Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Sveltana. Snowman wakes up with a hangover and wishes he hadn’t drunk the scotch the night before. He climbs down from the tree to get some water from his beer bottles. He sees a flock of birds and resents them because they are free and among their own kind. He sits down and tries to remember the meanings of old words floating through his head. After a while he knows he must eat and retrieves a package of Sveltana No-Meat Sausages. They are not enough to get him through the day. Snowman recognizes that he is slowly starving to death. He decides he must go to the RejoovenEsence compound. It is a long way away, but Crake’s old bubble dome is there. It had been called “Paradice,” it was full of food and weaponry, and Snowman remembers how to get there.
Snowman’s journey back to the RejoovenEsense compound is also one into the past, and we can infer that much of Snowman’s hesitation comes from his fear of facing the past again. But the drive to stay alive convinces him he must go back. The dame of Crake’s dome, “Paradice,” sounds like Paradise but also suggests the phrase “pair of dice.” It calls to mind gameplay and gambling—and this is what science in the novel appears to be doing with human and animal life. The re-spelling of the word also suggests its artificiality: perhaps the goal is to create some kind of paradise, but whatever it will be it will be a man-made thing.
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A voice in his head tells Snowman he doesn’t want to go back to RejoovenEsense. Snowman insists he’s forgotten about what happened there, but the voice says he’s forgotten nothing. He reminds himself that if he does not eat he will die, and must stick to these essential truths.
Snowman’s regret, shame, and sorrow regarding what happened at RejoovenEsense are at odds with his will to survive. Ultimately his desire to avoid starvation—to go on living, and for mankind to go on living—wins out.
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Before Snowman leaves he must explain his departure to the Crakers. He does not want them to worry that he’s missing and put themselves in danger by coming to find him. Though he finds their naïve optimism, friendliness, and calmness endlessly irritating, he feels protective of them. He makes his way toward their camp whistling, so they are able to hear him coming.
Snowman’s care of the Crakers, though it often inspires horrible feelings in him, comes from a place of genuine concern. He handles them gently, anticipates their feelings, and acts in their best interests (even though their relentlessly good natures put him off.)
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Purring. When Snowman arrives, the men are performing their morning ritual where they urinate along the invisible line that marks their territory. Crake designed the Crakers so that the smell of their urine would ward off predators. He gave the ability only to the men, because they needed something important to do that wasn’t childbearing so that they didn’t feel left out.
This adaptation of the Crakers shows that Crake boiled down even such things as purpose and fulfillment into evolutionary advantages and disadvantages. The act of marking territory with urine is also a distinctly animal trait, further emphasizing their not-quite-human status.
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The Craker called Abraham Lincoln welcomes snowman, and asks him to come across the line. Snowman notes that Abraham has become a kind of leader, and recalls Crake saying to watch out for leadership—it leads to tyranny, slavery, and massacre.
Yet another of Crake’s attempts to breed certain kinds of thinking out of the Crakers is failing—they have fallen under leadership. It remains to be seen if this will actually corrupt them or threaten their survival.
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Inside the circle, three women are tending to a hurt child by kneeling over him and purring. The purring was bred into them by Crake, who made them able to purr at the same frequency as the ultrasound technology that was used to heal wounds and broken bones. The women tell Snowman the child was bitten by a bobkitten (another manmade genetic splice), and they were forced to throw rocks at the animal. The say they will apologize to Oryx tonight for harming the animal, and ask her to prevent bites in the future. Snowman is satisfied by the fact that Crake failed to breed religion out of the Crakers, eliminate “the cluster of neurons” where he believed God resided—the Crakers have clearly developed a kind of reverence.
The purring is another animal trait that Crake made use of in creating or designing the Crakers, but it is an animal trait finely tuned by science to produce advanced healing – is it therefore primitive or advanced? It’s both. Crake would have no doubt thought that the remorse that the Crakers feel at harming the bobkitten, when they did so to save one of their own children, was useless and inelegant. He would have been disappointed to learn that the Crakers revered an absent being—that they still seemed to have the human capacity and need to understand and worship god. It is part of Snowman’s “revenge” on Crake that he game the Crakers that god. They might not have felt such remorse had Snowman not given them the story of Oryx.
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Snowman takes in the scene inside the Craker circle. Women are tending a fire. They never eat cooked food and the fire is purely for warmth. Children roam around—Snowman still has not grown used to the Craker children’s rapid growth rate (Crake believed far too much time was wasted in childrearing). He sees “caecotrophs” (clumps of semi-digested excrement) and is revolted. The Crakers pass food through their digestive system sometimes more than once, rather like a rabbit, in order to maximize nutrition. Jimmy had objected that Crake was making the Crakers “eat their own shit.” Crake dismissed it as an “aesthetic objection.”
The Crakers rabbit-like consumption (and re-consumption) of vegetation, never cooked, though evolutionarily advantageous, seems not only inhuman to Snowman but also inhumane. Snowman believes ”aesthetic objections”—objections on the grounds of gentility, beauty, appearance, implication—have merit, while Crake finds such objections utterly unconvincing. Crake also tellingly breeds childhood (or most of it) out of the Crakers—he views youth as wasted time, evidence of his scientific belief only in the importance of survival.
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Snowman tells the Crakers he is going to go on a long journey, to see Crake. Children beg to come with him, saying they want to see Crake too. The men insist that they should accompany him, so that he has protection. Snowman tells them that they are not allowed to see Crake. The men protest but Snowman says he must go alone, and says that Crake will be watching over them. One of the women tells Snowman to tell Crake they are very grateful.
Just as Snowman worries about the welfare of the Crakers, the Crakers worry about Snowman’s safety given that he is clearly ill equipped in this environment. They show compassion and concern for Snowman, and gratitude for Crake. The range of their emotions is becoming clearer—they perhaps have more complex inner lives than Snowman believes.
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As Snowman leaves the Craker camp, he again feels anger towards Crake. The voice of his father tells him he must stop whining. Snowman points out to his father that he had never set a very good example.
Snowman compares Crake to his father—both gave no thought to the ethical, moral, or humanistic consequences of their scientific efforts. They focused only on results.
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Blue. Snowman starts his journey, shoeless and carrying as little as possible. He keeps an eye out for bobkittens and wolvogs. As he wanders away from the beach he can hear laughter, chanting, and singing from the forest. He thinks it must be the Crakers mating. It only occurs once every three years per female, and when she is ready, her backside turns blue (a trait borrowed from baboons) which alerts the males she is ready to be pursued. She selects the male she prefers, and the others leave with no hurt feelings. She and the male do a dance similar to one done by mating crabs, and then copulate for many hours. Crake noted to Jimmy when he first explained this that any adaptation a person could think of would be one that nature had already invented.
More animal traits employed by Crake in the creation of the Crakers are explained. Notably the Crakers’ mating is infrequent, devoid of attachment, jealousy and unrequited affection. These are afflictions Crake is disdainful of (possibly because he hates to feel them himself), “afflictions’ one might describe as an engine of love, though also of lust, jealousy, etc. Crake’s remark about nature “inventing” any adaptation mankind could think of indicates that Crake thought of his work as an extension of natural forces—he also characterizes nature as an “inventor,” blurring the line between scientific innovation and the work of nature itself.
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Snowman notes the advantages of this sexual system: there was no more rape, no more heartbreak. Sex is no longer mysterious, no longer loathed or hidden, and no longer inspires suicides or murders. It is only an “athletic demonstration, a free-spirited romp.”
There are definite advantages to Crake’s new sexual system—he eliminates many of the worst kinds of human abuses. But sex, though drained of its potential for violence, abuse, and hate, is also drained of its significance and meaning other than as an engine of reproduction.
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Crake and Jimmy, in their early twenties, are talking over lunch. Crake wonders at the misery caused my biological mismatches, pheromones and hormones. Jimmy points out to him that without love (and its failures) there wouldn’t be art. Crake laughs at this. Jimmy grows flustered, and also points out that when civilizations crumble, all that’s left is art and language, or “imaginative structures.” “Human meaning is defined by them” Jimmy insists. Crake notes that bones and pottery are also left over. He then says that art is the equivalent of a male frog making noise to get attention from females, and that female artists are simply biologically confused.
Crake and Jimmy clash over their respective opinions of science versus the humanities. Jimmy believes these structures are the only thing keeping the memories of lost civilizations alive (for Jimmy, art is the solution to “immortality” the problem Crake wants to solve). Crake notes that evolutionary, biological and scientific artifacts, like bones and tools, also last long after civilizations die. He believes our biological, scientific record, is all that matters.
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Snowman leans against a tree and listens to the sounds of the Crakers mating. He wonders why, since there is no longer any jealousy or domestic violence, he feels so dejected. He uselessly asks Crake why he’s on this earth, why he’s alone—where his “Bride of Frankenstein” is. He collects himself and moves on his way.
Snowman laments the absence of love, even tumultuous, painful love, in the Craker population. He asks for his “bride of Frankenstein,” comparing himself to the monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein that was constructed and then abandoned by Dr. Frankenstein, a monster that wants only to be loved and give love, to be a part of society, and who becomes murderous when that wish is denied to him.
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