scale. Even though this country is not literally governed by corporate enterprises, money, bribes, and exchange value still dominate the lives of the people living there. Oryx herself has become a commodity. Oryx nevertheless finds comfort in nature and in the love (perhaps misplaced) of her mother; she, unlike the other characters, seems to see glimmers of love where others see only the more shallow motivations of survival or economic exchange.
Roses. Oryx and the other children were brought to a big city. It was very chaotic and unfamiliar but Uncle En was gentle with them and slowly they grew used to it. They were told to sell flowers on the street—Oryx is particularly successful because she is so pretty, but her brother has very little luck, because he is antisocial and has a black tooth. Uncle En tells him he will have to find him another job. The other children say that he will most likely do dangerous messenger work for gamblers or be prostituted. Oryx’s brother escapes and Oryx never hears from him again.
This passage again emphasizes Oryx’s status as a commodity. Her value—and therefore her fate, her life—is determined by the amount she can sell every day. Conversely, when her brother’s value is called into doubt, it is suggested he might be commodified in a different way. If he cannot make money selling roses he will make money performing sexual favors or doing dangerous messenger work—so he runs away to an unknown fate.
Uncle En tells the children that if a man tries to take their hand they should refuse to go. One day a man does try to grab Oryx. She escapes and tells Uncle En. He sits down with her and says that the next time a man asks her to go to a hotel, she should say yes. It is not long before an old man does exactly this. Oryx lets the man take her to a hotel room. She takes off her clothes and the man takes his pants off before Uncle En bursts through the door exclaiming disgust and demanding money. The old man is frightened and gives Uncle En all of the money in his wallet. Uncle En is very pleased with Oryx afterwards and says he wishes he could marry her. This is the closest thing to love Oryx has available to her at the time, and so she is grateful for it.
Under these conditions, love and connection are hard to find. Oryx is glad to feel appreciated by Uncle En, even if she must earn that appreciation by setting up men who want to engage sexually with her. Though Oryx does not want to “marry” Uncle En, as he suggests, the mere mention of love, union, and mutual care, even in this context is something for which she can be grateful. This is a striking portrait of what becomes of love and affection in a world dominated by money and exchange rates, where people must demonstrate their monetary value to survive.
Pixieland Jazz. One day a man comes to the children’s house and tells them Uncle En had sold his flower business and the children are going to be taken elsewhere. Later, Oryx would hear that Uncle En’s throat was cut and he was thrown in the river. Oryx tells Jimmy she cried when she heard this news, which angers Jimmy. Oryx gently tells him he worries too much.
Jimmy, who has not yet experienced the kind of brutal commodification Oryx has, does not understand her appreciation of Uncle En’s affection. Ironically, though Oryx tells Jimmy he “worries too much,” Jimmy will be totally blindsided by Crake and his plan.
Oryx and the children are loaded into a truck and taken to a wealthy looking building where they are fed good food. They rarely leave the building and instead make pornographic movies in a walled-off area on the roof. Oryx observed men coming in and paying to have their movies filmed, attaching a price to every detail. Oryx says this is when she learned that “Everything has a price.” Being in a movie is easy for her, because it only requires doing what you are told. The man with the camera is an American named Jack and he sometimes asks Oryx to perform sexual favors for him in private.
The next phase of Oryx’s life as a sexual commodity teach her that not only does she have a price, an assigned value, but everything does. Objects, actions, identities, relationships—all are assigned a specific monetary value. Tellingly, she learns this while working for Jack, an American. When she says being in a movie is easy, we imagine it is so in the sense that she easily demonstrates her value, because she is obedient, and perhaps because there is no threat of physical harm.
This is unwelcome news to Jimmy, who calls Jack pathetic. Oryx wonders why Jimmy dislikes Jack, and notes that she and Jimmy have done far more for each other sexually than she and Jack ever did. Jimmy points out that they do not have sex against Oryx’s will, which makes her laugh and ask “what is my will?” She notices how badly this upsets Jimmy, and explains that Jack gave her lessons in English in return for their private sexual sessions. Jimmy is still angry, and rudely asks Oryx about the specifics of her sexual favors. She tells him Crake is correct in saying he doesn’t have “an elegant mind.” Jimmy apologizes, but maintains that he does not buy “all this sweetness and acceptance and crap.”
Oryx’s status as an independent character with her own will and agency is again challenged. She suggests she is still acting as a commodity, and is confused by the notion of will. Perhaps she is ultimately governed by others’ desire; perhaps this is how her value and character are determined. However, she knows enough to know that this idea upsets Jimmy, who doesn’t want their relationship to boil down to a transaction. Jimmy is ultimately baffled by and disbelieving of Oryx’s acceptance of her fate.
The building where Oryx films her movies is called “Pixieland.” As Oryx learns English she begins to sing English songs. Jack encourages this, requesting that she perform more of her “Pixieland Jazz.” Jimmy demands to know if Oryx was raped during her time at Pixieland, and Oryx wonders why he always wants to talk about ugly things. Jimmy rephrases and asks her if the sex was real. Oryx replies that all sex is real.
Oryx, rather like the Crakers, struggles to understand ugly or evil concepts, or else refuses to engage them. In many ways, Jimmy’s conversations with Oryx mirror those he has with the Crakers—he must constantly rephrase, and Oryx often finds him fascinating but also grotesque (as the Crakers see Snowman). This casts more doubt on the nature of their love and connection.