Oryx and Crake

Scientific Progress & Its Costs Theme Analysis

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Scientific Progress & Its Costs Theme Icon
Corporate Power & Commodification Theme Icon
Humans & Animals Theme Icon
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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 of life and manipulating natural processes.

Many characters in the novel fail to exercise their power over nature responsibly. Crake is the most extreme example of this kind of transgression. His genetic experiments on the Crakers (they are made from stolen embryos which are then genetically altered) and his introduction of a terrible virus into the human population are the nightmarish product of the advanced biological science in Oryx and Crake. But the general experimentation on plants, animals, and humans performed by many different scientists throughout the novel is rife with immoral conduct. HealthWyzer spends a great deal of resources and manpower secretly devising new viruses and releasing them into the population, so that new cures can be sold. Sharon (Jimmy’s mother) and Jimmy’s father argue frequently about the work that Jimmy’s father does in genetic manipulation of animals, and it is implied that Sharon knows about and objects to the abuse of knowledge and power happening at HealthWyzer (and at other corporations). Jimmy’s mother ultimately decides to leave and join various rebellious efforts against the corporations in the Pleeblands, while Jimmy’s father chooses to continue to work in spite of the obvious abuse of power occurring at his company and others.

The world of Oryx and Crake is not just a comment on the responsibilities and costs of advanced biological science, it is also imagines the cultural ascension of science in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, accompanied by the decline in prestige and cultural impact of the humanities, to have continued unabated. The book imagines a world where humanistic questions (regarding ethics, morality, and responsible decision making) have been pushed aside in the name of scientific progress. The resulting suggestion is that scientific progress absent humanistic thinking leads to perverse uses of scientific power and knowledge, affects our moral decision-making, and has a dehumanizing effect on culture generally.

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Scientific Progress & Its Costs ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Scientific Progress & Its Costs appears in each chapter of Oryx and Crake. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Scientific Progress & Its Costs Quotes in Oryx and Crake

Below you will find the important quotes in Oryx and Crake related to the theme of Scientific Progress & Its Costs.
Chapter 2 Quotes

“Leave Daddy alone,” said his mother. “Daddy is thinking. That’s what they pay him for. He doesn’t have time for you.

Related Characters: Sharon (speaker), Jimmy (Snowman), Jimmy’s father
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

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He thought of pigoons as creatures much like himself. Neither he nor they had a lot of say in what was going on.

Related Characters: Jimmy (Snowman)
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes

Strange to think of the endless labor, the digging, the hammering, the carving, the lifting, the drilling, day by day, year by year, century by century; and now the endless crumbling that must be going on everywhere. Sandcastles in the wind.

Related Characters: Jimmy (Snowman)
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 4 Quotes

There’d been a lot of fooling around in those days: create-an-animal was so much fun, said the guys doing it. It made you feel like God.

Related Characters: Jimmy’s father
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

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“We give people Hope. Hope isn’t ripping off!”
“At Nooskins’ price it is. You hype your wares and take all their money, and then it's no more treatments for them…Don’t you remember the way you used to talk?...you had ideals, then.”
[…] “There’s nothing sacred about cells and tissue.”

Related Characters: Sharon (speaker), Jimmy’s father (speaker)
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

Homo Sapiens Sapiens was once so ingenious with language, and not only with language. Ingenious in every direction at once.”

Related Characters: Jimmy (Snowman)
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

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On some non-conscious level, Snowman must serve as a reminder to these people, and not a pleasant one: he’s what they may have been once.

Related Characters: Jimmy (Snowman), The Crakers
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 7 Quotes

Crake thought he’d done away with all that…God is a cluster of neurons, he’d maintained…They’re up to something though. Something Crake didn’t anticipate. They’re conversing with the invisible. They’ve developed reverence.

Related Characters: Crake, The Crakers
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:

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Sex is no longer a mysterious rite, viewed with ambivalence or downright loathing, conducted in the dark and inspiring suicides or murders. Now it’s more like an athletic demonstration, a free-spirited romp.

Related Characters: Crake, The Crakers
Page Number: 165
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 8 Quotes

How could I have missed it? Snowman thinks. What he was telling me? How could I have been so stupid?...
There had been something willed about it, though, his ignorance…he’d grown up in walled spaces, and then he’d become one. He had shut things out.

Related Characters: Jimmy (Snowman), Crake
Related Symbols: Inside, Outside
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:

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So a lot of what went on at Martha Graham was like studying book binding or Latin: pleasant to contemplate in its way, but no longer central to anything, though every once in a while the college president would subject them to some yawner about the vital arts and their irresistible reserved seat in the big red-velvet amphitheater of the beating human heart.

Related Characters: Jimmy (Snowman)
Related Symbols: Inside
Page Number: 187
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 9 Quotes

The striped-pyjamas guy upstairs must have been a word person, then: a RejoovenEsense speechwriter, an ideological plumber, a spin doctor, a hairsplitter for hire. Poor bugger, thinks Snowman.

Related Characters: Jimmy (Snowman)
Page Number: 233
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 11 Quotes

Maybe the guards tried to get out of RejoovenEsense just like everyone else. Maybe they, too, hoped they could outrun contagion.

Related Characters: Jimmy (Snowman) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Inside, Outside
Page Number: 270
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 12 Quotes

“People come here from all over the world—they shop around. Gender, sexual orientation, height, colour of skin and eyes—it’s all on order, it can all be done or redone.”

Related Characters: Crake (speaker), Jimmy (Snowman)
Page Number: 289
Explanation and Analysis:

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“If you take ‘mortality’ as being, not death, but the foreknowledge of it and the fear of it, then ‘immortality’ is the absence of such fear. Babies are immortal. Edit out the fear and you’ll be…”
“Sounds like Applied Rhetoric 101.”

Related Characters: Jimmy (Snowman) (speaker), Crake (speaker)
Page Number: 303
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 13 Quotes

Here are Crake and Oryx, what’s left of them. They’ve been vulturized, they’re scattered here and there, small and large bones mingled into disarray…He’s grinning with all the teeth in his head. As for Oryx, she’s face down, she’s turned her head away from him as if in mourning. The ribbon in her hair is as pink as ever.

Related Characters: Jimmy (Snowman), Crake, Oryx
Page Number: 335
Explanation and Analysis:

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Had he been a lunatic or an intellectually honourable man who’d thought things through to their logical conclusion? And was there any difference?

Related Characters: Crake
Page Number: 343
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 14 Quotes

Our arboreal ancestors, Crake used to say. Used to shit on their enemies from above while perched in trees. All planes and rockets are simply elaborations on that primate instinct.

Related Characters: Crake (speaker)
Page Number: 358
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

“We made a picture of you, to help us send out our voices to you.”
Watch out for art, Crake used to say. As soon as they start doing art, we’re in trouble.

Related Characters: Crake (speaker), The Crakers (speaker), Jimmy (Snowman)
Page Number: 361
Explanation and Analysis:

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